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When it comes to watches, brand matters. Many of the best watch brands have earned their status from decades (if not centuries) of timekeeping prowess, product longevity, style, and investment worthiness. This is what defines reputable brands, from Rolex to Seiko and Patek Phillipe to Timex, and what makes us trust them to keep time and remain stylish for years.
With all these factors at play, determining the best watch brands is highly subjective. There are dozens of A-plus timepieces out there (at all price points, from all over the world), which is why watch geeks can spend hours arguing over their lists of the best watch brands. Things get even more complicated if you’re just now entering the complex world of watches, but don’t worry: it’s easy to get acquainted with the key players.
What Are the Best Watch Brands?
Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best watch brands that every newbie and collector should know about. If you’re new to watches, browse through for brands you haven’t heard of — whether your budget is $100 or $10,000. If you’ve already got a full watch box, see if you agree with our picks.
There are a handful of affordable watch brands with prestige to match top-shelf watchmakers. One such brand? Timex. The American brand has been around since 1854, churning out well-made, easily-accessible timepieces with a focus on rugged wearability. Their early slogan, “Takes a Licking and keeps on Ticking,” turned Timex into the U.S.’s best-selling watch brand by 1962.
Today, Timex has retained our wrist real estate by releasing archive-inspired watches like this Q Timex Reissue Diver. In person, the Diver looks far more expensive than its affordable price tag (and it feels that way too), plus it’s durable enough to withstand swims, scrapes, and bumps thanks to 50 meters’ water resistance and stainless steel throughout.
Coming out of Japan, Casio is another affordable brand that serious watch enthusiasts respect just as much as big-name Swiss companies (you can spot Casios on everyone from John Mayer to George Clooney to Bill Gates). Casio’s most famous sub-brand, the G-Shock, brings retro style and old-school durability in equal measure. Thanks to a solar-powered movement, water-resistance up to 660 feet, and, as the name suggests, shock resistance, it’s ready for any adventure.
Seikos are confusing: They boast classic good looks (ours is sometimes mistaken for a Rolex) and they keep time using reliable mechanical movements (like you find on most expensive watches), but some of their best-sellers cost less than a fancy dinner. Plus, Seiko has been doing this since the late 19th-century.
In all seriousness, Seiko’s offerings are worthy of any watch box — no matter your budget. We especially like the Seiko 5 (linked here), which features an automatic movement and a versatile style, but, if you have some extra dough, the brand’s more expensive Grand Seiko models are also fantastic.
Only a handful of brands can compete with Omega’s reputation. Its Speedmaster Professional Chronograph was the first watch on the moon, and Omegas have featured on the wrist of James Bond in several movies — two achievements that exemplify Omega’s blend of style and dependability.
The Speedmaster Moonwatch is still the one to get from Omega, boasting a sporty yet chic look that can take you from the beach to the office.
When it comes to watch-making, price isn’t always an indicator of accuracy. Citizen is proof of this. The Japanese brand’s Eco-Drive watches, which use a hidden solar panel to continuously recharge a quartz movement, are some of the most accurate timekeepers in the world.
Spanning dozens of models, Citizen has one of the biggest catalogs around, so there should be something for every style. We like this Super Titanium Armour watch, which, as the name suggests, incorporates titanium for added durability.
Weiss has been around less than a decade, which isn’t very long (especially for a watch brand), but it’s quickly earned a place on our radar. The Tennessee-based company hand-assembles its own timepieces, incorporating a very attractive blend of sophistication and military edge. Inspired by old-school American-made watches, the brand’s offerings are ideal for weekend adventures and casual looks.
Beloved by watch enthusiasts but largely unknown to most shoppers, Orient is a great source for affordable quality. The Japanese brand’s best offerings are its automatic and mechanical watches, which boast classical styling to match their old-school movements. This Bambino is a great example of Orient at its best: suave, powered by an automatic movement, and very affordably priced, it makes a great choice for keeping time at the office or on dressy occasions.
8. IWC Schaffhausen
Since its founding in 1886, IWC Schaffhausen (usually shortened to IWC) has always combined American style and technology with tried-and-true Swiss watchmaking. The company is best known for its aviation timepieces, which are now staples in corner offices and board rooms all over the world. With a subdued, minimal look, IWC’s watches are less flashy than other top-tier, Swiss-made watches, but they’re sure to make any watch enthusiast geek out.
Some watch purists might scoff at Apple’s inclusion on this list, but their importance in watchmaking is unavoidable. Now the largest watch supplier in the world, Apple changed the game with the Apple Watch, but, surprisingly, their smartwatch didn’t spell the end of traditional watches. Instead, the Apple Watch created a new category, helping us track health, be more responsive, and listen to audio on the go. But other watches still own the style department.
Now synonymous with success, Rolex is the most recognizable watch brand in existence, if not the most recognizable luxury brand, period. The famed Swiss company has earned its reputation over decades of consistent, robust build quality (inside and out), as well as a few industry-defining designs.
Right now, the most classic Rolex is probably the Submariner, a sport luxury watch that delivers dive-ready durability and country club-ready sophistication. The Datejust is another classic, and the Daytona is a pricer, even more prestigious option.
11. Patek Philippe
Sometimes cheekily referred to as the “Rich Man’s Rolex,” Patek Philippe is arguably the greatest watch brand in the world. Their tagline reads “you never actually own a Patek Philippe, you just take care of it for the next generation,” and they deliver on that promise of multi-generational quality in every watch.
12. Audemars Piaget
A favorite with rappers, Audemars Piguet watches are some of the most difficult to secure. Their bold, recognizable designs (most notably, the Royal Oak) command eye-popping price tags on the resale market, and you’ll need to get on a (long) waiting list to get a new one. But, those lucky enough to secure an Audemars get to enjoy some of the finest watchmaking quality in the world.