Watchmaking has been a popular art for centuries that started with pocket watches and evolved into wristwatches once the 1900s rolled around. There have been many brands that have come and gone, but some of the biggest names in watchmaking history are still around.
The fascinating thing about watchmaking is that there is more than one company still operating that began centuries ago. They continue to make watches and keep up with today’s style, technology, and methods. It’s also no surprise that most of these companies are from Switzerland, one of the most popular watchmaking countries in the world.
In this article, we are going to go over some of the oldest watch brands still operating today. These brands include:
- Blancpain – 1735
- Jaquet Droz – 1738
- Ferdinand Berthoud – 1753
- Vacheron Constantin – 1755
- Longines – 1832
- Omega – 1848
- Tissot – 1853
- TAG Heuer – 1860
- Zenith – 1865
- IWC Schaffhausen – 1869
- Audemars Piguet – 1875
- Seiko – 1881
- Breitling – 1844
- Certina – 1888
- Hamilton – 1892
- Oris – 1904
- Rolex – 1905
Oldest Watch Brands In History
1.Blancpain – 1735
Blancpain has been determined to be the oldest watch company in the world. It was founded in 1735 by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain. Jehan-Jaques opened a workshop of his own out of his home in Villeret, Switzerland. You can read in the Villeret Village records that he was the registered watchmaker.
The company hasn’t been active consistently, but as of today, they are still producing watches. Back in the day, Blancpain produced watches after the French Navy requested them to. They were looking for a watch that was able to stand up to the tough underwater operations they needed to perform. Additionally, they needed the watch to be reliable and sturdy. The brand went dormant for a little while, but they regained their momentum in 1983 and is not part of the Swatch Group.
This company specializes in watches inspired by earlier times. They still use century-old watchmaking knowledge in its manufacturing.
We found the Villeret on their website and thought it was a vintage-looking timepiece. It has a unique curved seconds hand and roman numerals on the dial. It features an automatic winding mechanism and a steel case. It’s beautifully complemented by a leather alligator strap with a folding clasp. Unfortunately, this watch isn’t cheap. It costs roughly $12,000.
We also found the woman’s version of the Villeret and it’s stunning. It has a gorgeous sapphire dial and roman numerals on its face. There are also 8 jewels on the face and many more outlining the case. It has an automatic winding movement and a date display at the 3 o’clock position. This watch also has a leather alligator strap and costs $18,000.
2.Jaquet Droz – 1738
Pierre Jaquet Droz founded the company in 1738 when he began producing watches in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
He specialized in Haute horology watches and incorporated art into them as well. These watches were extremely popular among the wealthy community, but the uding London, Geneva, and Spain. While in Spain, he presented his clocks to King Ferdinand VI and he was in awe of his creation as his clock could strike on request without needing intervention. In 2000, Jaquet Droz was purchased by the Swatch Group and returned to its town of origin. Their watches still feature unbelievable aesthetics and durability.
The watches from the Automata collections seem to be the most popular as far as we can tell. One such watch is the Charming Bird. This watch has a self-winding automatic singing bird movement and a single barrel set in 18-carat red gold. The dial is made from sapphire crystal with platinum Roman numerals. It’s completed by a leather alligator strap with an 18-carat red gold prestige folding clasp. It is not water-resistant and has a power reserve of 38-hours.
We also found a beautiful woman’s watch called the Lady 8 Aventurine. It features a dome-shaped aventurine dial under a stainless steel case with 48 diamonds equalling 0.53 carat. Within it is an aventurine ball bearing at the 12 o’clock position and a crown cabochon. The hands are set in 18-carat white gold and the strap is alligator leather with a stainless steel folding clasp.
3.Ferdinand Berthoud – 1753
Ferdinand Berthoud founded his company in Paris, France, but can now be found in Fleurier, Switzerland. He was a scientist and watchmaker who worked for the French Navy. He was one of the inventors of the marine chronometer, which means his company is capable of producing watches with high-quality diving capabilities.
In 1752, he submitted an equation clock that marked the leap year to the French Royal Academy of Sciences. This was certainly a great demonstration of his remarkable mastery of the art of Horology. He was so respected in his field that he was asked to compose several reference articles on horology in 1755.
One of the more unique watches that are on their website is the Chronometre FB 1R5. This marvelous watch features a calibre FB-T.FC.R-2 mechanical hand-wound movement with 49 jewels encased in a screw-in titanium case-back with a domed, arched, and glare-proof sapphire crystal.
The dial is set in satin-brushed natural nickel silver with 18 carat blued gold minutes hand and a steel hour-marker with blue CVD coating. There is an hour display on a sapphire disc at the 2 o’clock position, minutes display at the 12 o’clock position, central seconds, and a power-reserve at the 10 o’clock position.
4.Vacheron Constantin – 1755
Vacheron Constantin is one of the oldest watch companies still in production. It began in 1775 in Geneva by Vacheron Constantin.
He is well-known for making some of the most complex and complicated watches known to man. Additionally, this brand holds the record for one of the most expensive watches sold at an auction, which sold for $2.7 million.
Since they’ve been in business for so long, they strive to create bold designs with unique aesthetics to keep up with today’s fashion trends.
All of their watches are hand-assembled by master craftsmen, giving them a finish that can’t compare to others. You will find a variety of collections such as the Historique Collection, which relates to the brand’s heritage and legacy, and the Patrimony Collection that’s based on elegance and sophistication.
The MÉTIERS D’ART MÉCANIQUES AJOURÉES is one of the most intricate watches that we saw on the website. This watch is set in 18K white gold and has a hand-graved skeleton movement that was inspired by the openwork design of the railway stations of the late-20th-century.
The case back is made from sapphire glass and is transparent and the dial contains Roman numerals that are easy to read. The watch is completed by a Mississipplensis alligator leather strap.
5.Longines – 1832
Here we have yet another Swiss brand that was founded by Auguste Agassiz in 1832 and remains in St. Imier today but is part of the Swatch Group. One unique aspect of the company is that they have all of the serial numbers of every watch produced archived, which makes it an impressive list considering how long they’ve been in business.
Not only do they have every serial number, but each watch will come with a Certificate of Authenticity and other documents that pertain to your particular model.
Longines has been considered to be one of the most prestigious luxury watches that have a smaller price tag than Rolex. Not only that, but their timepieces are nothing less than high-quality. They are all rigorously tested so they hold up to the strict Swiss quality assurance.
One of their most popular men’s watches is from the Longines Master Collection. The watch features a gorgeous blue dial with silver-tone leaf-style hands. It’s encased in a silver-tone steel case with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. The caseback is transparent and the whole watch is water-resistant up to 100 feet.
Additionally, we found the ClaLassique de Longines Watch to be an elegant ladies’ timepiece. This elegant timepiece has a Sunray blue dial with silver-polished hands and a polished stainless steel bezel set with encrusted diamonds. The diamonds equal 0.302 carats. Additionally, the dial is covered by a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and is water-resistant to 10 feet.
6.Omega – 1848
Omega has been named the most stylish Swiss luxury watch brand on the planet by most. It was founded by Louis Brandt in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1848. Currently, they are headquartered in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland, and are one of the oldest watchmakers still operating today. They are also comparable in terms of luxury to Rolex and Tag Heuer. Additionally, they are a member of the Swatch Group.
Did you know that Omega is the official timepiece of the James Bond 007 movie franchise? Pretty cool, right? Not only that, but they are just one of a few watch brands that managed to find their way into the mainstream.
Their watches are very unique. One such watch is the Speedmaster Skeleton Dial Watch. This watch features a platinum case with a skeleton dial. The features of this watch include hours, minutes, small seconds, moon phase, tachymeter, and chronograph. This timepiece has a manual wind function and an alligator strap with an 18k white gold deployant buckle.
A lady’s watch that we like is the Omega De Ville Prestige. The watch features an elegant grey dial with a silky pattern and an opaline finish and an OMEGA Calibre 1376 movement. There are six diamonds on the dial with blue hour and minute hands and Roman numerals. The case is made from stainless steel as well as the Prestige bracelet.
7.Tissot – 1853
Tissot is another Swiss brand that was founded by a son and father duo. The founders are Charles-Felicien and Charles-Emile Tissot. They founded the company in Cret-Vaillant, Le Locle, Switzerland in 1853. Since their knowledge in watchmaking was so advanced, they were able to construct watches that were both manual and automatic.
Tissot has gained a lot of popularity over the years due to its ability to evolve and change based on its customers’ needs and demands.
This is a trait that many companies can’t keep up with society’s ever-changing fashion and design. In the 1990s, Tissot created the T-Collection. This collection offered watches with enhanced features that enhanced reliability and functionality.
We noticed that Tissot offered some of the most affordable Swiss watches online. This Men’s Carson Watch is under $200 and vintage-looking. It features a white dial with a Swiss quartz movement and Roman numerals under a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. There is a small date display at the 3 o’clock position. It’s water-resistant up to 99 feet and has a sophisticated black leather strap.
We found a really cute women’s watch as well. It’s the Lady Heart Flower watch that features a 316L stainless steel case. It contains a Swiss automatic movement and an Arabic dial type with mother of pearl and a feminine rainbow flower at the 12 o’clock position. The strap is synthetic with a butterfly clasp closure. It’s also water-resistant up to 100 feet and comes with a 2-year international warranty.
8.TAG Heuer – 1860
TAG Heuer was founded in 1860 by Eduardo Heuer, who was only 20-years-old at the time. He opened his shop on the family farm and moved the company to Brugg in 1864. He then began operating under the name Eduardo Heuer & Compagnie. His first creation under that name was a pocket watch was a crown-operated, keyless winding system.
Fast forward to 1958. Jack Heuer was the fourth generation watchmaker to manage the company. He was able to create stopwatches and new chronograph models. In 1969, he created the world’s first automatic chronographs. He was also the creator of the Monaco, the official watch of famous race car driver Steve McQueen.
Since this is a pricey watch brand, we attempted to locate one of their more affordable watches which is the WAZ1110.FT8023.
This watch features a stainless steel case with a unidirectional black bezel and a date display at 3 o’clock. The dial has luminous hour markers and hands. The dial is under a synthetic-sapphire dial and is powered by a Swiss quartz movement. The watch is completed by a rubber wristband and a buckle closure. It’s water-resistant to 660 feet.
We found that the women’s watches are pricey, but one that we found to be generally affordable is the Aquaracer. This elegant timepiece has a white mother of pearl dial with luminous silver-tone hands. The case is set in stainless steel and the hands are powered by a quartz movement. The bezel rotates unidirectional and the dial is covered by a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. This watch is water-resistant up to 1,000 feet.
9.Zenith – 1865
Zenith is one of the most reputable watch brands on the market today. The company was founded by George Favre-Jacot in 1865.
He was a watchmaker who wanted to bring innovation and modernity to the tradition. He turned a train station into a connecting point to his workshops to enable direct raw material retrieval. He did this to ensure he was creating the finest and most precise timepieces ever.
Zenith received the Grand Prix award for their Calibre watch at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900. 50 years ago, the El was introduced. Charles Vermont was one of the watchmakers who worked on this timepiece. When it was removed from production in 1975, he hid the components to make the watch in the attic of the manufacturing building. It is now in production today and is one of their most popular models.
We noticed that Zenith carries more expensive luxury watches. One of their lower-priced watches is the Defy Classic. This watch features the Elite movement with 187 components. The case is made from brushed titanium and the dial is a blue-toned sunray pattern with hours and minutes in the center and a date display at the 3 o’clock position. There is also a central seconds hand. We like this watch overall because it could be worn by anybody and it’s classy.
10.IWC Schaffhausen – 1869
IWC Schaffhausen was one of the earliest watch companies established in the United States. They were founded in 1868 in Boston but moved their main headquarters to Switzerland where most American watchmakers do. They are well-known for using traditional techniques while incorporating their timepieces with modern technology to keep up with the ever-changing times.
Much like other companies, they blend the American and Swiss styles of watchmaking. They have succeeded at doing this with ease and it amounts to a style that combines American business sense and the high-quality build of Swiss timepieces.
We went through their website and picked the Portofino as our favorite watch due to its vintage design and affordability. It features a 35111 Calibre movement and is self-winding. It has a stainless steel case around a white dial with rose gold Roman numerals and hands. There is a sapphire glass covering the dial with an antireflective coating. Additionally, you will find a date display at the 3 o’clock position.
11. Audemars Piguet – 1875
Audemars Piguet was established in Le Brassus, Switzerland in 1875 by then 23-year-old Jules Louis Audemars and 21-year-old Edward Auguste Piguet. This brand created some of the most sophisticated watches back then. As the years went on, they introduced the world’s first minute repeating movement, the thinnest perpetual calendar, skeleton watch, and an ultra-thin automatic turbillion.
They were also one of the first companies to create a hexagonal bezel, which helped the company thrive. It also continues to sell to this day.
They have two collections that stand out which are the Code 11.59 and the Millenary Collection. It shows their legacy and how beautiful their watches are designed. Their Royal Oak collection, however, is still one of the most wanted by watch lovers everywhere.
One of their hexagon watches is the Royal Oak Minute Repeater Supersonnerie. This is just one of 20 of these watches produced.
It features a 950 platinum case with a glare-proof sapphire crystal and a screw-locked crown. Inside is a black dial with a “Grande Tapisserie” pattern and white gold hour markers and Royal Oak hands with a luminescent coating. We can’t tell you how much it costs because you have to submit a request for a price, which means it’s probably not cheap.
12.Seiko – 1881
Seiko is a brand that’s been around since 1881 and is one of the most well-known watch brands out there. Not only that, but it’s also one of the most affordable and consumer-friendly. It was founded by then 22-year-old Kintaro Hattori in Ginza, Tokyo.
It had begun as a watch repair shop but opened a factory of its own in Seikosha in 1892. It was here that some of the first clocks were produced and where the first pocket watch was created. It was called the Timekeeper and was produced in 1895.
In 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake took out the factory and they had to begin all over again. Fortunately, they were able to create a new watch quickly and set out for sale in December of 1924. In 1964, the first wristwatches with stopwatches built into them were created by Seiko. They evolved from there to digital watches, watches with computers functions, radio watches, diver watches, and more.
We found the Chronograph watch to be a happy medium between price and style. It features a Japanese quartz movement under stainless steel.
The white dial is classy when combined with the allowed steel bezel and gold hour markers. There’s a small date window at the 5 o’clock position and a hardlex glass protecting it all. The band sums it up nicely with the two-tone stainless steel and gold coloring.
If you looking for a nice women;s watch, then check out the SUP272. This watch has a vintage look to it. It features a two-tone rectangular watch with a solar-powered white dial. The dial contains gold-tone hour indices powered by a quartz movement. All of these components are safely under a hardlex dial window. The band is a two-tone stainless steel and gold style to beautifully complement your wrist.
13.Breitling – 1844
Breitling was founded in 1884 by Leon Breitling in Saint-Imier. They are a Swiss luxury watchmaker who now manufactures their products in Grenchen, Switzerland. They are one of the more well0known Swiss watch brands that have quite the reputation in Europe.
They are known for creating multi-functional timepieces that are both practical and robust. They put all of their main focus on the functionality of their timepieces while keeping the high-quality craftsmanship that comes from Swiss companies in mind.
This company guarantees a high-precision and reliable timepiece. You will find that most of their watches are chronographic. Additionally, they were one of the first companies to put a chronograph inside of a wristwatch while enabling an easy-to-use function as well.
We found the Breitling Galactic Unitime watch to be one of our favorites. It has a very unique dial, which features a scaled-down version of a map of all the continents. The watch contains a world time zone feature. This allows you to see what time it is all over the world from your wrist.
It contains a Breitling caliber B35 movement with luminescent hands and hour markers. The dial is encased under a scratch-resistant glare-proof sapphire crystal connected to a polished stainless steel case with a tungsten carbide bezel. Tying it together is a vintage-looking leather wristband.
If you’re searching for a sophisticated women’s watch from this brand, consider the Breitling Navitimer. This watch is powered by a Breitling Caliber 17, which is a COSC-certified Chronometer. You can find this watch in a variety of materials that include 18k red gold and stainless steel. This watch is set in red gold and features a beaded bezel and sunburst copper dial protected by an anti-reflective sapphire crystal.
14.Certina – 1888
Here we have another Swiss watch company. It was founded in 1888 by Adolf and Alfred Kurth in Grenchen, Switzerland. In 1906, they introduced the brand name for their watches, which was known as “Grana”, the Latin name of Grenchen. It wasn’t until the 1930s when they began using the name “Certina”, which was the Latin word for “certus”, which means “sure”.
In 1959, they crated the first shock-resistant automatic watch that was water-resistant to 200 meters. They are well-known for creating other watches that are not only elegant and sophisticated but also more affordable than their competitors. So if you’re looking for a good quality Swiss watch with an affordable price tag, Certina is a good choice.
Many of the men’s watches on the market are big and bulky, so we looked for one that wasn’t as large as the others. The Ceritina C001-407-16-057-00 is a small watch with a black dial and luminous silver-tone hands. The case is crafted from stainless steel and has a leather band with a tang buckle. On the dial, you can view the date at the 6 o’clock position. Everything is secured under a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and a skeleton caseback.
One of their womens watches that we found to be quite stunning is the Certina DS Podium. It says it’s a mens watch, but it would be acceptable for a woman as well. This watch features a beautiful gold-tone aluminum case with a silver dial and luminous rose gold-tone hands. These sit under a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and is water-resistant up to 330 feet. It’s complemented by a sophisticated white leather strap.
15.Hamilton – 1892
Hamilton is one of the few American watchmaker companies that began over 100 years ago and is still in existence today. It was founded in Lancaster, Pennsylvania by Abram Bitner in 1892 but moved to Switzerland. They are known for combining the elegance and intricacy of Swiss watches while having a bold and rugged style like American watches.
Their watches are highly reputable amongst watch enthusiasts and casual customers alike. They are one of the most popular mid-range watches on the market. Additionally, this company is also affiliated with the ever-so-popular Swatch Group.
The Hamilton Khaki Field Murph is one of the watches we found to be rugged and sophisticated. It is a self-winding watch with a black case and luminous silver-tone cathedral-style hands and markers. It has a stainless steel case and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. The watch is water-resistant up to 300 feet.
We also found the Hamilton H31111183 watch to be one of the most elegant and dainty watches we’ve come across. It’s made from stainless steel uses a Swiss Quartz movement. The hands are blue in color and sit on a white dial with vintage markers under anti-reflective sapphire glass. It’s water-resistant up to 30 meters and only weighs 22.68 grams.
16.Oris – 1904
Oris was founded by Paul Cattin and Georges Christian in 1940 in Holstein, Switzerland. They are one of the only remaining Swiss brands that exclusively develop and produce mechanical watches today. They use only the traditional method of timepiece craftsmanship, which gives their creations both charm and appeal to those who are looking for traditional watches.
When Georges Christian passed away, his brother-in-law, Oscar Herzon, took over. He strived to improve the quality of the company’s products, but was halted because of the Swiss government’s “watch statute”.
This law was set into motion to protect and regulate the industry that prevents watchmakers from introducing new technologies without having permission. At that time, Oris used pin-lever escapement movements, which were deemed to be less accurate than lever escapements used by their competitors. After this, they produced their own watch escapements.
One of their men’s watches that we thought was pretty cool is the Oris Aquis Relief. This watch is a high-performance diver’s watch with a beautiful cherry red dial and silver hands and markers. The bezel is unidirectional and the dial has a date display at the 6 o’clock position. The movements are powered by an Oris Caliber 773. It’s water-resistant up to 300 meters and has a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
Additionally, we found their Oris Classic Ladies watch to be one of our favorites. This beautiful timepiece features a silver Guilloche dial with luminous rose gold-tone hands and Roman numerals. The case is made from rose gold PVD stainless steel with a brown calfskin leather band. It has an automatic movement and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal covering the dial. This watch also contains a date display at the 6 0’clock position.
17.Rolex – 1905
Rolex was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf. If you didn’t already know, Rolex is one of the most prestigious watch brands to ever exist. They are seen on the wrists of celebrities and high-profile individuals. Their watches are elegant and reliable, which is what makes them so popular. Additionally, they are equipped with precise movements crafted by a Swiss watchmaking company.
All Rolex watches have been proven to withstand even the most extreme conditions. There’s a watch for mountain climbing, diving, or just for the office. It’s a no-brainer as to why they stand at the top of the list for status, style, popularity, and reliability. Unfortunately, such prestigious watches come with a hefty price tag.
Check out the Rolex Datejust 41. This is one of their more classic watches with a white dial and solid 18k white gold fluted bezel. It’s powered by a Calibre 3235 self-winding automatic movement.
It’s COSC superlative chronometer-certified as well. It has a date window at the 3 o’clock position and stop-seconds for precise time settings. Additionally, it has a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and luminescent hands, and hour markers.
The women’s version of this is stunning and elegant. It’s the Datejust 26 and features a mother of pearl dial and diamond hour markers.
It has a polished 18k yellow gold domed bezel and an Oystersteel case with a self-winding automatic movement that’s also COSC superlative chronometer certified. The bracelet is a beautiful two-tone silver and gold style with a folding Oysterclasp.
So there you have it! Those are the 16 oldest watch bands that are still producing watches today. We admit that some of the companies have price tags that are way out of the range of a normal person’s salary, but beautiful nonetheless. We are a huge fan of the Tissot and Seiko watches because they are more affordable than the others on the list.
We hope that our article has helped you understand what some of the oldest watch companies are all about, how they were formed, and what kind of watches they sell. Hopefully, you found one that caught your attention.