Bell & Ross was launched in 1992 by designer Bruno Belamich and businessman Carlos A. Rosillo and immediately became a brand focused on four guiding principles: readability, performance, precision, and water-resistance. Catering to those working in extreme environments, the designers and engineers behind their watches study the rigorous jobs of astronauts, military pilots, underwater bomb-disposal experts, and racecar drivers, among others.
Bell & Ross instruments are created with a strong acknowledgement of their rugged and efficient heritage. Taking aesthetic cues from aircraft cockpit panels, these watches are designed to be utilitarian and effective, ideally suited to the needs of the professional on the job in intense conditions.
The Breitling name is almost synonymous with quality chronograph watches, for good reason. Breitling develops and finishes its own chronograph modules for its automatic watches to obtain the highest accuracy and all quartz watches feature a thermo compensated movement.
This is the watch brand that is unofficially recognized as the watch for pilots and racetrack pit-crew members due to their incomparable chronograph timing accuracy. About 5% of Breitling's customers are pilots and several Breitlings have been to space including the Cosmonaute and Aerospace.
Chopard was founded in 1860 by Louis-Ulysse Chopard in a workshop in Sonvilier, Switzerland, where the then 24-year-old watchmaker initially focused on developing precision pocket watches and chronometers. The company expanded and moved to Geneva in 1937 after Louis-Ulysse made a tour of eastern Europe, Russia, and Scandinavia, garnering new clientele -- including Tsar Nicolas II of Russia and his court.
After the 1963 acquisition by Karl Scheufele II -- who helped modernize the company and added a jewelry division to the enterprise -- Chopard began making headlines: the introduction of the Happy Diamond family, in 1976; in 1988, the company paired with Mille Miglia and began producing watches to commemorate the Italian racing tradition; and in 1996 the company began producing mechanical L.U.C. movements, their name a memorial to the company's founder. This was the same year the company's calibre 1.96 movement was introduced, a piece of horological technology that is considered one of the finest Swiss automatic movements currently produced. One year later, the movement made its debut inside L.U.C. 1860, which was voted "Watch of the Year" by Montres Passion. Throughout their lines of watches, from the Classic family to Happy Diamonds to their Imperiale line, Chopard strives to uphold its core values: independence, quality and excellence, heritage, respect, and audacity.
The International Watch Company was established in 1868 by Florentine Ariosto Jones, an American engineer and watchmaker, in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, with the assistance of manufacturer and industrialist Johann Heinrich Moser. Its location in Schaffhausen makes the IWC the only major Swiss watchmaker to set up shop in eastern Switzerland.
Their Ingenieur model of watches -- a design based on the classic IWC Pilot Watch, a line made for the British Royal Air Force in the 1940s -- are specifically designed to counter the effects of external magnetic fields, making them ideal for pilots. The company's Portuguese line is designed for the avid boater; the Da Vinci family of watches pays tribute to the Renaissance inventor; the classic lines of the Portofino line recall Hollywood of the 1950s and movie stars' love for the Italian fishing village; and the IWC's Aquatimer series, along with their support of the Charles Darwin Foundation's preservation efforts, shows the company's history and respect for the diving community.
Auguste Agassiz began working in Saint-Imier, Switzerland, for a Comptoir (a trader of watch parts in 1832, and began the legacy of Longines when he and two associates took over the business the following year. The brand wouldn't be officially registered until the 1880s, after expanding their business, helping to industrialize Swiss watchmaking culture, and producing their first movements.
In 1919, Longines was named the official supplier for the International Aeronautical Federation, a move that would link the company to aviators for decades to come. Four years after Charles Lindbergh's non-stop transatlantic flight of 1927, the company began to produce the watch designed by the aviator for air navigation -- the Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch, which is still produced today.
The company's first digital watch, the 1972 Longines Liquid Crystal Display, was also an industry first, and in 1979, they introduced the Feuille d'Or, a quartz watch just 1.98mm thick. Longines has had a hand in timekeeping for aviation competitions, baseball and basketball, equestrian sports, Formula One racing, tennis, and the Tour de France.
The brand was acquired by the Swatch Group in 1983. Their lines include the DolceVita and PrimaLuna collections, the Longines Master Collection, the diving watches of the HydroConquest line, and the Heritage Collection.
Montblanc, which was established as a manufacturer of writing instruments in 1906, introduced their first line of Meisterstuck watches in 1997 at the Salon International de Haute Horlogerie. Designed for an energetic lifestyle in robust stainless steel cases, the Sport line was unveiled in 2000.
In a move by Richemont, the owner of Montblanc, the company was annexed in 2006 with Minerva, a watchmaker established in 1858, to create Montblanc Villeret. Shortly after this merger, the company proudly introduced the MB R100, their first caliber manufactured in-house, at the 2008 SIHH. The new division truly made its mark on the haute horlogerie world in 2010 with the introduction of their limited edition Metamorphosis timepiece, a wristwatch that converts between two faces, one a classical dial and the other a chronograph, at the push of a button. Like Montblanc's other watches, the Metamorphosis combines an elegant design and aesthetics while utilizing a creative approach to watchmaking.
Officine Panerai Firenze started supplying the Italian Navy with precision instruments such as calculators, fuses for torpedoes, depth meters, and compasses in the 19th century. The demand for an extremely waterproof timepiece with luminous hands for legibility, led them into the world of horology. Over the past 145 years, the company has evolved from basic blunt instruments into one of the most sought after brands.
Panerai was very quiet through the second half of the 20th century, until the Richemont Group (then Vendome Luxury Group) bought the company in 1997. Richemont relaunched many of the models and they were an immediate international hit.
One of the most exclusive brands of fine timepieces, Patek Phillippe has been in the watchmaking business since 1839 when a pair of Polish entrepreneurs, businessman Antoine Nobert de Patek and watchmaker Francois Czapek, began making pocket watches in Geneva. In 1845, French watchmaker Jean-Adrien Phillippe joined the company, and in 1851, the company's name was changed to Patek Phillippe S.A. The company's 80+ patents are just one of its claims to fame; others include its royal customers -- including Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Hussein Kamel, and Countess Koscowicz of Hungary, for whom they created the first Swiss wristwatch -- and a long history of experimental innovation, including some of the world's most complicated horological creations.
To celebrate Patek Phillippe's 150th anniversary in 1989, the Calibre 89 pocket watch -- which has 39 complications, including the date of Easter, sunrise, sidereal time, and a 2,800 star chart -- was produced, and became the world's most complicated timepiece. All of their more common pieces incorporate the same fine manufacturing, elegant styling, precision craftsmanship, and precious materials in their production.
Established in London in 1905 by 24-year-old Hans Wilsdorf, Rolex has become one of most recognized brands in fine wristwatches. Among the company's most important achievements: the first watertight watch design, the 1926 Oyster; the world's first self-winding mechanism, the perpetual rotor, in 1931; the 1945 Datejust was the first watch to automatically change its date; and Rolex carries the distinction of having the first chronometer certification for a wristwatch.
Rolex watches have been worn from the peak of Everest to the depths of the Mariana Trench, and constantly make appearances everywhere in between. Designed for strength and reliability but with a refined appearance, Rolex watches are a standard among explorers, connoisseurs, and executives.
Sinn established itself as a brand for professionals from its introduction in 1961. The model lines are full of technical innovations and achievements applicable to professional (and amateur) pilots, astronauts, engineers and divers. They would send watches into space in the early 90s aboard Mir and Columbia missions. In the mid 90s the company began introducing magnetic field protection to its watches as well as revolutionary Ar-dehumidifying technology and special oils which resist exposure to extreme temperatures. During this period in the 90s Sinn would partner with Bell & Ross for a number of models including their famed "Bomb Disposal" watch.
The early 2000s saw more material improvements for Sinn, such as a lubrication free movement and specially hardened (tegimented) and sourced (submarine) steel to meet compliance standards for diving equipment. More recently, the TESTAF line was introduced in 2012 to meet the first technical standards for pilot watches.
A legend in sports timing and official timekeeper of the Indy Racing League. While the company was founded in 1860, the legend of Heuer was born during the Olympic Games of the 1920s. The games were measured by the Mikrograph, designed by the son of the company's founder, it was capable of measuring 100ths of a second with its balance beating at 360,000 oscillations per hour. In 1985, Heuer joined Group TAG (Techniques of Avant-garde). Several models honor the company's long history of sponsoring teams and timing the worlds most famous races - The Monaco Grand Prix, the Carrera Pan-Americana and the Formula One Italian Grand Prix.
TAG Heuer continues to move this brand upmarket, introducing Chronometer certified movements in many models including the Link Calibre 6 and the recently announced Calibre 8 movement for the Grand Carrera GMT as well as an upgraded Calibre 17 RS movement for the Grand Carrera Chronograph. A Zenith designed Calibre 36 Chronograph movement, also Chronometer certified, is available in both the Link and Monza model line.
A subsidiary of the legendary Rolex brand, Tudor watches began making a distinct name for themselves from their inception by Rolex founder Hans Wildorf in the late 1940s. Wildorf had been experimenting for years with the idea of bringing a line of classic watches to a broader audience at more modest prices, without sacrificing the extremely high caliber quality that Rolex had been known for. Tudor accomplished this by using in-house Rolex cases and parts but installing less expensive, but still extremely reputable, ETA and Valjoux watch movements.
In its early days, the parallels to Rolex models were immediately apparent in their original Tudor Oyster Prince and its utilitarian diver watch alternative, the Tudor Submariner, introduced in 1958. However, Tudor began distinguishing itself with small touches to their designs, such as implementing the ‘Snowflake’ and ‘Lollipop’ hour hands, both unique choices that gave Tudor their own design separate from their Rolex siblings. This trend continued through the turn of the century and into current models, as Tudor continued to establish its own voice and style in its timepieces, operating independently of the choices of Rolex. Some more recent Tudor pieces have introduced complications and ideas never implemented by its parent company, such as stylized second hands in their women’s watch designs or alarm functions not seen in any Rolex models. Tudor’s recently unveiled designs offer even more substantial innovations, including unique and decidedly non-Rolex bracelet options and Tudor “Manufacture” movements.
Though the Rolex influence is still evident in Tudor’s timepieces, they have developed into a distinct and noteworthy brand worthy of any watch enthusiast’s attention.