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.
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.
Officine Panerai Firenze started suppling the Italian Navy with precision instruments such as calculators, fuses for torpedos, depth meters, and compasses in the 19th century. The demand for an extremely water proof time piece 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.
In 1846, a 23-year-old watchmaker named Ulysse Nardin settled in Le Locle with the knowledge imparted on him by his father, Leonard-Frederic Nardin, and master watchmaker Frederic-William Dubois to create marine chronometers. For decades, the Ulysse Nardin company created chronometers for navies that set a high standard and were used by more than 50 armadas around the world.
Now, the company produces intricate mechanical watches, though their Marine line harkens back to the company's early days. After the 1983 acquisition by businessman Rolf Schnyder (in collaboration with watchmaker Ludwig Oechslin), Ulysse Nardin released their Trilogy of Time set -- the Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, the Planetarium Copernicus, and the Tellurium Johannes Kepler -- over the course of several years. The Astrolabium Galileo Galilei was named the world's most functional watch in 1989 by the Guinness Book of World Records, adding to the more than 4,000 awards won by the company. Other award-winning pieces by the company include the Freak Blue Phantom, a tourbillon watch with no real case, crown or hands, and the GMT +- Perpetual, which combines a perpetual calendar with the ability to move the hour back or forth with one-press buttons.