Audemars Piguet was founded in 1875 and is one of the few remaining big independent brands. It is the oldest watch brand still managed by descendants of the founding families, as well as one of the most popular watch brands on the market today. Audemars Piguet was the first company to release a high-end sports watch in steel, the Royal Oak, which is still one of the brand’s best-seller today. In 2019 they launched a new collection: The Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet, seen in the below pictures. Only 32’000 watches are produced every year, making Audemars Piguet very exclusive watches.
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CODE41 was launched in 2016 by watch designer Claudio d’Amore and a group of friends from the watch industry. They took to Kickstarter to fund their first watch and raised over 500’000 CHF in their initial round. Today there are four collections: The Anomaly-01, Anomaly-02, X41, DAY41, and the recently launched NB24 Chrono. CODE41 prides itself on its transparency concerning origin, development, and price. When they are planning a new watch they reach out to the CODE41 community who vote on each step of the project from the case size to the movement.
F. P. Journe
Francois-Paul Journe unveiled his first pocket watch to the world almost 40 years ago (in 1983). Meticulously handcrafted with exquisite attention to chronometry and detail, the timepiece left an indelible benchmark standard in the eyes of collectors. Since then, F. P. Journe continues to be one of the most sought-after watch brands by collectors worldwide. The F. P. Journe Haute Horology timepieces are rare and complex masterpieces.
Founded in 1980 by Carlo Crocco, Hublot is one of the youngest major watch brands. In 2004 Jean-Claude Biver joined the company as CEO and unveiled the brand’s flagship collection, the Big Bang Chronograph, the following year. The Big Bang remains one of their best sellers today. In 2008 Hublot was bought by the LVMH Group who also owns watch brands like TAG Heuer, Bvlgari, and Zenith. Hublot is very active in partnerships and was actually the first watch brand to sponsor soccer starting with the Swiss National team. Hublot was also the first brand to use rubber as a strap material on a luxury gold watch. Contrary to most brands, each Hublot boutique is unique, taking its inspiration from its location so for example in a Swiss ski resort you will find yourself entering a cozy chalet.
Swiss watch brand IWC Schaffhausen was founded by an American in 1868. Florentine Ariosto Jones of Boston sailed to Switzerland to find a place to produce his dream watches. He started the first true production facility for watchmaking, harnessing the power of the Rhine River in Schaffhausen. Today, IWC is owned by the Richemont Group and is known for its complications, pilot’s watches, Aquatimer dive watches, and the beloved Portugieser and Portofino collections. The Aquatimer was the first watch to be water-resistant to 2000 meters. Their Big Pilot’s Watch is probably their most recognizable timepiece with the iconic onion crown and large dial.
Jacob & Co
Jacob & Co was founded in 1986 by Jacob Arabo, a diamond designer. He quickly built a following with celebrities. As an avid watch lover, Jacob started producing his own watches in 2002. He was well known for his diamond-studded men’s watches before moving on to more technical pieces. The first milestone was the Quenttin in 2006, which features a vertical movement with a lateral-side tourbillon and a 31-day power reserve stored in seven barrels. The introduction of the Astronomia featured below, caused a sensation in the watch industry. The Astronmis depicts a vision of the celestial world with planetary indications in constant motion under the control of a triple-axis tourbillon.
Panerai was founded in Florence, Italy in 1860 by Giovanni Panerai. To this day, Panerai is one of those unique and recognizable brands that are popular with many. Their most famous models are the Radiomir and the Luminor. The Radiomir was designed in 1938 as a diving watch for the Italian Navy and became part of its standard equipment for many years. In 1949, Panerai made a move to reformulate its glowing dial paint and trademarked its new luminescent chemistry as Luminor. In 1993 they unveiled their first three models available for the public to buy. An unexpected marketing boost came when the actor Sylvester Stallone, who discovered the brand while shooting the film “Daylight” in Rome, purchased a Luminor Marina and wore it on camera. The rest, as they say, is history!
Patek Philippe is the last independent, family-owned Genevan watch manufacture in existence today and is considered by many watch aficionados to be one of the most prestigious watch brands. Patek Philippe creates and engineers all of the components they need for their movements and cases, which are assembled and finished in-house. The company has been owned by the Stern family since 1932 and is today managed by Thierry Stern, President, and his father Philippe Stern who is an Honorary President. Patek Philippe holds the world record for the most expensive timepiece ever sold at auction – in 2019 the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime sold for $31 million at the Only Watch auction.
Richard Mille founded his watch brand under his own name in 1999, after having worked for many years at a number of French watchmaking companies. The first-ever Richard Mille watch was the RM 001 Tourbillon limited to 17 watches. Each Richard Mille model has a reference number but they were not all released in chronological order as some took longer to develop than others. Richard Mille is one of the most popular watch brands of the “newcomers” in the watch industry and his watches are often the holy grail for many collectors.
Founded by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in 1905 –Rolex is a brand that needs no introduction. They are arguably one of the most famous names in watchmaking, as well as one of the most popular watch brands in the world. Rolex invented the first waterproof watch and was the first watchmaker to earn the chronometer certification for a wristwatch. A Rolex Daytona 1969 previously owned by Paul Newman was sold at auction for $17.8 million in 2017 and was the most expensive watch ever sold at auction until 2019.