A luxury watch adds a touch of sophistication to any outfit, allowing the wearer to express their personal style as well as keep track of time. Wristwatches for men and women from leading watchmakers such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Panerai, Cartier and Omega are available in a vast choice of designs and offer something for every taste. From smart dress watches and glamorous diamond-set watches to water-resistant dive watches and complex chronographs, you may find it hard to choose a favourite!
Prices for men's luxury watches and women's luxury watches vary greatly depending on the brand, model and specifications. Some of the most affordable luxury watches come from TAG Heuer with an average price-tag of 2,550€ (3,010 US$). Omega offers fine watches while maintaining affordability with an average cost of 3,648€ (4,302 US$), while Breitling watches are slightly more pricey at an average of 4,075€ (4,796 US$). In the mid-price range, Panerai watches cost an average of 7,840€ (9,228 US$) and you can purchase a Rolex watch for an average of 7,967€ (9,396 US$). IWC Schaffhausen watches are priced at an average of 8,891€ (10,485 US$) and Jaeger-LeCoultre watches at 13,024€ (15,360 US$). Rising to the higher end of the price range, luxury watches from Hublot cost an average of 17,199€ (20,244$US), Audemars Piguet watches come in at an average of 34,540€ (40,735 US$) and Patek Philippe watches at 38,073€ (44,902 US$).
Luxury Watch Brands
|Approximate average watch prices (€/US$)|
|Patek Philippe||38,070€ / 44,900 US$|
|Audemars Piguet||34,540€ / 40,735 US$|
|Hublot||17,200€ / 20,245$ US|
|Jaeger-LeCoultre||13,025€ / 15,360 US$|
|IWC Schaffhausen||8,890€ / 10,485 US$|
|Rolex||7,970€ / 9,400 US$|
|Panerai||7,840€ / 9,230 US$|
|Breitling||4,075€ / 4,800 US$|
|Omega||3,650€ / 4,300 US$|
|TAG Heuer||2,550€ / 3,010 US$|
From Patek Philippe, Rolex, Cartier and Audemars Piguet to Hublot, Chopard and Omega, the luxury watch brands of today have a rich history in the world of horology. The world's finest watchmakers all have a fascinating past that gives their stunning and precise timepieces added allure. Though to some, a watch is simply a tool to tell the time, both serious watch-collectors and fans of the watch as a fashion accessory appreciate the heritage behind these brand's iconic designs.
The brand now known as Patek Philippe started out in 1839 as Patek, Czapek & Cie. Antoine Norbert de Patek and Francois Czapek set up business in Geneva, Switzerland with a focus on making high-quality watches. At this stage, they produced only 200 watches per year. In 1844, de Patek's partnership contract with Czapek was due to end and he felt that it was time to collaborate with a new business associate. He met Jean Adrien Philippe, who at that time was working on a key-less winding mechanism for watches. In 1845 Philippe and Patek started work together, with Philippe handling the technical mastery of watch-making and Patek managing the artistic side. Patek saw great value in utilising traditional handicrafts to create beautiful watches and incorporated gem-settings, miniatures, engraving and enamelling into the designs.
Patek Philippe were responsible for the creation of the first Swiss-made wristwatch, an ornately jewelled timepiece that was purchased in 1868 by the Queen of Hungary. Over the years, iconic styles added to their collections included the Golden Ellipse and Nautilus, both designed by Gerald Genta. Today, Patek Philippe watches are synonymous with elegance and quality, with collections that transmit discreet style and traditional values while including the most advanced mechanics and complications.
Rolex started its journey to being one of the world's most famous watch brands in England in 1905. Brother-in-laws Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis started their business under the name Wilsdorf and Davis. They started selling watches made by combining cases from Dennison with Swiss-made watch movements imported from Hermann Aegler. In 1908, Wilsdorf and Davis opened an office in La Chaux-de-Fonds Switzerland, registering Rolex as a trade-mark and later as a company name in 1915. In 1919, the company moved its operations to Switzerland, operating over the years under the names Rolex Watch Company, Montres Rolex SA and finally, Rolex.
During the 1940s and 1950s, Rolex began to develop their reputation as innovators and pioneers in horology. Their 1945 Datejust ref 4467 watch was the first to feature an automatically changing date on the dial, while the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner ref 6204 had the first watch case to be waterproof up to 100m. The first watch to show two time-zones on the dial was the 1954 Rolex GMT Master ref 6542, and the Rolex Day-Date of 1956 was the first to have self-adjusting date and date features on the dial. One of the most iconic designs to emerge from this period was the Rolex Daytona. Originally titled the Rolex Chronograph, the sports watch was inspired by Daytona racing. One of its most famous fans was Paul Newman, who, it is said, wore a Daytona watch every day from 1972 to his death in 2008. A Rolex Daytona ref 6239, pre-owned by the actor, became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold when it was auctioned for 17.75 million $US in 2017.
Cartier has been one of the world's most famous jewellers and watchmakers for decades. The brand was founded in 1847 when Louis-Francois Cartier established his first workshop in Paris. Cartier quickly developed a reputation for producing the most exquisite jewels and by 1859, he was successful enough to open the first Cartier boutique. The business was taken over by his son Alfred Cartier in 1874. Alfred decided to move the business to Paris' jewellery making quarters and from 1888 added their first ladies wristwatches to the collection. Over the years, many of Cartier's watch collections have become iconic with watches for ladies and men.
The Cartier Santos was the first aviator watch, designed by Louis Cartier for Alberto Santos in 1904, while the Tank collection, launched in 1917, was influenced by the military machines it was named for. 1973 saw the introduction of 12 watches with solid gold cases for the Line 21 collection. The Cartier Panthere was launched in the 1980s, with a square dial and exposed screws on the bezel reminiscent of the Cartier Santos. It was named Panthere for the slinky articulated link bracelet that the brand poetically described as like a panther moving through the jungle. The Panthere was relaunched with a new ladies watch collection in 2017. Another 1980s innovation from Cartier was the Pasha watch designed for the Pasha of Marrakesh. Gerald Genta took on the challenge of creating the timepiece, which needed to be regal in style while water-resistant enough to be worn while swimming. The final design had a round case, a grid to protect the glass, Vendome lugs and a crown cap fixed to the case with a small chain. A more recent best seller for the brand is the elegant Ballon Bleu de Cartier, available in models for men and women.
Audemars Piguet was established in 1875 by friends Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet. The pair set up base in Le Brassus in the Vallee de Joux, Switzerland, with Audemars managing the technical aspects of watch-making and Piguet handling the marketing side of the business. The Audemars Piguet company has been passed down through the generations and remains a family business to this day.
Key dates in the brand's story include their introduction of a chronograph with a perpetual minute repeater in 1882 and, in 1891, the first wristwatch with a perpetual minute repeater. Significant models include the innovative diving-helmet inspired Audemars Piguet Royal Oak sports watch and its modern interpretation, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore. Limited and special of the Royal Oak lines are extremely popular amongst collectors. The Millenary line, which features skeleton casing is also highly sought after, as are models from the classic Jules Audemars range. A particularly rare Audemars Piguet design is the rectangular bezel Edward Piguet, which is now only available on the pre-owned market.
Hublot started as MDM Geneve, a Switzerland based brand launched by Italian-born Carlo Crocco in 1980. One of his first designs was the Hublot watch, which featured the world's first ever watch-strap made from natural rubber. When the watch was exhibited at the Basel Watch Fair, it initially had no buyers but the contemporary design soon began to catch on. By 2004, Crocco found that he no longer had the time to give his full attention to Hublot and hired Jean Claude Biver as CEO. Biver was to fire up the brand's popularity by introducing exciting new designs such as the Hublot Big Bang and Hublot Classic Fusion. One of the most unusual Hublot watches is Key of Time, a fantasy timepiece that allows the wearer to speed-up or slow-down time as they wish.
Louis-Ulysse Chopard began learning watchmaking at an early age, encouraged by his father, who believed it to be a good career. By the time he was just 24, in 1860, he was establishing his own business. Chopard was based in Sonvilier in Switzerland and produced a range of luxury watches for ladies and pocket chronographs for men. After Chopard's death, the business was inherited by his son and grandson, Paul-Louis and Paul-Andre. One of their most significant business decisions was to move to Geneva in 1937, allowing them to place the Geneva Seal on their watches. The Geneva Seal is a symbol of quality from the Watchmaking School of Geneva and is considered the highest accolade in the horology trade.
By 1963, the Chopard family no longer wished to run the business and it was sold to Karl Scheufele III. In 1976, the luxury watch brand introduced their first watches with moving diamonds behind sapphire glass. Inspired by sparkling raindrops in a woodland, the 1976 Happy Diamonds watch was designed for men and made from 18K white gold. It won the prestigious Golden Rose award and since then the moving diamond concept has become a signature style for the brand. Chopard introduced the Happy Sport watch for women in 1993, combining diamonds and steel for a fresh, confident look. For 2016, their variation was the Happy Diamonds Icons watch, which has a floating diamonds surrounding a mother of pearl dial, and prices varying from 12,970 - 34,584€ (15,000 – 40,000 US$).
The Jaeger-LeCoultre brand was established in 1937. The brand emerged after years of friendly co-operation between Swiss brand LeCoultre and Parisian brand Jaeger. Before this point, watches made by the brands bore their individual names, while those made after were branded as Jaeger-LeCoultre.
They became known as innovators of luxury watch design with timepieces like the Reverso, which was launched in the 1930s and featured a unique sliding hinge allowing the face to be reversed. The Reverso remains one of the brand's most famous watches, with contemporary models retaining the chic Art Deco lines of the original. The Geophysic was a chronometer which was created in 1958 to celebrate the International Geophysic Year and offered ultimate precision plus durability. The Master Control line is another of Jaeger-LeCoultre's most popular collections, favoured for its classic look and technical function
Top Jaeger-LeCoultre Collections: Reverso , Polaris, Geophysic, Geomatic, Memovox, Master Control
Omega watches were first produced under the La Generale Watch Co. Founded in 1848 by Louis Brandt in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, La Generale Watch Co. produced pocket watches for men. In 1894, Brandt's sons set up in-house manufacturing processes and started selling Omega brand watches. Their designs were popular, especially with British military officers during the Boer War, and by 1903, the brand was strong enough to stand alone as the Omega Watch Co. During the 1930s, Omega began a long-running sponsorship of the Olympic Games. This period was also significant as the Calibre 47.7 beat records for precision in trials at Kew Observatory.
Some of Omega's most important designs began to emerge in the late 1950s. The Omega Speedmaster was launched as part of the Professional collection in 1957, along with the Seamaster and Railmaster. In 1965, NASA selected the Speedmaster as the only watch suitable for the challenges of space travel and it became the one and only Moon-watch. The De Ville model was added in 1967, offering a more streamlined and elegant take on the Seamaster sports watch.
The combined new and pre-owned luxury watch market is enormous with ample opportunities to invest in the finest contemporary and vintage timepieces. While some look to luxury watches as an asset that will grow in monetary value in the future, others consider watches an investment in style and a wise addition to their wardrobe. Then there are the collectors who are passionate about watches as objects of art or historical significance, who are not necessarily concerned with owning the most expensive timepieces, but those that tell a story. Whatever reason that buying luxury watches appeals to you, there are tens of thousands of options available from renown brands including Rolex, Hublot, Omega, Chopard and Patek Philippe.