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Top 10 luxury watch brands 2024: The leading names in heritage, craftsmanship and quality

man in suit adjusting black watch - top ten luxury watch brands

Take the plunge and invest in the timepiece of your dreams from one of the leading names in the industry

The best luxury watch brands are synonymous with quality, craftsmanship, prestige and exclusivity. These names are known for elevating watches from simple time-telling tools to intricate works of art that routinely sell for thousands instead of a few hundred. You’re unlikely to find a Swatch or a Casio being auctioned off alongside Picassos and Fabergé eggs at Sotheby’s, but a vintage Rolex or Omega? That’s practically a common occurrence.

Watch brands can earn ‘luxury’ status for a variety of reasons, but they all tend to have a few things in common. Firstly, these are brands with history and heritage – many of these manufacturers have been making watches for well over a century, honing their craft in the process. Along the way, their timepieces may have been worn by historic public figures, immortalised in film and put on pedestals by collectors.

Secondly, the level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that luxury watch brands put into their products elevates them far above the competition. Rolex famously claimed it can take a year to produce a single watch, which translates into a degree of quality that lesser, mass-produced brands simply can’t compete with.

Last but not least, luxury watches are highly exclusive. Their often eye-watering price tags mean only a privileged few can afford them. Even those with pockets deep enough might have a long wait ahead of them before they’re able to buy the watch they want. All of this fuels the hype around high-end timepieces and means they’re often worn as status symbols.

How to choose the best luxury watch brand for you 

man in gloves presenting watches - top ten luxury watch brands

A luxury watch is a huge purchase, whether you’re spending £1,000 or £10,000, or more. With that in mind, it’s something you’ll want to understand thoroughly before pulling the proverbial trigger. Our buying guide can’t replace the weeks, months or even years’ worth of research that people like to do before parting with this sort of money, but it will help to address some of the most common questions you might have going in.

How long can I expect to wait for a luxury watch?

We’ve all heard tales of people having to spend years on a waiting list to be able to buy their dream watch, but how long you’ll have to wait depends entirely on the timepiece you’re after and where you’re getting it from.

Luxury watches are extremely complex pieces of machinery that can take a long time to make. When the demand is high, brands can’t always keep up, which can result in waiting lists for popular models. If you’ve got your eye on something like a Rolex Submariner or an Omega Speedmaster, you may well have to join a queue, but if you’re after a less sought-after watch you might be able to get it right away from an authorised dealer, whether they have it in stock or can order it directly from the brand.

What is an automatic movement?

A ‘movement’ is the mechanism that keeps your watch ticking – or, as is the case with most luxury timepieces, keeps the second hand sweeping smoothly around the dial. The majority of luxury watches use an ‘automatic’ movement. This type of movement is driven by the kinetic energy generated by your wrist – a tiny weight on a pivot turns from the motion of your arm, winding the mainspring – and can usually store enough energy to continue running for a couple of days after you take it off. These types of movements are highly complex and can be very expensive to produce, but they don’t need you to manually wind them and they don’t require batteries, and they will keep good time as long as they’re properly maintained and cared for.

How much should I spend on a luxury watch?

Prices for luxury watches can vary greatly, so how much you might be expected to pay depends on the watch in question, and particularly on the brand you’re buying. It’s also worth noting that the very concept of ‘luxury’ is subjective. For some, a well-made £700 Swiss watch is more than good enough to qualify, while for those with money to burn, a watch might have to be worth upwards of £5,000 before it would be considered a luxury timepiece.

Broadly speaking, when most people talk about luxury watches they mean a timepiece costing around £1,000 and upwards, and one that comes from a respected brand. We’re not talking about fashion watches from the likes of Gucci and Versace, we’re talking about well-established specialist brands that have the horological pedigree to back up their products.

watch close up in gold - top ten luxury watch brands

It’s entirely possible to get a beautiful, Swiss-made, automatic watch from a reputable brand for between £1,000 and £3,000 but, depending on the brand and model, prices can go a great deal higher. For well-known and well-regarded brands that are popular with collectors, you can expect to pay north of £5,000, even for an entry-level piece.

Do I need a warranty and after-sales care?

If you’re going to drop a significant amount of money on something you’ll wear every day, it’s probably a good idea to ensure it comes with some sort of manufacturer warranty, and maybe even a service plan.

Thankfully, a big part of buying a luxury watch is the sales and aftercare experience. The exact timeframe the warranty covers can vary, but most watchmakers offer at least two years, while the likes of IWC, Panerai and Rolex will offer five or six years.

READ NEXT: Best watches for under £1,000

The top 10 luxury watch brands in 2024

1. Rolex

Price: From £6,100 | View watches at Rolex

rolex logo - top ten luxury watch brands

Rolex is a luxury watch brand that, frankly, needs no introduction. Founded in 1905, its high-end timepieces have become synonymous with affluence and exclusivity. Over the decades, various Rolex models have famously been worn by film stars and public figures – as James Bond, both Sean Connery and Roger Moore wore a Rolex Submariner for much of the sixties and seventies – and this, along with many other high-profile sponsorship deals, particularly of international sporting events, has gradually cemented the Swiss brand’s place as a household name.

It’s not just exclusivity and status that have seen Rolex climb to the apex of the luxury watch world – it has also been responsible for some groundbreaking advancements in watch design. The Datejust, for example, was the first self-winding watch to feature a date window that could change itself, and it was Rolex that created the first waterproof watch.

Today, its watches are so sought after that there are often long waits before receiving ‘the call’, which only fuels the obsession many collectors have for the brand and its creations.

Key models: Submariner, Datejust, Daytona

Check prices at Rolex

2. Omega

Price: From £2,130 | View watches at Omega

omega logo - top ten luxury watch brands

Omega is another classic Swiss watch brand with an impressive history. Its innovations and accolades have positioned it as one of the top manufacturers of luxury timepieces in the world today, only on a par with the likes of Rolex in terms of sheer popularity.

As a brand, they have been the official timekeeper for the Olympics since 1932. They’re also the only certified supplier of chronographs for NASA space missions – the first watch on the moon was an Omega! – and if it’s good enough for an astronaut, it’s certainly good enough for terrestrial wrists.

Omega makes some of the best-known and most-loved watches in the world. Watches like the Seamaster, the Speedmaster, and the Constellation are instantly recognisable to those with the most rudimentary of knowledge, and several iterations of the Seamaster have been worn by James Bond ever since Pierce Brosnan assumed the role back in the nineties.

Key models: Seamaster, Speedmaster, Constellation

Check prices at Omega

3. Cartier

Price: From £2,900 | View watches at Cartier

cartier logo - top ten luxury watch brands

French brand Cartier may be a jeweller first and foremost, but over its 150-plus years in business, it has arguably become just as famous for its elegant dress watches. The brand is known for its watches’ refinement and sophistication, as well as for their unique and distinctive designs, often incorporating unconventional case shapes.

Many of the brand’s most notable styles can be identified by their angular, square cases. Two of the most iconic being the Tank and the Santos, both of which incorporate plenty of straight lines and traditionally come on a leather strap and a bracelet, respectively.

Cartier’s timepieces appeal to those who see watches more as an adornment than a tool. They’re perfect for both men and women, and they pair beautifully with upscale tailoring and eveningwear. If you’re looking for a watch for special occasions, this could be the brand for you.

Key models: Tank, Santos, Ronde

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4. Patek Philippe

Price: From £20,950 | View watches at Patek Philippe

patek philippe logo - top ten luxury watch brands

When you hear people talking about watches that cost absurd amounts of money, chances are they’re referring to Patek Philippe. This historic Swiss brand’s painstakingly crafted timepieces are famously exorbitantly priced, with new watches starting at around £17,000 and going up to almost half a million. You can expect to pay considerably more for rarer collectable pieces – a Patek Philippe watch sold in 2019 for around £25 million, making it the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction.

These watches can command such prices due to a combination of the craftsmanship involved in creating them and the heritage of the brand, but also their exclusivity – only a tiny number of people worldwide have the sort of money required to buy a watch like this, making them a serious statement of status and wealth.

Beyond that, Patek Philippe is one of the few luxury watch brands whose timepieces hold their value relatively well, and often even increase in worth. This means some people can justify their purchase as investments in their own right.

Key models: Nautilus, Aquanaut, Calatrava, Grand Complications

Check prices at Patek Phillippe

5. Breitling

Price: From £2,800 | View watches at Breitling

breitling logo - top ten luxury watch brands

Founded in 1884, Swiss brand Breitling has a history heavily intertwined with aviation, producing handmade timepieces and precision instruments for pilots. It’s one of the leading names when it comes to chronograph watches (a type of complication that acts as a stopwatch) and still produces some of the best in the world today.

Breitling’s watches are sporty and functional, but also beautifully crafted, with all the intricacy and attention to detail you would expect from a luxury brand. But they aren’t completely unobtainable for mere mortals – prices start at around £2,500, and considerably less on the secondary market.

Key models: Navitimer, Chronomat, Superocean

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6. TAG Heuer

Price: From £1,500 | View watches at TAG

tag heur logo - top ten luxury watches

Followers of motorsport will already be well acquainted with the TAG Heuer name. Founded in 1860, this Swiss watch brand has strong ties to petrol-powered racing of all persuasions and has been a pioneer in the development of sports watches and chronographs over the decades. As such, TAG Heuer’s watches are almost always sporty in their design, with a characteristic robust build and precision timekeeping. In fact, the brand has been the official timekeeper and sponsor of the Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 team since 2016, which is a testament to how seriously it takes accuracy.

Beyond that, you’ll likely spy a TAG Heuer on the wrist of many Hollywood stars, from Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt to Cameron Diaz and Uma Thurman, bringing a bit of Tinseltown glamour to the brand.

Key models: Carrera, Formula 1, Aquaracer

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7. Vacheron Constantin

Price: From £12,200 | View watches at Vacheron Constantin

vacheron constantin logo - top ten luxury watches

In the world of luxury watches, Vacheron Constantin stands out as one of the oldest and most prestigious. Founded in 1755, the Swiss brand is known the world over for its exceptional craftsmanship, high-end materials and timeless designs, drawing on its 250 years of experience to create some of the most stunning, traditionally made watches on the market.

Unlike some other luxury watch brands, Vacheron Constantin keeps their production volume relatively low. Fewer watches in circulation means more hype, and this has helped to fuel the brand’s air of exclusivity. As have their lofty prices, since only a privileged few can afford to pay the tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of pounds it costs to own one.

Key models: Overseas, Traditionelle, Patrimony

Check prices at Vacheron Constantin

8. Panerai

Price: From £4,900 | View watches at Panerai

panerai logo - top ten luxury watch brands

Panerai stands out in a sea of luxury watch brands by combining an unapologetically Italian flair for design with traditional Swiss watchmaking expertise. The result is a range of unique-looking timepieces featuring striking and often unusual design elements, and crafted with meticulous attention to detail.

In the company’s early days, its operations focussed on creating high-precision instruments for the Italian Navy, before it began supplying the Navy with diving watches. In the nineties, Panerai began marketing its watches to civilians and today the company is best known for luxury timepieces like the Luminor and the Radiomir, with prices starting at around £2,000.

Key models: Luminor, Radiomir, Submersible

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9. IWC

Price: From £4,700 | View watches at IWC

iwc logo - top ten luxury watch brands

IWC (International Watch Company) is another historic brand with strong ties to aviation. Many of the brand’s watches, particularly those in the Pilot’s Watches collection, take inspiration from flight instruments and cockpit designs, balancing quality and craftsmanship with precision and functionality.

Famous for its high-quality in-house movements, IWC has devoted a lot of time and resources to development and innovation, using advanced materials and cutting-edge tech to keep its watches ticking.

Among watch fanciers, the brand is probably best known for its Portugieser line. These sophisticated yet minimalist watches are famous for their large, easy-to-read dials, uncluttered appearance and elegant aesthetic. This makes them a popular choice for those who would rather have timeless looks over trend-driven design.

Key models: Portugieser, Portofino, Pilot’s Watch

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10. Audemars Piguet

Price: Available upon request | View watches at Audemars Piguet

audemars piguet logo - top ten luxury watch brands

Even an untrained eye will be able to spot an Audemars Piguet watch a mile off. This is a brand that completely flipped the script of luxury watch design, ushering in a new era of unconventional case shapes, unusual design elements, and striking details.

The watch for which the brand is best known is the Royal Oak, which was pioneering when it launched in the early seventies. It features a striking octagonal case in stainless steel with exposed screws dotted around the bezel. It was also the first luxury sports watch to be made from stainless steel, which quickly became the default metal for high-end watches in place of gold and platinum.

Key models: Royal Oak, Jules Audemars, Millenary

Check prices as Audemars Piguet

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