The wristwatch as we know it today is a relatively new concept, with brands such as Cartier and Patek Phillipe producing them since the late 1800s and early 1900s respectively. That leaves over a century for companies such as Rolex, Omega, Oris, and Panerai to perfect the design behind the wristwatch. While each of these luxury watch purveyors brings their own redeeming qualities to the table, today we will highlight our three favorite brands and discuss what makes them so remarkable.
Hans Wilsdorf founded Rolex in 1905, producing such icons as the Oyster Perpetual, Datejust, and Submariner. Besides being one of the most recognizable and sought-after brands on the market, Rolex is also supposedly responsible for inventing several features adopted by most watch companies today, including the waterproof case and the first automatically changing date display. Their philosophy lies in improving upon their most successful models, unlike other brands that regularly release brand new watches, which is a huge contributing factor to their incredible success and why avid watch collectors are so loyal to the brand.
The watches available on the Rolex catalog is versatile, offering classic dress references such as the iconic Datejust and Day-Date, as well as bold sports watches such as the Submariner and GMT Master II. In recent years, Rolex has started to roll out a new generation of watches that include several exciting upgrades, such as the use of a Cerachrom bezel crafted from resilient ceramic material and a new case and bracelet design. New or pre-owned there is a watch to suit almost any budget within the brand’s catalog, which makes adding a Rolex timepiece to one’s collection well within reach, as well as a clear choice for our #1 pick.
Like Rolex, the Omega brand boasts an impressive collection of dress and sports references, with notable models such as the Omega Speedmaster and De Ville reigning over their catalog. The brand itself was developed in 1917 and is most well known for being the brand worn by Buzz Aldrin as he and Neil Armstrong took their first steps on the moon. Affectionately referred to as the Moonwatch, the Speedmaster’s participation in one of humanity’s greatest achievements further bolstered the Omega brand’s favorability among collectors.
Another notable timepiece produced by Omega is the Seamaster, which has made many appearances in James Bond films, such as GoldenEye, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Spectre. Several limited edition Seamasters have since been released to commemorate Omega’s partnership with the 007 franchise, including the most recent 2015 reference released for the film Spectre. The “Spectre” Speedmaster features a dial emblazoned with the Bond family coat of arms and a rotor that was cleverly designed to resemble the barrel of a gun a la the opening sequence of many James Bond films.
The Panerai brand was founded in 1860 by Giovanni Panerai and has since grown into a collection of distinct men’s watches that are celebrated for their bold cases, distinct dials, and sleek functionality. The Luminor line is one of the most well-known models produced by Panerai and was also the first Panerai watch to become commercially available to the public. Previously, the brand, which was notably a supplier for the Royal Italian Navy, was only available through the military. Luminor watches are often characterized by a large, cushion-shaped case, a crescent-shaped crown guard, and a dial topped with baton and large Arabic 3, 6, 9, and 12-hour markers filled with luminous material. The Luminor family is easily one of the most recognizable collections of watches in the Panerai catalog.
Since becoming commercially available, “Paneraimania” as many collectors often refer to the brand’s success as, has only continued to snowball with favorability among A-list celebs such as Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise at an all-time high. The brand’s remarkable history coupled with an enduring style and booming success make Panerai an easy choice for our list of the top 3 luxury watch brands.