Watchmaking is very much a global trade, if these luxury brands are anything to go by…
Think of luxury timepieces and you’ll probably think of Switzerland. It is so synonymous with watchmaking that the label “Swiss made” is regarded as an unshakeable stamp of excellence.
Nevertheless, the industry does not shy away from a more global perspective. From Germany and the United Kingdom to Japan and France, the trade has ties to various different countries around the world.
Here’s a roundup of prominent watch brands and the defining heritage that sets them apart geographically.
While it was founded in London in 1905 as Wilsdorf and Davis, Rolex moved its base of operations to Geneva in 1919. Since then, the brand has solidified its standing in the watch world and is now very much a byword for prestige. Today, it has four facilities in Switzerland – each with a defined function, but all working together in helping produce cutting-edge timepieces.
A. Lange & Sohne
A. Lange & Sohne is among one of the earliest German watchmakers. The manufacture was set up in 1845 within Glashutte, producing handcrafted timepieces until it was destroyed by a bomb on the last night of World War II. Forty-five years later, and after the fall of the Berlin wall, the brand was revived. The year 2001 saw the manufacture reopening in the remains of the destroyed building, staying steadfast to its heritage and country.
Bremont started in 2002, with the first watches launched five years later. Moving forward, it has developed and moved its necessary horological skill-set to two sites in the United Kingdom: Henley-On-Thames and Silverstone. The aim is to bring industrial-scale watchmaking back to Britain. As the brand points out, “It is not completely unexpected to find that the world sets its time by Greenwich and not by Geneva.”
The founder of Breguet is Swiss-born but studied watchmaking in Versailles and Paris. In 1775, he opened his first workshop and quickly gained the attention of the then French aristocracy. While the modern Breguet manufacture is now situated in Switzerland, the brand still maintains a museum above its Paris boutique, which houses an archive over two centuries old.
The story of Seiko (meaning “success” in Japanese) began in 1881, when a 22-year-old entrepreneur opened a shop selling and repairing watches in central Tokyo. The Shizukuishi Watch Studio in Morioka – where the iconic Grand Seiko is made, along with other upper-end mechanical watches – is currently considered to be on par with the Swiss manufactures situated in the Jura Mountains.
Words by PY Cheong