Switzerland is often considered the mecca of luxury watchmaking. But, here are six non-Swiss watch brands that offer the same prestige and mechanical finesse.
There’s rarely a watch conversation we’ll come across today where the term “Swiss” doesn’t pop up. After all, for the past two centuries, they’ve served as the breeding ground for all things miniaturised mechanical poetry and artistic wristwear. From Rolex to Patek Philippe, the country has offered dozens of fantastic watchmakers and is almost synonymous with “luxury watches”. However, that doesn’t go to say that this expertise is exclusive to the Swiss.
Through the years, we’ve witnessed a handful of emerging stars shine bright, embracing their unique watchmaking cultures and regional aesthetics, contending the Swiss in the very same league as theirs. Moving out of this great region, here are six of our favourite non-Swiss brands.
Grand Seiko (Japan)
The latter half of the 20th century was an absolute boom for the Japs. They ventured into the world of watchmaking with Seiko and shook the industry with the invention of the world’s first Quartz watch ‘Astron’ in 1969. Soon after, they gave this a premium spin and created a separate division of the brand called Grand Seiko. Their mechanical and artistic approaches are quintessentially Japanese, and I think that’s what makes them great. Seiko doesn’t quite want to compete with the Swiss titans but simply be successful in their own race and be a strong Japanese watch brand.
A. Lange & Söhne (Germany)
Hailing from Germany, A. Lange & Söhne is one of those brands you either know and love or don’t know at all. We hold them in extremely high regard for their complex mechanical creations but also their fuss-free aesthetic language. The 176-year-old watchmaker became an Haute horology sensation after their relaunch in 1994. What makes them such a great brand is their passion for simple elegance and mechanical poetry. Undoubtedly one of our favourite non-Swiss watches brands.
Bell & Ross (France)
If you’d ever like to know what it’s like to be a fighter aircraft pilot, wear a Bell & Ross watch. Take a look at the watch above and tell us it doesn’t look like an F-16’s cockpit. It’s almost like a bunch of watch designers sat with aeronautical control panellists and designed a piece that meets both form and function. This brand-defining aesthetic truly makes them stand out in the industry. Their watches have a signature square dial and a chronograph in most cases. If you’re an avid geek, this brand is arm candy for you.
Highly unconventional, this brand’s creations, we’ll agree with you there. Devon, being an American brand, made headlines a few years ago with their Tread 1 watch. Their work, traditionally, is so counter-culture and unlike any luxury watch brand out there. This brute metal and freak-Frankenstein aesthetic are what sets them apart. However, even the watch’s functionality is as complex as it looks. Personal take: As great as it may look, I’m not convinced that complex horology is always a good thing. Well, especially if it results in making time-reading a difficult process. Anyway, 10/10 for design.
Bremont (United Kingdom)
English-breed Bremont is only 19 years old, but their contemporary military-like aesthetic has earned them quite a name in the watch market. If we were to explain, their pieces are vintage, utility-driven, and elegantly compact. It may be complex, but it doesn’t look like a mosh-pit of complications. Their inspirations come from the British military and its strong heritage. While we have brands that take after the areal and nautical forces, rarely do we see one that’s inspired by the military.
The royal Italian navy has been their official watch supplier for nearly 40 years, with the oceans at the heart of Panerai. Their nautical line-up of sporty watches has become the brand’s highlight today. More so, while being one of the pioneering non-Swiss watch brands, they’re also spearheading the industry’s strides in sustainable craftsmanship and eco-conscious watchmaking. Simply put, consistent material innovation and dedication towards mother nature is Panerai’s brand ethos.
All images: Courtesy brands