What is the Oldest Watch Brand in the World? [Complete List]

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What is the oldest watch brand in the world?

The art of watchmaking has been around for centuries. Wristwatches were a trend that didn’t appear until centuries after the first watches were made. With that said, many watchmakers and watch brands started out making pocket watches, but then moved to wristwatches as they became popular at the beginning of the 1900s.

But what is the oldest watch brand in the world?

What is so interesting about watchmaking is that several companies that started their operations centuries ago are still active today, and continue to cherish and administer their heritage of century-long fine watchmaking history.

Let’s look closer at the oldest watch brands in the world. It perhaps doesn’t come as a surprise that most of them are from Switzerland. You may be surprised by who they are…

As you may have noticed, the discussion of which watch brands are the oldest is one that splits opinions. Some people argue that a certain watch brand is the oldest, but other sources state something completely different. This naturally causes a lot of confusion about which brand actually is the oldest. 

But the fact of the matter is that the statements from different sources may all be correct. How is this possible? Well, it has to do with how you define the starting point for a watch brand.

Technically, the starting date for a watch company would be the time the company is officially registered. Interestingly enough, some watch brands don’t use the year the company was founded but may use different dates, for example, when a person from the same family started making watches in one way or another, whether as a hobby or professionally. All of the oldest watch brands proudly highlight the year that the company started to emphasize its long history and expertise in watchmaking. 

With that said, we have to rely on the information that the companies are communicating, but at the same time be aware that the years may refer to the starting point for what would eventually lead to the founding of the company. It isn’t always necessarily the founding date of the company that they are referring to.

For example, Girard-Perregaux states that the company was founded in 1791. This is not quite true. The history of Girard-Perregaux does, however, go all the way back to 1791 when the watchmaker and goldsmith Jean-François Bautte signed his first watches. He established a manufacturing company in Geneva for the making of watches. Jacques Bautte and Jean-Samuel Rossel succeeded Jean Bautte in In 1832 and became the head of the company. The watchmaker Constant Girard founded Girard & Cie in 1852 and when he married Marie Perregaux in 1854, the Girard-Perregaux Manufacture was founded in 1856. As such, the official starting date of the company is 1854, but the history of what would lead to this started in 1791, hence why Girard-Perregaux uses this date.

Moreover, over the course of their long history, the path has seldom been straight and uninterrupted. Amongst the top oldest brands, Vacheron Constantin is the only brand that can say that it has had an uninterrupted production ever since it was founded. Many brands have gone out of business, been restarted, and struggled a lot along the way. This is why you can often see people stating that Vacheron Constantin is the oldest brand, which in a sense is true if the criteria are that the company has never halted its business over the course of its lifetime.

With that said, when we list the oldest watch brands in the world, know that we use the founding dates that the brands themselves state.

Oldest watch brands in the world

1. Blancpain: 1735

The oldest watch brand in the world is Blancpain. The company started its operations in 1735 when founder Jehan-Jaques Blancpain opened its workshop in his very own house based in Villeret, Switzerland. It can be read in the Villeret village records that Jehan-Jacques Blancpain registered himself as a watchmaker.

The company has had periods of resting and inactivity, but today it is going strong and is continuing to push the art of fine watchmaking, whilst also making watches inspired by its heritage.

Blancpain produced watches at the request of the French navy, which at the time was looking for a watch that was reliable, robust, and would withstand tough underwater operations. The brand was revived in 1983 and today it is part of the Swatch Group. If you look at the watches from Blancpain, it is clear that it draws their inspiration from their past. But most importantly, it uses century-old watchmaking expertise and knowledge in its manufacturing.

2. Favre-Leuba: 1737

A less famous brand today is Favre-Leuba. The company still makes watches and has its operations running, but it is not as famous and well-known as some of the other old watch brands.

The company was founded in 1737 by the Favre family, when Abraham Favre registered as a watchmaker in Le Locle, Switzerland. Abraham would come to start his own watchmaking business, and following this, his son and grandsons kept the business alive. However, in 1815, Auguste Leuba, a man who came from a family of merchants and watchmakers, joined the company. After that, the company changed its name to Favre-Leuba.

The company was sold in the 1980s due to the Swiss watchmaking crisis (quartz crisis) but revived in 2011. Today, the brand makes technically advanced watches, such as timepieces that measure altitude and air pressure.

3. Jaquet Droz: 1738

One of the oldest watch brands is Jaquet Droz.

The company was founded by Pierre Jaquet Droz in 1738, when he started manufacturing watches in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. He was particularly focused on Haute horology timepieces, and more so art in timepieces. The company was very successful as Droz’s watches were popular among the wealthy. However, the Napoleonic Wars would come to have a negative impact on the company.

The company was purchased by the Swatch Group in 2000

4. Ferdinand Berthoud: 1753

Ferdinand Berthoud is a company you may or may not have heard of. It’s at least not as well-known as the other companies on this list.

Ferdinand Berthoud is in fourth place amongst the oldest watch brands in the world. The name of the company is also, which is not uncommon, the name of the founder. Ferdinand Berthoud opened up a workshop in Paris, France in 1753. Berthoud was a scientist and a watchmaker who worked for the French navy. He is actually one of the inventors of the marine chronometer.

The company went to rest in 1876 when the heir of Ferdinand, Charles-Auguste Berthoud died. The company was relaunched in 2015. Not surprisingly, it pays homage to its heritage and its founder. Seeing that the company relaunched so recently, you can be sure we will see more from them in the coming years.

5. Vacheron Constantin: 1755

A common belief is that Vacheron Constantin is the oldest watch brand in the world. However, this is not the case as you can see. Vacheron Constantin is the fifth oldest watch company in the world, but seeing it was founded in 1755, it’s not exactly young. Furthermore, Vacheron Constantin is not the oldest watch company in the world, but it is the oldest company that has continued its operations without any interruptions, like the others on this list.

Most of these old Swiss watch companies had to halt their production, let the company rest, or sell it altogether. But Vacheron managed its way through all of the storms. Vacheron Constantin is famous for its Haute horology timepieces and complications.  It’s for people who appreciate the fine craftsmanship and the art of fine watchmaking.

There is just no quartz substitute, which is the reason why Vacheron Constantin perhaps wasn’t as badly affected by the quartz crisis as some other companies were.

Vacheron Constantin was founded by Jean-Marc Vacheron in 1755 in Geneva, Switzerland, which today is known as the hub of Swiss watchmaking.

 List of the oldest watch brands in the world


YearBrand
1735Blancpain
1737Favre-Leuba
1751DuBois et Fils
1753Ferdinand Berthoud
1755Vacheron Constantin
1770Manufacture Royale
1773Urban Jürgensen
1775Breguet
1780Chaumet
1791Girard-Perregaux
1822Bovet Fleurier
1822Kienzle Uhren
1830 Baume & Mercier
1832Longines
1833Jaeger-LeCoultre
1839Patek-Philippe
1845A. Lange & Söhne
1845Czapek & Cie
1846Ulysse-Nardin
1848Omega
1850Waltham
1853Tissot
1856Ernest Borel
1856Eterna
1857Dodane
1858Minerva
1860TAG HEUER (Originally Heuer)
1860Panerai
1860Chopard
1865Zenith
1868IWC Schaffhausen
1874Piaget
1875Audemars Piguet
1875Bulova
1881Seiko
1881Movado
1882Zodiac
1883Alpina
1884Breitling
1884Bulgari
1887Halda
1888Certina
1888Berthet
1888Carl F. Bucherer
1889Doxa
1891Angelus
1891Tavanes
1892Hamilton
1894Universal Genève
1904Cartier
1904Oris
1905Rolex
1906Montblanc
1911Ebel
1912Fortis
1914Enicar
1817Dugena
1917Eloga
1918Mido

 

Conclusion: the oldest watch brands in the world

Were you surprised that some of the most well-known watch brands in the world weren’t on this list? Including brands like Patek Philippe, Rolex, Omega, etc?

Some of these companies you are probably familiar with, but others may be completely unknown to you. One thing is certain, however, and that is that the Swiss watchmaking history and heritage are long and rich, which is also the reason why the label ”Swiss Made” has become so important in the world of watches. It’s simply a stamp of fine Swiss, reputable craftsmanship. 

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