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A Brief History of the Oldest Watch Brands

Timekeeping pieces, whether it’s a clock, a pocket watch, or a wrist watch, all have a long history to them; the oldest mechanical timepieces were invented in the 14th century. Reliable wrist watches were first developed in the late 19th century, and from there, several watchmaking brands were established, starting a revolution in how we get the time. 

In the last hundred years or so, technology has advanced significantly, helping watches to be more accurate and durable. At Loucri Jewelers, we have a wide selection of new designer watches, many of which are made from the oldest watch brands ever. If you’re shopping for Cartier watches, Bulova, Rolex, or Omega, you can trust that our experts will help you find exactly what you’re looking for. In addition to our wide range of watches, we also offer watch repair and cleaning services, designer watch rentals, and more. Get in touch today if you have any questions.

The Oldest Watch Brands in the World

Blancpain - 1735

The Blancpain brand was founded by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain in Switzerland. Later, the great-grandson of Jehan-Jacques, Frederic-Louis Blancpain, who was the head of the business at the time, developed a major innovation in the watchmaking industry. The brand nearly went out of business in the late 19th century, but utilized the River Suze to gather electricity for its production. The Blancpain brand is known for innovative technology, creating new complications (the world’s smallest moon-phases display), and their slogan is “Blancpain has never made a quartz watch and never will.”

Favre Leuba - 1737

Also founded in Switzerland, Favre Leuba is the second-oldest watch brand in the world and was founded by Abraham Favre. In 1815, the Favre family collaborated with Auguste Leuba, creating the brand name Favre Leuba. The pair took their watches to the Universal Exhibition in London in 1851 and the New York Fair in 1853. In the early 20th century, the duo developed its first monopusher chronograph and continued to create chronographs with ebauche movements through the 1960s. The company is known for always innovating and producing high-quality designer watches.

Vacheron Constantin - 1755

This well-known brand was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, by Jean-Marc Vacheron. At just 24 years old, Jean-Marc started his own watchmaking workshop. The company started by developing clocks and pocket watches, managed to stay in business during the French Revolution, and began developing some of the first complications in the late 1700s, such as the date, and even watches that played music. In 1819, Vacheron took on a business partner, Francois Constantin, and the brand became known as Vacheron Constantin. The brand would go on to win awards from the Geneva Observatory for their technical creations and are known for being the first to develop watches that did not have the classic round case.

Gallet & Co. - 1826

Even though the Gallet name can be traced back to 1466 when Humbertus Gallet noted his profession as a clockmaker, Julien Gallet, a descendant of Humbertus, first registered the business Gallet & Company in 1826 in a city in Switzerland. The company eventually began locations in Chicago and New York and soon dominated the American market. In the late 19th century, the company formed a partnership that supplied mechanisms to help with the production of handheld timers and pocket chronographs. In 1912, Gallet created the first wrist watches that include a full-sized constant seconds hand and were used by military nurses and medics during WWI. The company continues to develop watches with innovative complications that were useful during WWII as well and the company is still known today for developing “Navigator” wristwatches.

Patek Philippe - 1839

Antoine Nobert de Patek founded Patke, Czapek & Co. in 1839 and quickly began developing high-quality designer watches every year. It wasn’t until 1845 in Geneva that Patek partnered with Jean Adrien Philippe and the company Patek & Co. was founded. In 1846, the team became the primary supplier of pocket watches for Tiffany & Co. Many celebrities purchased Patek Philippe watches in their early days, including Albert Einstein. Though the company was hit hard during the Great Depression, new management helped the team regain strength and they are known today for their Grande Complications and producing high-quality watches.

Waltham - 1850

One of the oldest American watch companies, the American Waltham Watch Company was founded in 1850 in Roxbury, Massachusetts by David Davis, Aaron Dennison, and Edward Howard. They started the company with the vision of creating high-quality, affordable watches with interchangeable parts. With a series of financial struggles at the beginning due to exploring various innovative manufacturing ideas, such as jewels, enamel dials, and detailed plates, the company was sold to Royal E. Robbins. The company went through a series of name changes and mergers and eventually became Waltham Watch Company in 1925. The company is known for producing 40 million jeweled watches as well as clocks, speedometers, compasses, and more.

Audemars Piguet - 1875

Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet founded Audemars Piguet in 1875 in a town in Switzerland. The two worked primarily independently of each other, creating complicated blank watch movements. In 1892, the company developed the first minute repeater wrist watch. In the years following, the families of the two men continued to develop watch innovations, including the tiniest pocket watch, the first skeletonized pocket watch, and a wrist watch with a perpetual calendar. In 1972, the first steel high-end sports watch was developed. The company is known today for producing a range of watch complications and quality products. 

Rolex - 1905

Founded by 24-year-old Hans Wilsdorf in London, the Rolex brand is still one of the most recognizable designer watch brands. Wilsdorf wanted to continue developing elegant and accurate watches, and so used movements that were manufactured by a Swiss company. In 1919, the company moved to Geneva and was registered as Montres Rolex S.A. In 1926, the company developed the Rolex Oyster case, known for being the first waterproof watch and for having a fluted bezel and caseback. Throughout their years, Rolex continued to develop many high-end designer watches known for their reliability and innovations, including automatic date and the first watch to display two time zones.

Loucri Jewelers, located in Greenvale, NY, offers a wide selection of designer watches, including some of the oldest brands. We are passionate about the history of watches and the innovation that these brands continued to show throughout their history. Many struggled through wars, recessions, changes of ownership, and more, but they continued to produce products that are more reliable, accurate, and durable. 

If you’re looking for a designer watch, whether it’s new Rolex, Breitling, or Gucci, you’ll find the best products and the best prices at Loucri Jewelers. Shop with us today either at our store or online.