Recently, there’s been a notable surge in fascination for luxury watches, drawing the attention of horology enthusiasts worldwide. How did this interest evolve into the distinct industry we see today? What’s the history of luxury watches?

The transition from essential timekeeping devices to intricate mechanical marvels constitutes a journey spanning centuries. Let’s delve into the roots of luxury timepieces and unveil the pioneers behind this industry.

The History of Luxury Watches

history of luxury watches

In the 16th century, “Nuremberg eggs” kicked off portable watches, initially as bold necklaces for women. Men embraced pocket watches later in the 17th century. 

Then, the game-changer hit in 1810 when the Queen of Naples commissioned the first wristwatch, shifting them from women’s fashion to practicality, notably in battles.

In the early 20th century, wristwatches symbolized independence for active women. Soldiers in battle strapped on pocket watches, pushing for sturdier designs. The Cartier Santos broke barriers as the first widely embraced unisex wristwatch.

The mid-20th century saw luxury brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe rise, but the ’70s brought quartz watches, causing a crisis for mechanical watches. 

Today, wristwatches are universal, embodying a journey from fashion to practicality and a continuous battle against new technology.

Living Legends: History of the Oldest Luxury Watch Brands

In the horology industry market, numerous luxury brands stand out, with some holding the title of the oldest. 

These brands boast a rich history, having been around for quite some time and pioneering the way for others in the watch industry. Let’s delve into the stories of the oldest luxury watch brands.

1. Vacheron Constantin

Established in 1755, Vacheron Constantin is one of the oldest and most revered luxury watch brands. Vacheron Constantin, a key player in the Holy Trinity, the trio of the world’s most esteemed watch brands, has sustained its legacy, remaining a prominent topic among modern watch enthusiasts.

The brand was founded by Jean-Marc Vacheron and Francois Constantin in Geneva, Switzerland. It made its mark with “The First Horological Complication” and “The First Engine-Turned Dial,” crafted by Jean-Marc himself. 

The addition of Francois Constantin, his grandson, accelerated the brand’s growth, earning it a coveted spot in the Holy Trinity of Swiss watches.

Vacheron Constantin’s significant contributions to the global watch landscape include pioneering the first non-magnetic timepiece, the world’s thinnest manual wind movement, the thinnest minute repeater, and the most complicated mechanical watches. 

While the brand is renowned for its Overseas collection featuring chronographs, world-time functions, tourbillons, and moon phases, it also pays homage to its heritage through The Historiques collection, blending classic designs with modern updates.

2. Patek Philippe

history of luxury watches

Patek Philippe, another esteemed member of the Holy Trinity, was established in 1839 by visionary watchmakers Antoine Norbert de Patek and Adrien Philippe.

Initially recognized for its pocket watches and the groundbreaking invention of the keyless winding system in 1845, Patek Philippe set a new standard for comfort that remains a hallmark of modern watches. 

The brand’s legacy is punctuated with milestones, including introducing the perpetual calendar function for pocket watches, the world’s inaugural split-second chronograph wristwatch, and the first annual calendar.

In 1925, Patek Philippe unveiled the world’s first wristwatch featuring a perpetual calendar. This innovative creation not only showcases the day, date, and month but also accurately calculates leap years, highlighting Patek Philippe’s commitment to functionality.

Continuing its tradition of innovation, Patek Philippe has introduced numerous breakthroughs over the years. 

Notably, the “grand complications” have become synonymous with the brand, making their way into various watch and clock models, further solidifying Patek Philippe’s reputation for excellence.

3. Omega

history of luxury watches

Let’s turn our attention to Omega, established in 1848 by Louis Brandt. Initially recognized for the precision and dependability of its pocket watches, Omega has left an indelible mark on the watch industry with a series of innovative inventions.

In 1894, Omega introduced the 19-ligne pocket watch movement, setting new standards in accuracy and reliability. Renowned for its precision, Omega secured its status as the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games in 1932, expanding its reach to a global audience.

Among Omega’s iconic models are the Seamaster and Speedmaster, with the Seamaster making its debut in 1948. This diver’s watch boasts waterproof capabilities and a robust and stylish design that has garnered acclaim from watch enthusiasts worldwide.

Omega’s innovation continued with the Speedmaster, selected by NASA as the official watch for astronauts in 1965. Rigorously tested during the Apollo missions, the Speedmaster made history as the first watch worn on the moon in 1969.

4. Audemars Piguet

Now, let’s dive into Audemars Piguet, another key player in the Holy Trinity of watches. Established in 1875 by Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet, Audemars Piguet has been a trailblazer in watchmaking. 

Their first significant invention came in 1882 with the introduction of the world’s first-minute repeater wristwatch—a groundbreaking feature that marks specific times with a distinctive sound. 

This achievement underscores Audemars Piguet’s technical prowess and unwavering commitment to excellence.

The innovations didn’t stop there. Audemars Piguet continued to make waves with the creation of the first skeleton watch, the thinnest watch featuring a 1.64-mm-thick movement, and the debut of the first luxury sport wristwatch—the iconic Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, released in 1972. 

Designed by the legendary Gerald Genta, this watch’s unique octagonal shape, exposed screws, and integrated bracelet instantly earned it a spot as an icon in horological design.

In the 1990s, Audemars Piguet once again shook up the watch industry with the Royal Oak Offshore collection—a sportier, more rugged version of the Royal Oak. 

This watch is designed for extreme sports and adventures and boasts a more significant case, robust materials, and a bold design. It quickly became a favorite among watch enthusiasts, solidifying Audemars Piguet’s reputation as an innovator that endures to this day.

5. Rolex

Now, let’s turn our attention to a watch brand that needs no introduction: Rolex. Despite being the youngest among its counterparts, Rolex has successfully caught up with and even surpassed others in popularity.

Established in London in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis, Rolex initially operated under “Wilsdorf & Davis”. 

Their mission was clear from the start: to create accurate, reliable, and elegant timepieces. Over the years, Rolex has made significant strides in the watchmaking world.

In 1926, Rolex made waves by introducing the world’s first waterproof watch—the Rolex Oyster. This revolutionary timepiece featured a hermetically sealed case, protecting against dust, water, and other external elements.

Building on this success, Rolex unveiled another groundbreaking invention in 1931—the world’s first self-winding mechanism with a perpetual rotor, commonly known as the Rolex Perpetual movement. 

As we’ve explored, the history of luxury watches is extensive and illustrious, explaining why these timepieces are often regarded as works of art, given their rich background. 

Despite the considerable longevity of the brands mentioned earlier, their timepieces continue to be in demand, and you can find them at Luxehouze.

Luxehouze is a luxury goods marketplace boasting a diverse collection of luxury watches from various reputable brands. Rest assured, all items available at Luxehouze are guaranteed to be 100% authentic and are offered at the best prices.

Take a moment to browse through our extensive collection and make your purchase today. For a more immersive experience, visit Luxehouze Jakarta Boutique at Prosperity Tower, unit 8AF, SCBD, South Jakarta. Your journey into the world of luxury watches awaits!