IWC redesigned their Big Pilot watch this year, but to see it next to the ones they made for British pilots in the 1940s, you might not be able to tell which is which. Everything else about this watch—and every other watch made by IWC—is an exercise in top-down luxury, from the sand-colored ceramic case on the Mojave Desert edition to the tide indicator on the Portugieser Yacht Club.
Year Founded: 1833
Best Known For: Highly sophisticated sports watches; unpronounceable name.
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s most famous creation, the Reverso, was designed for polo players in the 1930s. It was also the watch Don Draper bought when he got his name on the door at Sterling Cooper. Wherever you’re wearing yours, say it zhey-ZHER leh-KOOLT or risk being mocked by ad execs and horse people alike.
Year Founded: 1832
Best Known For: Spot-on vintage reproductions of archival designs.
When you’re spending thousands of dollars on a watch, the idea of “good value” becomes more than a little subjective. That said, Longines offers everything that a top-tier Swiss watchmaker should (heritage, high-quality Swiss movements, unique design) at a (relatively) attainable price point. If you want something with vintage looks and modern reliability, look no further.
Year Founded: 1894
Best Known For: Being the first watch on the moon.
More than half a century after Neil Armstrong made what might be the biggest watch flex in history, Omega’s Speedmaster is still the brand’s most-wanted creation. Tough, refined and technically-advanced mechanical sports watches are what this brand does best, and there are many to choose from—with or without ties to Apollo 11.
Year Founded: 1860
Best Known For: Big, beefy dive watches beloved by Sly Stallone, Dwayne Johnson and other guys with arms like tree trunks.
Panerai’s first watches were created for the Italian navy, with dials that glowed bright green thanks to Radiomir, their patented luminous paint. Radiomir turned out to be radiocative, but Panerai’s original design details and bulked-out proportions are as good as they ever were.
Year Founded: 1839
Best Known For: Extremely expensive, buttoned-down watches coveted by hedge fund managers, oligarchs, and John Mayer.
At the highest levels of watchmaking, a certain amount of OCD is considered an asset. A case in point: Patek Philippe hand-finishes every single component in their watches—even ones that no one but the watchmaker will ever see. That, combined with nearly 200 years of heritage and famously stable resale value is what makes this one of the most coveted brands on the planet.
Year Founded: 1874
Best Known For: Impossibly thin mechanical movements.
Watchmakers, like high school seniors, love superlatives. Piaget earned its reputation as the maker of the world’s thinnest mechanical watch movements in the 1950s and has been upping the ante ever since. At just 2mm thin (only a smidge thicker than a penny) their latest Altiplano is a mind-bending feat of watchmaking, albeit one you’d not want to wear to the gym. For that, look to the Piaget Polo, a criminally underrated steel sports watch from the ’70s.
Year Founded: 1999
Best Known For: Marrying 19th century watchmaking with 21st century industrial design.
Insanely high-performance watches made from things like carbon nanotubes, ceramic and titanium are RM’s specialty. Along with a car with doors that open upwards and a chalet in Jackson Hole, there’s no better indicator of having arrived among the 1%.
Year Founded: 1905
Best Known For: Understated design, uncompromising attention to detail and insane waiting lists at retail.