The Non-Swiss Watch Brands that Deserve Your Attention
Switzerland, home and headquarters to many of horology’s most prestigious names, is widely recognized as the watchmaking capital of the world. At one point responsible for creating half of all watches worn around the globe, the Swiss watchmaking industry has been both a source of tourism and a quality guarantee.
What are the best non-Swiss watch brands?
But the Swiss do not hold a monopoly on the art of fine watchmaking—here are just a few brands, none of which are based in Switzerland, that are worthy of your attention. They include Bremont from the United Kingdom, Seiko from Japan, Nomos Glashütte from Germany, Citizen from Japan, and Vostok-Europe from Lithuania.
1| Bremont from the UK
Based in England but named after a Frenchman, the company was founded in 2002 by the brother tandem of Nick and Giles English. Both pilots who share an enthusiasm for restoring mechanical timepieces (a trait inherited from their father, a former Royal Air Force pilot who died in a plane accident in 1995), they decided to keep their dad’s memory alive by creating chronometers that would stand the test of time.
As for the name—that they owe to a farmer, Antoine Bremont, who happily took the brothers in when bad weather and a faulty engine forced them to make an emergency landing on his property. This series of unfortunate events led to the birth of this brand, headquartered in the town of Henley-on-Thames, with special edition watches created for the military in honor of their late father’s roots.
2| Seiko from Japan
In 1881, 22-year-old entrepreneur Kintaro Hattori began selling and repairing watches in Ginza, Tokyo. Eleven years later, he established Seikosha, taking its name from a combination of the Japanese words for exquisite, minute, success, and house.
The name proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Seiko is responsible for the world’s first quartz watch, the Seiko Quartz Astron, introduced in 1969, and has continued to change the game ever since. But its expertise is not limited to quartz pieces only, as Grand Seiko, launched in 1960, is dedicated to mechanical watchmaking, and formally became a separate brand all its own in 2017.
3| Nomos Glashütte from Germany
Designed in Berlin but created in the small town of Glashütte, a place with its own proud watchmaking history, the brand was founded by Roland Schwertner in 1990 and is the largest manufacturer of mechanical timepieces in Germany.
Distinguishable by its clean, minimalist lines and Bauhaus-inspired design cues, this independently owned company has earned admirers from both collectors and casual consumers alike. Its head-turning pieces have also managed to collect a number of prizes along the way, including the Good Design Award, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, the Green Product Award, and the Red Dot Design Award.
4| Citizen from Japan
The company started its life as the Shokosha Watch Research Institute in 1918 and celebrated its centennial just last year. It’s responsible for many watch innovations to have come out of Japan, including the world’s first quartz diver’s watch introduced in 1982, a watch that could measure both altitude and air pressure that debuted in 1989, and light-powered Eco-Drive watches using technology they had been developing since the 1970s—proof that Citizen takes its responsibility as a “citizen of the world” to heart.
They’ve also been named the official timekeeper of Disney, so keep an eye out for Citizen-branded clocks the next time you find yourself in the happiest place on earth.
5| Vostok-Europe from Lithuania
This bold, brash watch line, a collaboration between Russia’s Chrystopol Watch Factory and Lithuania’s Vilnius Koliz Company, creates timepieces for adventurers, outdoorsmen, and lovers of extreme sports. It made its Baselworld debut in 2004 with models named after the most important achievements in Soviet science and technology and has stayed true to that ever since—current collections include the Ekranoplan, Lunokhod-2, Almaz, and Anchar.
The likes of powerlifter and World’s Strongest Man Žydrunas Savickas and Muay Thai fighter Vladimír Moravík have been tapped to represent them as brand ambassadors, both of whom drive home the point that these watches are meant to be worn while pursuing activities that are not for the faint of heart.