In the realm of luxury timepieces, the 12 most expensive watch brands reign supreme in craftsmanship, style and price. These brands follow classic watchmaking tradition, possess a rich history, pioneering, innovative features and the use the highest quality materials. Keep reading to discover the world’s most expensive watch brands and learn what sets them above other luxury timepieces.
1. F.P. JOURNE
Starting Price: $30,000
Most Expensive Watch: $1,167,000
Topping the list of our most expensive watch brands is F. P. Journe. Founded in 1999 by François-Paul Journe, his watches follow the 18th-century watchmaking tradition of exploration and craftsmanship. Journe stated, “My philosophy will never change… how could I ever think about making watches that don’t respect the fundamental values of high horology? It is simply not possible.” In 1992 he created his first wristwatch with a remontoire system that he previously invented for a pocket watch. This eventually become the prototype for the Tourbillon Souverain watches which achieved great success when unveiled in 1999.
Journe is dedicated to combining watchmaking as an art form and as an industry. His watches are designed to last for centuries while retaining their reliable performance. F. P. Journe timepieces meet the standards of the most critical watch collectors: annual production is fewer than 900 timepieces and their innovative movements and are crafted with intricate detail.
The Journe Monopusher Split-Seconds Chronograph is the brand’s most expensive watch which was auctioned at the Only Watch charity auction for $1,167,000 in 2017. The watch is made of rose gold with steel accents and has a movement made specifically for the charity. The watch features a blue dial, tantalum case, monopusher split-seconds chronograph and 80 hour power reserve, even with the chronograph running.
2. RICHARD MILLE
Starting Price: $30,000
Most Expensive Watch: $2,000,000
Richard Mille had been in the watchmaking industry since 1974. It was his drive to create revolutionary luxury watches that brought him to launch his own brand in 1999. Mille created his first timepiece in 2001 where he utilized techniques and materials used when crating airplanes and F1 racing cars. One of the brand’s first slogans were, “a racing machine on the wrist.” Mille combined his love of the Swiss watchmaking tradition with technologically innovative materials.
He established his brand’s style with the tonneau-shaped case, which resembles a barrel shape. As its components are curved, these watches difficult and expensive to make. Every piece must fit perfectly together to prevent moisture or dust entering the watch. Mille invests years and millions of Swiss francs into analyzing how the components used in racing yachts, Formula 1 cars and aerospace can be used in watchmaking. Due to Mille’s rigorous production and high-end components, these watches have a highly limited production.
Richard Mille’s most expensive watch is the Tourbillon RM 56-02 Sapphire, valued at $2 million. This watch features a tripartite sapphire case with a pulley system that suspends the movement from the sapphire case. The strap is made with nano-strengthening properties which provides optimal comfort, elasticity, and water resistance. The watch allows you to adjust the tension on the able to determine if you are within normal tolerances. Only 10 of the Tourbillon RM 56-02 Sapphire have been produced and each takes 40 days to create while two years are required to produce the necessary sapphire components.
3. PATEK PHILIPPE
Starting Price: $18,000
Most Expensive Watch: $11,000,000
Patek Philippe was founded in 1839 by Antoine Norbert de Patek and remains the last independent, family owned Genevan watch manufacturer. Patek was captivated by Geneva’s rich watchmaking history and the brand continues to pursue traditional Genevan watch making to this day. In 1845, Patek brought French watchmaker Jean Adrien Philippe into his company after learning of Philippe’s invention of a mechanism for winding a watch’s movement without a separate key. The invention of a keyless movement was so visionary that today’s watch winding mechanisms still follow this design concept.
Patek encouraged “artisanal perfection, the lavish decoration of watches with engravings, enameling techniques, and precious stones that transform them into luxurious works of art.” While Philippe emphasized the advancement of watch’s core mechanisms and complications. In 1977, Philippe Stern, the CEO of Patek Philippe understood that classic mechanical watches could only stand a chance against quartz watches if these watches were a truly high-end product, comparable to a work of art. Patek Philippe has their own research and development team to create all of their timepiece’s movements and external components in-house. All of their watches are regarded by the brand as exclusive pieces with their own seal of quality to demonstrate their high quality and dependability.
Patek Philippe’s most expensive watch is the ref. 1518 in stainless steel that sold at auction for over $11 million in 2016. Made in 1941, this rare perpetual calendar chronograph is one of only four known to exist in steel, with most of this series being made in yellow gold and rose gold. The dial features Arabic hour markers, moon phases and a tachymeter scale. According to the luxury watch collecting website, Phillips, they describe the ref. 1618 has having “classic style, elegance and state-of-the-art innovations,” and that owning one is “a privilege enjoyed by only a very fortunate few.”
4. AUDEMARS PIGUET
Starting Price: $15,000
Most Expensive Watch: $869,000
Audemars Piguet was created in 1875 by Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet. They were inspired by the natural beauty of Vallée de Joux in Switzerland. The brand unified the traditional foundations of watchmaking with the evolving technical skills of the time to create a timepiece that is an exceptional work of art. From 1882 to 1892, over 80% of their watches had at least one complication, and in many instances, numerous. When the Royal Oak Offshore was first unveiled in 1993 it was considered uncommonly large for the time at 42mm. This watch conveyed durability and fortitude, eventually attracting the attention of celebrities like Jay-Z, thereby shifting watch trends.
On the 40th anniversary of their Royal Oak watch in 2012, Audemars Piguet announced the brand’s newest consensus: “To break the rules you must master them.” Their CEO Philippe Mark said that this statement, “expresses the essence of the Audemars Piguet brand philosophy. While the watches that we make are expressions of our respect for the traditions of hand crafted timepieces . . . we are also a modern, progressive company famous for our innovations in technology, the daring use of new materials and bold designs.”
Audemars Piguet’s most expensive watch is the Royal Oak Complication valued at $869,000. This watch has an 18 carat white gold exterior, 52 jewel movements and transparent sapphire case back. The blue dial features the “Grande Tapisserie” pattern, white gold hour-markers and Royal Oak hands. Wearers of this watch will be able to perfectly keep time until the year 2100, thanks to its perpetual calendar. There are numerous compilations such as its year aperture that accommodates for leap years, moon-phase indicator, split-seconds chronograph and minute repeater.
5. VACHERON CONSTANTIN
Starting Price: $15,000
Most Expensive Watch: $11,000,000
Vacheron Constantin was founded in 1755 and is the oldest fine watch manufacturer in the world. In 1790 they are credited with creating the first known complications for days and dates. They also made the first six quarter-repeater watches which can strike the hours and quarters if the wearer so wishes. When Georges Auguste joined the company in 1839, he was able to standardize the watches movements into calibers, revolutionizing the timepiece industry.
Vacheron Constantin’s watches have possessed the hallmark of Geneva since 1901 which means that their watches comply with the traditions of Genevan workmanship. All of their watches are guaranteed to be durable, work flawlessly, and made with ethically sourced components.
Vacheron Constantin’s most expensive watch is Kallista, Greek for “most beautiful,” which is estimated to be worth $11 million. This watch was originally made in 1979 for $5 million as 118 emerald cut diamonds cover the entire watch. This watch required 6,000 man hours and 20 months to encrust its jewels.
6. A. LANGE & SOHNE
Starting Price: $11,200
Most Expensive Watch: $2,500,000+
Luxury German watch manufacturer founded in 1845, A. Lange & Sohne is known for producing exclusively mechanical movements. The brand’s logo is “state of the art tradition”, merging tradition and innovation. Notable wearers of A. Lange & Sohne include Ed Sheeran, Bill Clinton and Alexander II of Russia.
Starting Price: $4,050
Most Expensive Jaeger LeCoultre: $2,500,000
Founded in Switzerland in 1833 by Antoine LeCoultre, Jaeger Lecoultre watches have been worn by celebrities such as Charli Chaplin, King Edward VIII and more recently, Jay Z and Kit Harrington. The brand pioneered the world’s smallest mechanical movement, set the record for the world’s thinnest movement, created one the world’s most complicated watches as well as the Millionomètre, the very first instrument capable of measuring a micron.
Starting Price: $5,000+
Most Expensive Rolex: $17,800,000
Arguably the most iconic of luxury watches, Rolex’s started out as a company called “Wilsdorf and Davis” in 1905, London. Originally an importer of Swiss watch movements into the UK, the brand grew and made its name in. 1926. with the first fully waterproof watch: the Oyster. Today, a symbol of luxury and success worldwide, Rolex watches have become a staple among the rich and famous. In fact, Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona sold at auction for a record-breaking price tag of $17.8 million.