The Swiss watch has been a symbol of status and luxury since the dawn of horological time. In the modern era, where Swiss companies have staff all over this interconnected world of ours, horology has changed and with it has come a deluge of watches from incredible brands that hail from all over the world.
Still, deluge or no, there’s a certain feeling a Swiss-made watch has that simply can’t be replicated. Make no mistake – great timepieces indeed come from many places (read our article on Swiss vs. Japanese mechanical movements), but no one on Earth does it better than the Swiss.
In this article, we’re breaking down our 7 favorite Swiss watch brands that have great options at prices the rest of us can afford. We’re specifically looking for attractive, mechanically or historically significant, or great value timepieces that offer their wearer a superior ownership experience.
What We’re Looking For
Watches with substance should be the only watches someone buys. Something that is disposable and valueless is just that, and it offers it wearer nothing special or interesting other than the time. If the time is all you’re after, your phone is far superior compared to a wristwatch.
Brands and watches discussed in this article are here because they’re interesting, notable, significant, or otherwise great timepieces. Since we most certainly aren’t in the 1%, we’re also looking for watches that offer a good combination of history, novelty, materials, and workmanship.
Sound good? Solid, let’s check out the list.
Our Choices for Affordable Swiss Watch Brands
A (now) Swiss brand, Hamilton started life in 1892 as an American company. Founded in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Hamilton is a brand that enjoys an interesting and eventful history.
Just over a century ago, in Lengnau, Switzerland, three brothers – Fritz, Ernst, and Werner – founded what would become, by the end of the second World War, one of the largest producers of mechanical watch movements in the world.
Every watch brand worth paying attention to has an interesting history, and among interesting stories, Movado’s is near the top. Famous for their museum design language – on display in nearly every model you’ve likely come across – the history behind that design is perhaps most interesting than the watches that bear it.
Placing Tag Heuer on a list of affordable Swiss watches seems like a misprint, but in reality, Tag Heuer makes several watches that are on the affordable side of luxury. Besides, the definition of affordable isn’t exactly rigid. In any case, mentioning fine Swiss watches without discussing Tag seems like an egregious omission.
Bearing the Swiss Army designation with Pride, Victorinox is a multi-faceted company that has invested considerably in its ability to produce excellent timepieces. Victorinox is the largest manufacturer of pocket knives in the world, but not as well known is their watchmaking business, which has been a staple in Swiss-made watchmaking since their introduction into the market in 1989.
Swatch is, without a doubt, the most affordable watch brand included on this list and it is also, without a doubt, the one with the most personality. Leaving the regales of legacies to other, more upscale brands, Swatch is perhaps one of the most interesting stories in the world of watchmaking.
The quentessial “Railway Watch”, Mondaine is famous for their Swiss Railways design, which they have been using under license since 1986. The design itself dates back to 1944 and is featured in train stations (and iPhones) all over the world.