Richemont Group watch brands are quite a diverse bunch, helping the company earn the third spot on a Deloitte list of highest-grossing luxury brands in the world.
Coincidentally, this also makes it the second-largest luxury watchmaker, falling only behind LVMH, which is a parent to Louis Vuitton, Hublot, and TAG Heuer.
The company netted more than $11 billion in the last reporting year, beating out Kering, Swatch, and Rolex.
Formally known as Compagnie Financière Richemont S.A., the Swiss company was created in 1988 as a spinoff of the South American Rembrandt Group, which was formed in 1940.
Richemont refers to its subsidiaries as “Maisons,” which is French for “House,” and proudly boasts that most of its Maisons have been in existence for more than a century.
While not all of the subsidiaries are focused on watchmaking, the company values across the board could be easily surmised as quality products made by expert craftsmen with a strong measure of innovation.
Though you may not be familiar with the parent company, chances are, you’ve heard of many of the Richemont group watch brands. We’ll break down a few of the most popular below.
Colloquially known as “Paneri,” the origins of Officine Panerai can be traced back to a small shop in Florence, Italy started by Giovanni Panerai in the 1860s. Mr. Panerai also ran the city’s first watchmaking school, a sign of its innovative roots.
Paneri was tasked with supplying the Italian Navy with timepieces, which led him down the path of uncovering new ways to make timepieces readable in the dark.
He developed and patented two unique methods of illumination. The first, Radiomir, came about in the early 1900s, and the second, Luminor, was patented in 1949.
Most of Panerai’s history involves perfecting these lines—the Radiomer collection and the Luminor collection—improving their resilience for dive use, and ensuring they could stand up to anything the Italian Navy could throw at them.
The Egyptian Navy liked the timepieces so much, they too, had some adapted and manufactured.
That is, in essence, the Panerai brand and what makes it so special. It is the quintessential man’s man timepiece. The faces have always been kept clean and no-fuss, while the cases are large and formidable.
Though Panerai continues to develop its timepieces in meaningful ways, such as crafting in-house movements, the lineup today is the Radiomir, Radiomir 1940, Luminor, Luminor 1950, and Luminor Due, and that’s it, save for a few limited-edition pieces. In other words, Paneri doesn’t care what’s trending now.
You are always getting a no-nonsense classic piece made by craftsmen devoted to precision. Pricing for basic Radiomirs starts at just under $7,000, while some of the pricier models, such as the Luminor Dues, top $25,000.
Of all the Richemont Group watch brands, Roger Dubuis is arguably the quirkiest and sits on the opposite side of the spectrum from Panerai in virtually every conceivable way aside from quality.
Established in 1995 and brought into the Richemont Group of watch brands in 2008, Roger Dubuis is one of the newer luxury watchmakers.
Though the company prefers the phrasing “Brave, bold and technically sophisticated,” its Excalibur collection could be described as “sporty steampunk,” with the flying tourbillon being its signature piece, while the Velvet collection, draped in sparkles, is pure decadence.
In some ways, Roger Dubuis honors Swiss craftsmanship by sparing no expense in the design, manufacturing, and testing of its timepieces. Some of the designs certainly feel this way too; true understated elegance.
This is true of Velvet, which is incredibly classy—pieces of polished gold with tasteful gemstones—and also of Excalibur at times.
However, most of the Excalibur line places the internal mechanisms on display, often slipping in design elements, such as stars, to push the already unabashed models further over the top.
Some even have metal studs on the band, paired with diamonds on the bezel for good measure, and a couple models are designed to honor sportscars like Lamborghini and Pirelli. While you may find a few of the timepieces for under $100,000, expect to pay $200,000 or more for one of the more complicated models.
Société Cartier was founded in Paris in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier, remaining under family control until the 1960s.
It has an incredibly rich history with royalty, being referred to as “the jeweller of kings and the king of jewelers” by King Edward VII of Great Britain.
Virtually every royal family from every country has adored the brand for generations. Even present royals, such as Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, favor Cartier; the Ballon Bleu watch in particular.
Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, wears a Ballon Bleu too, but she seems to prefer the Tank.
Because Cartier was firstly a fine jeweler, and then later a watchmaker, the company mostly broke into the luxury timepiece market catering to women who wanted something beautiful and stylish to wear.
That being said, the Tank is arguably one of the most recognizable and iconic wristwatches in the world and has been drawing men and women to the brand for more than 100 years.
The Collection Privée Cartier Paris collection of the late 90s, featuring a number of vintage-inspired and bold pieces, helped attract more men to the line as well, as did the release of the Calibre de Cartier Diver in 2014, which, while still a dive watch with all the features one would expect, is probably the sportiest on the market today.
As far as luxury timepieces go, Cartier is oddly affordable. Some lines, such as the Tank, start at about $3,000, while the Ballon Bleu and Calibre de Cartier Diver have starting points around $7,000.
Short for International Watch Company, IWC was the initial brainchild of American Florentine Ariosto Jones.
As the director of E. Howard & Co, a notable Boston watchmaker in the mid-1800s, Jones was a bit of a visionary.
The US had experienced the industrial revolution, so technology and engineering were growing, but Jones was also aware that the Swiss had watchmaking down and there was plenty of inexpensive labor available.
So, he headed off to Schaffhausen, Switzerland and built the first factory of its kind in eastern Switzerland with the intent to marry American ingenuity and Swiss craftsmanship in pocket watch movements for the US market.
Jones stuck with it for a little more than a decade before handing off the company to a local named Johannes Rauschenbach-Vogel, whose family held the company for generations.
Though the Rauschenbachs moved into creating whole timepieces, including some of the first digital pocket watches and wristwatches, the company as we know it didn’t really start emerging until World War II, when it began creating pilot watches, which included the Big Pilot in 1940, and the Portuguese watch in 1939. These models are still huge today.
In fact, musician John Mayer loves his Big Pilot so much that his crew took to calling him “Big Pilot” as a codename on the road.
However, the Portuguese models didn’t initially sell and, oddly enough, didn’t even have a real name to begin with, nor did they appear in catalogues.
Early pieces were simply stamped with the numbers “325,” and fewer than 700 were ever sold, according to the company’s records. This no-nonsense approach continued with the creation of W. W. W. timepieces for the British Army; the name simply meaning “wrist watch waterproof.”
All these creations were absolutely stunning and unmistakably masculine, featuring much larger cases than other timepieces for their eras.
The company continued the tradition in the 60s, with the Aquatimer, its first dive watch, and then begun expanding on complications and modernization starting in the 70s.
What few advertisements the company put out generally focused on one thing; IWC timepieces are for men.
Sure, they had a ladies’ line, but their tagline for their titanium models, which the company was the first watchmaker to utilize, read, “Our titanium model is tough on women because it’s only available for men,” while other ads said to the women, “Hands off our IWC.” So, while brands like Rolex focused on creating tool watches as a status symbol, IWC was already a status symbol, but one only people “in the know” would appreciate.
IWC has been one of the Richemont Group watch brands since 2000. Nowadays, it’s possible to pick up a basic pilot’s watch for about $5,000 new, with the Big Pilot starting at about $12,000. The Portugieser and Aquatimer begin around $7,000.
The first LeCoultre workshop was opened by Antoine LeCoultre in a small Swiss village called Le Sentier in 1833. LeCoultre was an inventor, and his aim was to create incredibly intricate, accurate, and reproducible movements.
His first invention at the onset of his shop enabled him to cut pinions from steel. About a decade later, he produced the Millionometre; the first device capable of measuring a micron, which is the same thickness of a millimeter.
In doing so, LeCoultre became able to produce and reproduce incredibly intricate movements in a way no other watchmaker could. The LeCoultre family faced one of the same challenges IWC did; the business was formed at a time when individual watchmakers worked from their homes and many were reluctant to move into factories.
While IWC’s 1875 factory opening made it the first one in eastern Switzerland, the LeCoultre family opened its factory in 1866, slightly beating IWC to the punch and making them the first watchmaking factory in Vallée de Joux, which would also become home to Audemars Piguet, Blancpain, Breguet, Patek Philippe & Co., and Vacheron Constantin. With advanced technology and a unified team, the LeCoultre family began creating pieces at breakneck speeds and winning awards.
By 1900, the company had created 350 different movements and became Patek Philippe’s major supplier.
Shortly thereafter, Parisian watchmaker Edmond Jaeger, who was responsible for supplying timepieces to the French Navy and also did work for Cartier, designed an ultra-thin movements for the navy. Jaeger couldn’t actually manufacture pieces from his own designs, though, and so he turned to Swiss watchmakers to see who was up to the challenge. Naturally, LeCoultre blew him away. Later, when Cartier asked Jaeger to sign an exclusive 15-year contract, he turned to LeCoultre as well. Thus, Jaeger-LeCoultre was born.
Today, many are familiar with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. This model rose to fame in the 1930s, a glorious art deco style piece with a distinct rectangular case that could be flipped around to keep it protected during polo matches.
It remains one of the company’s most popular pieces today, with pricing starting around $5,000. The Geophysic, another historic piece which emerged in the 1950s, traditionally features a “True Second” feature, in which the second hand jumps with each move—quite unique among mechanical timepieces.
The earlier Geophysic models are unpresumptuous, but the Universal Time models from the line make a major statement. Each features a map view of the world looking down from the north pole upon its face and enables the wearer to know the time virtually anywhere on earth with a glance.
Geophysic True Second models start at about $9,000, but if you want a Universal Model, the minimum investment is $14,000. That being said, the Ultra-Thin is arguably the company’s most-recognizable model.
With a large face, incredibly slim profile, and classic look, these pieces are ideal for the boardroom and begin at a little over $7,000. Jaeger-LeCoultre has been in the family of Richemont Group watch brands since 2000.
Other Richemont Group Watch Brands
- A. Lange & Söhne
- Baume & Mercier
- Ralph Lauren (engaged in a 50/50 partnership)
- Vacheron Constantin
- Van Cleef & Arpels
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