What Companies Own the Major Swiss Luxury Watch Brands?

Article written by Alexander – Founder and Owner of swissdiverswatches.com

Luxury Watch In Gold

In the past, most Swiss brands were independent, but most of them have for various practical and financial reasons been purchased by major corporations, corporate groups and conglomerates. Only a tiny and minuscule minority of the Swiss wristwatch brands – the higher end, intermediate range and lower end luxury brands – are truly independent.

The main manufacturers and owners of the Swiss watch industry are (*)

The Swiss watch industry is dominated by these few influential industrial giants, corporate groups and conglomerates mentioned directly above. The independence of a Swiss watch brand is nowadays an extreme rarity.

The most dominant and influential of all the manufacturers, owners and corporate groups of the Swiss watchmaking industry, is of course the famous Swatch Group, which currently owns 18 wristwatch brands.

In addition to owning and manufacturing the largest number of commercial wristwatch brands (Swiss and non-Swiss), Swatch Group also owns ETA and Valjoux – the largest manufacturers of Swiss watch movements. Approximately 80% of all movements manufactured in Switzerland are ETA movements – manufactured by ETA, which is owned by Swatch Group. These movements are used by almost all Swiss brands – even by those that aren’t owned by Swatch Group.

Mechanical Watch Movement

Since Swatch Group is so dominant in the Swiss watch industry, I think it’s a pretty fair and honest statement that the Swiss watch industry stands and falls with Swatch Group.

To make it concise and succinct: if there is no Swatch Group, then there is no Swiss watchmaking industry!

Yes indeed, there are still a few exceptional and outstanding independent brands such as Rolex, Breitling, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, but the Swiss watch industry at large relies on Swatch Group’s manufacture and production.

Swatch Group brands:

  • Breguet
  • Blancpain
  • Omega
  • Glashütte Original
  • Union Glashütte
  • Longines
  • Harry Winston
  • Jaquet Droz
  • León Hatot
  • Rado
  • Balmain
  • Tissot
  • Certina
  • Mido
  • Hamilton
  • Calvin Klein watches
  • Swatch
  • Flik Flak.

Swatch Group owns these movement manufacturers and production companies:

  • ETA. ETA makes 80% of all the movements used by Swiss watches and Swiss brands. ETA also owns Valjoux – another Swiss movement manufacturer. Since Swatch Group owns ETA, and since ETA owns Valjoux, it means ultimately that Swatch Group owns Valjoux as well.
  • Valjoux – owned by ETA/Swatch Group.
  • Nivarox – owned by Swatch Group. Nivarox is absolutely essential to the Swiss watchmaking industry since it makes escapements, hairsprings and balance wheels – tiny mechanical components that you can’t see with your eyes since these tiny mechanical components are hidden inside the encased movement. These tiny mechanical components power and regulate the movements of most Swiss luxury wristwatch brands – both the brands that are owned by Swatch Group and those that aren’t owned by Swatch Group. Even non-ETA movements, or movements that aren’t manufactured by Swatch Group, might actually contain movement technology from Nivarox. The Swiss watchmaking industry stands and falls with Nivarox.

Richemont Group brands:

  • A. Lange & Söhne (a prestigious German luxury watch brand – one of few non-Swiss luxury watch brands)
  • Baume & Mercier
  • Cartier
  • IWC Schaffhausen
  • Jaeger LeCoultre
  • Montblanc
  • Panerai (Officine Panerai)
  • Piaget
  • Roger Dubuis
  • Vacheron Constantin (a member of the “Holy Trinity” of watch brands – meaning the three most prestigious and expensive wristwatch brands).

LVMH Group brands:

  • Bulgari (Italian maker of jewelry and luxury watches)
  • Chaumet
  • Hublot
  • TAG Heuer
  • Zenith.

Franck Muller Group brands:

  • Franck Muller

Kering Group brands:

  • Boucheron
  • Girard-Perregaux
  • JeanRichard
  • Ulysse Nardin.

Movado Group brands:

  • Concord
  • Ebel
  • Movado.

Festina Group brands:

  • Perrelet.

The Independent Brands:

This is by no means a complete list of all the independent brands, but a few notable examples would be:

  • Audemars Piguet (a member of the “Holy Trinity” of luxury watch brands – meaning the three most prestigious and expensive watch brands)
  • Bell & Ross
  • Breitling
  • Eberhard & Co.
  • Chopard
  • Oris
  • Patek Philippe (a member of the “Holy Trinity” of luxury watch brands – meaning the three most prestigious and expensive watch brands)
  • Raymond Weil
  • Richard Mille
  • Rolex (Rolex SA owns Tudor. Tudor is a subsidiary of Rolex)
  • Victorinox
  • West End Watch Company

A short note in reference to the independent brands mentioned above: it’s only Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Rolex, that are truly independent manufacturers that rely entirely on their in-house made movements.

Breitling on the other hand does make their own movements to a large extent, but does in fact rely heavily on Swatch Group’s ETA/Valjoux movements. Bell & Ross, Oris, Raymond Weil and Victorinox, despite their independence, rely mostly on ETA, Valjoux and Sellita movements.

As you can see above, the independence of a wristwatch brand doesn’t necessarily imply that it’s an extreme luxury brand, and a brand being a subsidiary doesn’t necessarily imply it’s any less prestigious. However most of the highly prestigous luxury brands are subsidiaries, primarily dependent on Swatch Group, Richemont Group and LVMH.

However, it is perfectly true, that one of the many reasons why Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Rolex are so appreciated across the world is partly due to the fact that these brands are 100% independent (extreme) luxury wristwatch brands.

There are however both advantages and disadvantages of being a truly independent Swiss watchmaker, or being a subsidiary.

The advantages of independent brands and manufacturers is that they have the unique privilege of defining their brand identity and setting the tone, strategy, course and direction of their company. Independent brands determine their research, organization, strategy, marketing and manufacturing techniques.

The disadvantages might involve lack of industrial and financial muscles and greater vulnerability when facing competition.

As stated earlier, the independence of a Swiss watchmaker or brand, usually entails greater prestige, but there are in fact many cases where extreme luxury brands, in fact function as subsidiaries.

The reasons for independent Swiss brands or manufacturers becoming subsidiaries, would involve for example: bankruptcy, scarce financial and industrial resources, tough competition, inability to develop, invent or manufacture a particular technology, inability to adapt to the market, lack of ideas and creativity etc.

There are many reasons that can be accounted for, but the originally independent Swiss watchmakers obviously saw some advantages with becoming subsidiaries.

The advantage of being a subsidiary Swiss brand is that the subsidiaries may use the financial and industrial muscles of the parent company, and the subsidiaries enjoy greater financial security when facing competition. The subsidiary knows that the parent company and the other subsidiaries will back them up in times of hardship and competition.

A subsidiary can and indeed is encouraged to use the movements, the technology and the manufacturing infrastructure of the parent company or corporate group.

The disadvantages are of course that the subsidiary Swiss watch brand might lose their unique brand identity and they might lose the ability to set the course of their strategy, direction and approach to watchmaking.

However, like I mentioned earlier, the overwhelming majority of Swiss luxury wristwatch brands are subsidiaries, and it appears that the Swiss watchmaking industry will look like that for many years and decades to come.

Article written by Alexander – Founder and Owner of swissdiverswatches.com

Founder of Swiss Divers Watches5

*This article might see some future updates if the ownership of the Swiss and non-Swiss watch brands is subject to change.

What makes a watch Swiss Made?

20 thoughts on “What Companies Own the Major Swiss Luxury Watch Brands?

  1. Rohitha Rupesinghe

    Hi Alex

    Thanks for a useful and informative article. You mention AP, Vacheron and Patek as the holy trinity of watch brands, but later in the article you substitute Rolex for Vacheron. Is this intentional, and if so, why?



    1. Alexander Post author

      Hi Rohitha,

      In the world of wristwatches – names, terminology and concepts can be confusing can’t they?

      No, I haven’t substituted Rolex for Vacheron Constantin.

      I think you’re mixing up the “Holy Trinity” with independently owned brands, and independently owned brands with their own in-house production.

      Amongst connoisseurs and experts, the “Holy Trinity” are the three most prestigious brands. “Prestigious” in the context of history, impact on the history of watchmaking (referring both to the technology itself, and famous and influental people wearing these watches), horology, technological inventions that have shaped the watchmaking industry as we know it, technological contributions to watchmaking, patents, prizes won throughout the years, attention to detail, aesthetics, price point, exclusivity (due to price point and limited scale of production) etc.

      Independent brands means that they are quite simply independently owned. Independent brands can indeed rely on their own in-house production but they don’t have to.

      THE “HOLY TRINITY” of watch brands are indeed:
      1) Patek Philippe (“Holy Trinity” – independent brand)
      2) Audemars Piguet (“Holy Trinity” – independent brand)
      3) Vacheron Constantin (“Holy Trinity” – owned by Richemont Group)

      Out of these three, only the first two – Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet – are truly independently owned, with their own independent manufacture/production.
      Vacheron Constantin, despite being a member of the “Holy Trinity” isn’t independently owned anymore – it’s owned by Richemont Group – a Swiss corporate group.

      There are a few independent brands, but not all of them have their own independent in-house production/manufacture.
      To my knowledge, there are only three major brands that are both independently owned and rely 100% on their own in-house production/manufacture.

      1) Patek Philippe (independent brand – member of the “Holy Trinity”)
      2) Audemars Piguet (independent brand – member of the “Holy Trinity”)
      3) Rolex (independent brand – NOT a member of the “Holy Trinity”)

      A member of the “Holy Trinity” can be independent but doesn’t have to be.
      An independent brand can be a member of the “Holy Trinity” but doesn’t have to be.
      The number of independent brands by far outnumber the members of the “Holy Trinity”, as the name implies – it can have only three members.

      “Holy Trinity” and independent brands are thus not the same thing. They aren’t synonymous.

      I hope my response clarifies the issue.


  2. watch appraisal Vancouver

    I loved your blog and thanks for publishing this about what companies own the major swiss luxury watch brands!! I am really happy to come across this exceptionally well written content. Thanks for sharing and look for more in future!! Keep doing this inspirational work and share with us.

    1. Alexander Post author

      I’m delighted to hear that you like the article.



    Among the independent family owned swiss brands are also West End Watch Company, http://www.westendwatchco.ch/
    They are owned by the watchmaking family of Monnat.ch
    They manufacture watches using ETA movements.
    Thank you!

    1. Alexander Post author

      Thank you for your comments! I’ve added West End Watch Company to the list of independent watch brands.


    1. Alexander Post author

      Hello Juan!
      As no real changes have occurred in the ownership of the most prominent luxury watch brands, it means no real updates are relevant for time being.


  4. Maha

    Thank you for this article! I’m helping a business understand their competition in the luxury watch industry and this was very useful.

    1. Alexander Post author

      And thank you Maha for your kind words! I’m glad you find this article useful.

  5. Sharman

    Indeed a quite interesting view on the ‘backstage’ of the watches industries.

    I believe you also omitted a quite important independent brand such as Eberhard & Co.

    Thanks for your effort to keep this article updated: maybe you should place a date about this just by the side of your name on top of the article…

    1. Alexander Post author

      Hello Sharman and a very warm welcome to swissdiverswatches.com!

      Indeed, Eberhard & Co. is an independent brand. It has been added to the list. Thank you for pointing this out.


    1. Alexander Post author

      I’m glad you like it. You’re most welcome.

  6. Timmy G.

    Very informative article and website kudos to the author although I’m curious why is Richard Mille isnt included among independents

    1. Alexander Post author

      Thank you for your kind words Timmy.
      The article listed only the most prominent examples of independent brands, but Richard Mille is indeed an independent brand and has been added to the list.


  7. John

    Good day, I saw your article on the disadvantages of independent swiss watch companies and wish to quote it on my research on luxury watches.

    Could I have your last name initials please?


    1. Alexander Post author

      Good day John and welcome to swissdiverswatches.com!

      That sounds very interesting. What’s the name of your paper and will you publish it later on, on the web?
      You can quote me as Alexander K.



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