Are you looking for a timeless French watch to add to your collection? This post will show you all the best French watch brands to choose from!
When people think of watchmaking and timekeeping, they generally think of the Swiss, but the French are not far behind.
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The French luxury watch brands market has the likes of Cartier and Breguet. Even fashion brands like Dior and Chanel produce wristwatches but, the French Horlogerie industry does not start and end with these big names.
To help you dive deeper into the French watchmaking space, here is a list of the 12 best French watch brands that have carved a niche for themselves in the watchmaking world.[lasso ref=”worldnomadstravelinsurance” id=”6330″ link_id=”8458″]
Best French Watch Brands
France has some gifted watchmakers who established brands and produced watches way ahead of their times.
From timeless classics to aesthetically designed to quirky ones, this guide will showcase the best French watchmakers brands every watch lover should own.
Cartier, founded in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier, is one of the top French luxury watch brands today. Apart from luxurious watches, it’s also one of the most famous French jewelry brands.
In 1972, the family sold their stake to an investor group, and in 2012, Richemont, a Swiss-based company, bought it.
When Louis-François Cartier’s son Louis joined the company, he brought a fresh perspective and new designs. At the time, Cartier launched the mystery clock, which had a transparent dial.
Throughout its 175-year-old history, the brand has kept up with the watch fashion of the times (pun intended!) and has also created timeless pieces.
Cartier has a wide variety to choose from — from pocket watches and bracelet watches to desk clocks and wristwatches.
With its high quality and luxurious look, Cartier has always been a favorite among royals.
King Edward VII (of the UK ) referred to the brand as “the jeweller of kings and the king of jewellers” and he ordered a number of tiaras from them for his 1902 coronation.
And more recently, Kate Middletown and Meghan Markle have been seen adorning watches from this opulent French watch brand.
Though most of their watches sell pretty well, some of their fan favorites include the Cartier Tank collection, Santos De Cartier collection, and Panthère de Cartier collection.
L. Leroy was established in 1785 by Charles Le Roy, who was related to well-known watchmakers of France, Julien Le Roy, and his son, Pierre Le Roy.
In fact, the father-son duo were watchmakers to King Louis XV, known as maître horloger.
Pierre invented the detent escapement, which formed the basis of the modern precision clock, and his chronometer helped in developing modern marine chronometers.
The brand has been a watchmaker to the French Navy from 1835 until the late 1980s, making them masters at sea.
Their Limited Range Collection has unique luxurious pieces mainly acquired by connoisseurs but, the Marine Range is their popular collection and includes a chronograph and a chronometer.
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3. Charlie Paris
Two childhood friends, Ambroise and Adrien, shared a love for horology and decided to turn this passion into a profitable business in 2014 by establishing Charlie Paris.
The goal was to create high-quality, feature-packed watches that were not too expensive — and that’s exactly what they did.
They started with the three-hand quartz watch, which later got an upgrade to solar-powered quartz movement. They eventually introduced Automatic watches too.
Then they developed the GR, specifically keeping outdoor lovers in mind. Their latest offering in this domain, the Concordia, gained international fame when French adventurer, Matthieu Tordeur, wore it while skiing to the South Pole alone and he became the first French and youngest person to achieve this feat.
While the Concordia impressed many horologists due to its functionality in such extreme conditions, it’s the Initial Open Heart watch that has garnered many fans for Charlie Paris.
It is aesthetically designed with an open heart that reveals the mechanical functionality of the watch while also showing hours, minutes, and seconds which makes it perfect for people who never want to lose even a second.
However, Charlie Paris didn’t just stop at men’s watches! It also introduced a collection of feminine watches which are meant to accentuate any woman’s wrist.
They come in different designs and colors but my favorite is the Initial 36 Open Heart Rose Gold that the company was kind enough to gift me.
It’s possible to customize the straps of any watch and you get a sneak peek of how the watch will look like with any strap with their interactive online interface.
Elegantly designed by highly skilled craftsmanship in their atelier in France and offered at affordable rates, Charlie Paris is indeed one of the best French watch brands to consider when looking for a new watch.
If you are looking for affordable French-made watches with a minimal look and feel, look no further than Merci.
However, the low price tag does not mean that they compromise on quality or reliability to maintain affordability.
As a bonus, they also allow strap customization for most of their watches. You can even see how your watch will look depending on the strap you choose using the live interface on their website.
Apart from timepieces, Merci offers a whole range of home and kitchenware that you can add to your shopping cart.
P.S. If you step into their flagship store in Paris, it will seem like a page out of an editorial magazine.
5. Michel Herbelin
1947 saw Michel Herbelin launch his eponymous brand in Charquemont, a French village bordering Switzerland.
To date, the brand is still family-run, with three generations working together to create timeless pieces for both men and women.
Michel Herbelin creates elegant watches without compromising on quality even though their prices are what you’d call fair compared to other watches made in France.
All their watches are designed in their Franche-Comté workshop and assembled by hand to create elegant pieces that still hold their original values. Today, their most popular collection is the Newport range.
Many of their timepieces have a price tag of less than 1000 € despite sporting a couple of diamonds, with quite a few watches hovering around 500 €.
Dodane was established in 1857 by Alphonse Dodane and his father-in-law, François-Xavier Joubert, in the historical center of France’s watchmaking industry, Besançon.
It is now managed by fifth-generation Dodanes, Cédric, and Laurent Dodane while maintaining high-quality and century-old watchmaking traditions.
Since its inception, the brand has associated itself with the military, creating onboard chronographs for the French Ministry of Defense and the French Air Force.
It all started during and after WWI when they designed specialty reverse chronometers for the Air Force and the Type 21 flyback chronograph for the Ministry.
Apart from the French military, they develop flyback chronographs, cockpit instruments, and pilot watches for civil aviation as well.
But don’t worry if you don’t fall into those categories, Dodane also makes hand wristwatches for civilians too.
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Henry Louis Belmont, a French watchmaker who graduated top of his class, founded Yema in 1948. Since then, the brand has been associated with the sporting world.
In 1963, they developed the Yema Superman for divers, which was so good that French Air Force pilots started using it too.
In 1966, they came out with the Yema Yachtingraf for the sailing world and the Yema Rallygraf for the motorsports world. Then later, the Yema Spationaute 1, worn by Jean-Loup Chrétien became the 1st French watch in space!
In 1986, Jean-Louis Etienne wore a Yema when he embarked on a solo mission across the North Pole proving that the brand had increased its technicalities by creating a watch that can withstand the brutally cold weather conditions of the North Pole.
Given this stellar lineup of timepieces with the features each one possesses, the prices are comparatively affordable, making it a great buy compared to some of the other French watch brands.
Breguet was founded by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1775, making it one of the oldest French watchmaker brands.
Five years into its existence, Breguet launched the world’s first automatic watch movement piece, which winds itself while being worn on the wrist.
The company’s fame grew with this launch, and soon Napoleon Bonaparte started wearing it.
Its popularity grew even more to the extent that royals started wearing a Breguet, like King George III, Queen Victoria, Alexandre I of Russia, and other prominent figures.
After changing multiple owners, in 1999, the Swatch Group bought Breguet, and operations moved to Switzerland but they have consciously tried to maintain the French designs to stay true to the brand’s heritage.
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9. Alain Silberstein
An architect and designer by profession Alain Silberstein established the eponymous brand in 1990 although he released his first watch, the Krono Bauhaus, 3 years prior.
This is the 3rd brand based out of Besançon, one of the biggest watchmaking centers in France after L. Leroy and Dodane.
He incorporates art in the watch designs with pops of color and random geometric shapes thus, making the watches colorful and quirky-looking, very different from the classic look we are all used to.
On top of this, the brand manufactures all its watches in France itself.
Although he shut down the watch factory, Alain Silberstein still collaborates with other artists and watchmakers to release limited edition pieces bearing his eclectic style.
10. Bell & Ross
Another addition to the affordable French watch brands list is Bell & Ross, founded in 1992.
However, they make expensive watches too, with their most expensive one, the BR-X1 Tourbillon Sapphire, retailing for half a million dollars! But most of their timepieces, especially from their Vintage and BR-S collections, are not that heavy on the pocket.
Some of their watch faces and dials might remind you of aeronautical instruments and that’s because, along with master watchmakers, they collaborated with aeronautical specialists for their expert inputs.
The brand’s timepieces provide such utmost precision and reliability that divers, pilots, astronauts, and even bomb disposal squads use their watches for timekeeping.
Etienne Malec founded Baltic in memory of his father, who was Polish by birth and named the company after the Baltic Sea.
Etienne’s father loved collecting limited-edition timepieces and documenting his prized possessions in detail so when Etienne received them after his dad’s passing, he knew that he wanted the memory to live on.
Baltic watches feature a vintage look that is inspired by those luxurious watches minus their extravagant prices. They also offer separate straps if you want to switch up the look.
Most of their collections comprise divers’ watches called Aquascaphe, so you can be sure that they’ll withstand even the most rugged conditions.
Pequignet was established in 1973 in a border town called Morteau. The brand gained popularity after 2011 when it created its own in-house movement called Calibre Royale which it then used in its Royale collection of watches.
The brand was awarded the EPV label (Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant) twice for its outstanding craftwork and industrial know-how.
Given the fine work, design sense, and honors of the brand and its watches, the timepieces fall in the luxury segment.
They make elegant and timeless watches for both men and women.
Having been established in 2017, Fugue (meaning “escape” in French) is the youngest company on this French watch brands list.
However, it stands out in terms of concept, what it lacks is years of existence. Their watches sport a simplistic and partly vintage look, but the modular concept of the watches is what makes them unique.
Apart from swapping out the strap, you can also change the case and dial of the watches.
They maintain the design sense when providing you with options, so you need not worry about a mismatch.
14. Yonger & Bresson
Founded in 1975 by the Louzon brothers, neither of whom were named Yonger or Bresson, the name came from the English word “younger” and the famous French street photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Drawing inspiration from the artsy Parisian Marais district, Yonger & Bresson offers a wide range of classic to modern timepieces for both men & women. They even have chronographs, dress watches, and sports watches.
Their most popular collection is Le Singulier for men, which features automatic movement.
For women, the designs are more elegant and sophisticated. All their French-made watches have reliable Swiss-made movement.
With prices ranging from 150 to 500 euros, Y&B is indeed of the best affordable French watch brands, that is still also high quality.
15. Pierre Lannier
Pierre Lannier was established by Béatrice and Jean-Paul Burgun more than four and a half decades ago in 1977.
The brand wanted to associate itself with sportspersons and chose tennis player, Cédric Pioline as one of its initial muses.
For their Cédric Pioline chronograph watch, Pierre Lannier even won the Watch of the Year award in 1998 which further cemented Pierre Lannier as one of the best French watch brands.
They have since then made a wide range of watches and watch accessories in various designs and styles, in their atelier in the Alsace region of France.
One of their avant-garde designs was the half-moon Miluna collection. Apart from timepieces, this French watch brand also makes elegant and minimal jewelry for women.
And like the French watch brand above, Pierre Lannier makes high-quality watches at affordable prices.
16. Saint Honoré
Associated with years of horology since 1885, Saint Honoré has a deep-seated heritage in French watchmaking spanning three generations.
The brand name draws inspiration from Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, known for its luxury fashion, jewelry, and watchmaking boutiques.
Known for its elegant designs and aesthetic features, one of the brand’s most prized possession is the Tour Eiffel Collection, a collector’s timepiece that was launched to mark the brand’s 130th anniversary whose brown color and the decoration pay homage to France’s iconic monument.
Another popular collection is the Haussmann collection, available for both men and women.
So, if you’re looking for made in France watches that are elegant and innovative, consider checking out Saint Honoré.
Final Thoughts on the Best French Watches
Whether you’re a collector or an enthusiast, I hope this list of the best French watch brands inspires you to add to your timepiece collection.
This list covers all kinds of watches for different occasions. From sporting watches and casual wear to elegant ones, these French made watches will bring out the style you’re looking for.
And if you know of any other watches in France that I might have missed on my list but you swear by them, you can drop them in the comments below!
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