How Famous Watch Brands Got their Names

Most of today’s best-known watch brands are centuries old, so when we think of them, we rarely think about how they got their names. And yet, there is usually a fascinating story behind each one.

A true-blue fan of a brand would know its origins – and that includes how it came to be known by its world-famous name today.

Here’s a quick insight into the world’s finest:
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ROLEX
When the company was founded in 1905, it was named Wilsdorf and Davis, after its founders brothers-in-law Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred James Davis. But Wilsdorf wanted his watches to bear a brand name that was easy to recall and pronounce, and which would look good on watch dials. Based on his memoir, he was on a double-decker bus when “a good genie whispered” to him a “short yet significant word”: Rolex.
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CARTIER
Founder Louis-Francois Cartier began his career at age 28, after apprenticing at the workshop of renowned watchmaker Adolphe Picard in 29 Rue Montorgueil, Paris. He took over Picard’s workshop in 1847 and founded Maison de Cartier. His three sons would take over in 1874, and the company would remain company-owned until 1972, when it was brought by Joseph Kanoui.
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OMEGA
The company was launched by Louis Brandt in 1848 and was then named La Generale Watch Co. When Louis’ two sons took over, they developed a revolutionary in-house production control system which allowed the parts to be interchangeable. The new watches created under this system were sold under the new brand “Omega”, the last letter of the Greek alphabet, which also symbolizes perfection.
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Edouard Heuer founded the company in 1860 as the Heuer Watch Company. In the decades that followed, it built a reputation for precision timekeeping in sports, and for auto racing in particular. In 1985, TAG Group (Holdings) S.A. acquired the company, and merged their names. TAG is an abbreviation for ‘Techniques d’Avant Garde’ which roughly translates to “new or forward looking techniques”.
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PATEK PHILIPPE
Polish Antoni Patek began his career in 1839, making pocket watches in Geneva with fellow Polish Franciszek Czapek. When their partnership ended in 1844, Patek partnered with French watchmaker Adrien Philippe, creator of the keyless winding mechanism. Under Patek Philippe & Co, they went on to popularize the chronograph, perpetual calendar, split-seconds hand, and minute repeater in watches, and is now the world’s most sought after watch brand.
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IWC
IWC stands for “International Watch Company”. The company was founded in 1868 by Florentine Ariosto Jones, a watchmaker from Boston. He established the company in Schaffhausen, Switzerland with the vision of combining Swiss craftsmanship with American modern engineering technology in order to create high quality watches for the American market.
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The company is named after founders Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet, who are said to be the Lennon and McCartney of horology. Audemars would create the raw components for the timepieces, while Piguet served as the repasseur, who performs the final inspection on a watch. The Swiss craftsmen founded the company in 1875, and went on to produce numerous technical innovations in watchmaking such as the first minute repeater watch.
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JAEGER LECOULTRE
In 1833, Antoine Lecoultre founded a small watchmaking workshop in Switzerland. By the 1900s, the family-run business would have created over 350 calibres, and begin producing movement parts for Patek Philippe. In 1903, French watchmaker Edmond Jaeger was looking for Swiss manufacturers to produce the ultra-thin movements that he invented. Antoine’s grandson Jacques-David accepted the challenge, and would lead to the company officially being named Jaeger Lecoultre in 1937.
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