French Watch Brands
Sabine Meding, last updated on 12/10/2023

High-quality, technically flawless luxury watches do not always come from Switzerland! French watchmakers also have a lot to offer the cosmopolitan watch fan. This article deals specifically with French watches - curtain up for renowned watch brands and popular models from France.

The tradition of watchmaking in France

Today, Switzerland is considered the center of the watchmaking world. But this was not always the case. Until the 19th century, France was home to some of the most successful manufacturers and enjoyed an excellent reputation as the country of origin of exquisite men's and ladies' watches. With the flight of the Huguenots, the French watch industry lost some of its potential and prominence, which is why it has lost some of its importance today compared to the Swiss watch scene.

Nevertheless, a wide variety of high-quality watches are still produced on French soil, with Paris, Besançon and Charquemont in particular being among the most innovative French locations. Even if many a renowned brand no longer has its headquarters in France, in quite a few cases its roots go right back there.

Famous French watch brands and their history

Reason enough to take a closer look at some of the most important (original) French watch brands of all time.


We start with a brand that is still based in Paris today and is familiar to every lover of luxury watches and jewelry: Cartier. The manufacturer, whose factory once produced the "Santos", the world's first pilot's watch, made a significant contribution to establishing wristwatches for men as a common accessory. Cartier has always impressed with its thoroughly stylish collections and manages to win over young and experienced watch wearers alike.


Founded by none other than watchmaking legend Abraham Louis Breguet, Breguet was once based in Paris, France. The watch brand, which has existed since 1775, is now based in Switzerland, but even after all these years, its French origins remain unforgotten. The popular Breguet Museum, for example, is still located in Paris and invites die-hard watch enthusiasts and collectors to immerse themselves in the history of French watchmaking.

Bell & Ross

Launched in 1992, Bell & Ross represents the younger generation of French watch manufacturers. With expressive designs and superb quality, the brand quickly established itself on the market and its unmistakable style is very popular. Bell & Ross watches with their four oversized numerals are discreetly reminiscent of cockpit dashboards and are in great demand in the lifestyle segment.


Modern designs, high-quality manufacturing and a good dose of courage: Pequignet combines numerous characteristics of successful watch manufacturers and was founded in 1973 - despite the quartz crisis. The brand, which is based in Morteau and has been managed by Didier Leibundgut since 2004, has been able to hold its own on the market despite adverse circumstances and today boasts a total of five Golden Dial awards.

Michel Herbelin

If you are looking for watches that are a little cheaper but still have functionality, quality and an authentic design, you will find them at Michel Herbelin. Here, too, we are dealing with a watch brand from France, based in Charquemont, which produces high-quality models at a comparatively "small" price.


Whether during the North Pole exploration, orbital flight missions or the Proxima space mission: Yema watches were involved in all of these events. Since its foundation in 1948, this top brand of French origin has made a name for itself several times in connection with historical events, which has certainly contributed to its current fame. The manufacturer's range includes, for example, an exclusive collection for fans of motorsports, but Yema also offers yacht watches and models with a "space travel" touch.


Created in 2016, Baltic is a genuine newcomer that is a huge addition to the French watch landscape. On the surface, one of the things that sets this newcomer apart from the competition is its price level. By using Chinese movements and other components from suppliers, this manufacturer is able to offer watches with sought-after complications and luxurious design at a surprisingly low price. An approach that is clearly attracting a great deal of interest.

Elegance and style: French watches as fashion accessories

Even if watches of French origin no longer enjoy quite as much attention today as they once did many years ago, they are by no means insignificant. Connoisseurs know: Men's and women's watches from France have an above-average amount to offer in many respects.

With their commitment, the odd world-famous collection and a great deal of effort over the years, various brands have ensured that France is once again firmly established among the countries with a successful watch industry - albeit not in the top position.

Watches "made in France" bring a bit of French "joie de vivre" to the wrist and can often keep up with the Swiss competition in terms of quality and functionality. What began with the Huguenots is continued today in the form of many new ideas and approaches combined with the tradition of French watchmaking, resulting in innovative models that conquer the world from Paris, Morteau and other locations with plenty of elegance and style in their luggage.

Famous French watch models

Having already discussed French watch brands in more detail, we now take a closer look at three extremely sought-after watches from France.

Cartier Santos

The aforementioned Cartier Santos is a watch that made huge waves. Whereas the market had previously been dominated by ladies' watches as pure fashion accessories, the Santos established the watch as an everyday companion for men - a trend reversal. A well-formed, octagonal case, Roman numerals and clear lines give this special model a charming vintage flair that is rarely found in this particular look.

Bell & Ross BR 05

Equipped with a square case, the oversized numerals typical of the brand and a date display at 3 o'clock, the watches from the BR 05 collection by Bell & Ross are extremely versatile and leave almost nothing to be desired in terms of appearance. Anyone who is enthusiastic about technically powerful timepieces whose high level of functionality is immediately apparent will certainly get their money's worth with a BR 05.

Breguet Tradition

The watches in the Breguet Tradition series were designed as a tribute to the founder's early movements, expressing both the company's past and its new visions. This French watch series naturally features the familiar Breguet hand and Breguet hairspring. Excitingly, it reveals large parts of the movement and immediately catches the eye with its extremely unusual appearance.

Buying a French watch: tips and recommendations

If you want to call a French watch your own, it makes absolute sense to start by taking a closer look at watch manufacturers from France, to look at different brands and to browse through the collections from Paris, Morteau and Co. This will give you an initial insight and you may even be able to identify some personal favorites.

If you then decide to buy a top watch from France, it is often a considerable investment. It is therefore advisable to really take your time when making your purchase decision and making the best choice and, if necessary, to seek professional advice. After all, the new watch should fulfill your expectations as fully as possible - and finding the right model can definitely be easier with the right support.

If you are looking for a new watch from France online, you should also make sure that you are buying from a reputable supplier. Unfortunately, fraudsters often try to sell fake watches. We therefore advise you to take a close look at every source of supply, check the authenticity of expensive watches and buy from proven, experienced dealers.


French watches may no longer have the prestige that surrounded them until the 19th century, but they are definitely still of great interest to investors and collectors. Many major watch brands, such as Cartier, Yema and Pequignet, are still based in France today and their top quality, exciting innovations and versatile designs ensure that watches "made in France" will probably never go out of fashion.

About the author
Sabine Meding

The broad topic of horology has always interested me, especially how multifaceted and varied the world of watches is. I love writing about the different brands and models and can no longer imagine life without watches. What I like best are models that display both the day of the week and the date. If the dial is also made of mother-of-pearl, the watch is perfect for me.