Watches of the world: A look at global watch culture

Watch Culture Around the World blog banner featuring a Casio watch

From London to Tokyo and Milan to New York, watches have in some way or other become integral to popular culture. Whether it’s a photograph of your favourite film star or the latest Instagram post of an influencer you follow – whatever they’re wearing on their wrist has the power to signal everything from class and personality to the hobbies you like to do on the weekend.

Watches have a touchpoint in everything, from a variety of different sports to business and beyond. It’s no surprise that watch collecting is as big as it is!

Think of this article as a whistle-stop tour across the world’s foremost watch cultures. From the sleek and functional sophistication of Swiss-made timepieces to the immediately recognisable designs of the USA, here’s an insight into the most popular watches in the world.

Let’s start with Switzerland

Considered by most as the best in the business, nobody designs watches quite like Switzerland (they’re pretty good at chocolate, too). Swiss watchmaking flourished in the 19th century as the industry gave Geneva’s economy a vital leg-up. Watchmaking supported the nation through two world wars and a period of financial depression, coming out of a leading force in timepiece design.

Throughout the 1970s, Switzerland (just about) beat off competition from the likes of Japanese quartz watches and, after many workers in the industry were laid off due to lack of demand, Swiss watchmaking bounced back – thanks to one designer. Nicolas G. Hayek was a Swiss businessman and CEO of Swatch, who are now one of the world’s most recognised watch brands. Thanks again to watchmaking and Swatch in particular, the Swiss economy grew exponentially.

Combining state-of-the-art technical specifications with a classic (yet completely modern) design, some noteworthy Swiss brands include Montblanc, Breitling, and Omega. Swiss watches are also integral to business culture, with important figures like Randall Stephenson (CEO of American telecommunications group AT&T) wearing the Tag Heuer Kirium CL111A, Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) sporting the Swiss-made Ulysse Nardin Dual Time 233-88-7, and CEO of Uber Dara Khosrowshahi favouring the Chopard Mille Miglia, a Swiss classic.

And now, over to the USA

You’ll have heard of Timex watches, we’re sure – the brand is right up there with the best watch brands in the USA. The classic strap design with the circular watch face has gone down in history – and that history has had plenty of ups and downs. Founded in the mid-1800s, the company was first known as Waterbury Clock Company at which point their specialism was clock making.

As industries diversified and competing clockmakers expanded their offering, so did the Waterbury Clock Company. The company became associated with the US military and produced bomb fuses, eventually renaming the company United States Time Corporation; a name which by 1950 would become Timex with the ‘x’ suffix to convey the ‘US Time’s technological expertise and innovation’.

Throughout the 1970s, the company failed to fend off competition from Asia and as a result Timex was viewed as outdated and even obsolete. What saved Timex was a newfound focus on athletics – the Timex Ironman Triathlon brought about a surge of interest in watches that were water resistant and came with various digital features.

Bill Clinton wearing a Timex watch

Today, Timex are one of the world’s most well-regarded watch brands for providing stylish simplicity for everyone. The most famed example of a devoted Timex wearer is the 42nd President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton (right) whose personal favourite, for years, was the athletic Ironman watch. Other respected American watch brands include: Hager and Weiss.

How about Japan?

Japan is often touted as the nation that spearheaded cutting-edge watch technology and, for many, the 1964 Tokyo Olympics is where it all changed. The shift to electronic technology had already occurred in the 1950s and, by 1964, the world started to take notice of Japan and its technological leaps in watchmaking.

As the main competitor to Switzerland, Japanese watchmakers have always prioritised technological capability alongside robust design and simple features. Japanese watchmakers of note include: Casio, Seiko, and Citizen.

Japanese watches are a particular favourite for many famed businesspeople, like CEO of Walmart Doug McMillon who favours the Citizen Skyhawk A-T JY0000-53E.

Our last stop, the United Kingdom

Here in the UK, we’ve carved our own little niche in the watchmaking industry. Known for quiet, classic sophistication, the watches coming out of the UK combine functionality with simple design features. Our nation has a rich watchmaking history, the seeds of which were planted as early as the 17th century with celebrated ‘Father of English clock making’ Thomas Tompion.

While a great deal of British stores stock Swiss-made watches, there are a handful of reputable brands designing timepieces here in the UK, like the Bremont Watch Company and Alkin Watches. Many of the best watch brands in the UK are fairly young – that’s because, unlike Switzerland, there’s not that much of an established tradition which opens up a whole world of possibility and innovation.

Is yours protected?

The world’s most influential people rely on their trusty timepiece, and if you do too, you’ll want to protect that timepiece. We have a vast range of watch cases available and, if you collect, we even have watch collection cases.In the meantime, keep an eye on our blog – there is so much information and watch advice there that we’re sure you’ll love.


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