Holy Trinity of Watches: The “Big Three” Swiss Brands
Many other countries create high-end timepieces, but Switzerland remains the heart of haute horology. The “Holy Trinity” of watches consists of three ultra-high-end Swiss watch brands: Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin. In some ways, they resemble the Three Musketeers. But it’s much bigger than that. These three names are “holy” because they are the first in everything.
When it comes to innovations, craftsmanship, and heritage, these Swiss brands offer centuries-old experiences. They also continue to set new standards for beauty and advancements in the watch industry by developing luxury timepieces with complicated and impressive features. Each one exemplifies the art of watchmaking through hand-finishing, and the use of the finest materials.
Being one of “The Big Three” is a prestigious position to hold in the highly competitive watch industry. To better understand the Holy Trinity brand’s dynamic, we’re looking at each luxury watch brand and how they achieved their virtuous title.
Audemars Piguet, the youngest of “The Big Three,” was founded in 1875 by Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet. They combined their skills to create the high-quality Audemars Piguet watches that are known today. With a focus on complicated and highly technical watches, the duo of Audemars and Piguet produced some of the most sophisticated timepieces. These included:
The first-minute repeater movement
In 1892, they invented this watch complication that is a true horological success. The achievement of Audemars Piguet in assisting the visually impaired in telling time propelled them to prominence in the industry. Audemars Piguet created the first jumping hour wristwatch in 1921. The jumping hour wristwatch displays the next hour just as the minute hand reaches 60 on the watch.
First skeleton watch
A watch enthusiast’s desire to examine as much of a watch’s inner workings as possible has made skeleton watches aesthetically pleasing even today. This was launched in 1934.
After many years of development, Audemars Piguet is now known for a wide range of sports and dress watches in their collection. Of course, the Royal Oak has cemented its place as one of their best watches. This timepiece is frequently paired with the others in “The Big Three” to best represent the Holy Trinity of watches.
This model inspired the creation of the sportier Royal Oak Offshore collection, and it even provided some design elements for the controversial Code 11.59 collection, which was unveiled in 2019.
Vacheron Constantin is “the world’s oldest Swiss manufacturer of prestigious watches.” It goes without saying that the brand ranks pretty high when compared to other Swiss watchmaker brands. This name represents both craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology. As a result, Vacheron Constantin is a proud member of the holy trinity of watches.
Vacheron Constantin, with over two centuries of watchmaking expertise, continues to be recognized for record-breaking achievements. The introduction of the first anti-magnetic timepiece, the world’s thinnest manual wind movement in 1955, the world’s thinnest minute repeater in 1992, and the most complicated mechanical watch or pocket watch in 2015.
Today, the brand is most notably known for its Overseas collection, which includes chronographs, world time functions, moon phases, and tourbillons. The Historiques collection pays homage to past models while also incorporating modern updates.
Patek Philippe, a brand at the top of many grail watch lists, was founded in 1839 by Antoni Patek and Adrien Philippe. Originally known for pocket watches, the brand gained popularity due to its invention of a keyless winding system. This system gave rise to the modern-day crown, which is used to wind both automatic and manual watches.
They have obtained numerous patents over the years, including the first annual calendar, independent seconds, and a perpetual calendar feature for pocket watches.
Patek Philippe continues to produce dress and high-horology timepieces. The Calatrava, Complications, and Grand Complications lines are among them. With the Nautilus and Aquanaut, Patek has emerged as a leader in the luxury sports watch market in the past decade.
Particularly, the Nautilus 5711 is highly desirable, and it’s understandable why: with its classic, all-occasion design, its value has risen in recent years. Around January 2021, when Patek announced its discontinuation, its market price soared from $29,000 to as much as $135,000. The price peaked in February 2022 at around $180,000 and now averages around $135,000 (as of end-2022).
Why Rolex is not in the Holy Trinity Brand
Like most people, you may be wondering why Rolex watches are not included in the Holy Trinity of Watches. There is a huge debate about this. But, to cut a long story short, the phrase “Holy Trinity of Watches” has been used since the 1970s, and the brands associated with it have gotten extremely lucky.
Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin were the dominant players at the time. Rolex takes great pride in creating luxurious everyday watches and was still relatively new to the game at the time. As a result, the phrase as we know it today came during a time when many brands were in the early stages of embarking on developing quality watch movements and parts, as well as creating a great reputation.
However, “The Big Three” had already hit the ground running and enjoyed an advantage. They had time on their side. Nonetheless, despite their advantage, they have proven themselves.