You may have heard of the Holy Trinity before, but if you’re a watch enthusiast you know that this isn’t what you traditionally think. This Big Three or Holy Trinity refers to the three top, most luxurious Swiss watchmakers: Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin.
These three have all earned their place in the ranks for various and deserving reasons, and all three share some impeccable similarities. All three watchmakers have been around for quite some time, in comparison to most other major brands. With such venerable histories, all three have also operated continually since their founding to consistently deliver breathtaking timepieces of technical ability.
Perhaps most importantly all three have always produced luxury products and never dabbled in lower market lines. Audemars, Patek, and Vacheron have all consistently remained true to their brand principles and feature high quality, hand-finished movements produced out of traditional finishing methods, a factor that allows them to command top prices for the work. Each brand utilizes only premium materials from the cases to components, to the hands and dials.
Though they all showcase the best that Swiss watchmaking can offer, each brand is different in its own special way. For those entering the market for the first time, or for seasoned veterans deciding on another purchase, our brief guide to the Holy Trinity can help you in your decision.
Audemars Piguet first entered the market in 1875 as a result of a partnership between two expert Swiss watchmakers: Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet. It was a match made in heaven, as Audemars was already well known for creating complicated watch movements, and Piguet focused on the final regulation of watch movements. The pair was soon credited with creating the first repeater wristwatch in 1892.
Today, the brand is perhaps most famous for its Royal Oak timepiece. The watch first stunned crowds at Baselworld in 1972, as it was considered the first luxury sports watch. The design of the piece was inspired by vintage diving helmets that incorporated exposed mounting screw heads in their case architecture. An integrated component bracelet also adds another unique touch.
The Royal Oak changed the game not just for Audemars but for the watch industry in general. From the start, the piece was a luxury product, with hand-finishing that was previously unseen on durable, water-resistant watches of the time. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Royal Oak, the brand released the Royal Oak Offshore, which revolutionized the way industry insiders thought about the piece, by upgrading its case to a 42mm size (from the original 39mm) and making it even tougher than the first version.
Founded in 1851 in Geneva, Patek Philippe has always been considered one of the world’s most prestigious manufacturers of the most complicated mechanical watches. The brand came to be thanks to a partnership between a Polish pocket watchmaker and a French watchmaker who invented the keyless winding mechanism. Patek Philippe is perhaps most famous in the industry for popularizing the perpetual calendar, chronograph, split-seconds hand, and minute repeater.
Much like Audemars Royal Oak, Patek introduced their own luxury sports watch in 1976 with the Nautilus collection. The pieces were designed to incorporate the fresh ideas of a new generation of watchmakers without forgetting the venerable traditions of the watchmaking house.
In comparison with the other Swiss brands in the Holy Trinity, Patek designs mostly mechanical movements but is also admired for manufacturing its own watch components. As a result, the brand’s timepieces command high prices at auctions around the world. To celebrate Patek’s 150th anniversary in 1989, they created one of the most complicated mechanical watches ever made, the Calibre 89. It tipped the scales with 39 complications, including sunrise timings, equation of time, sidereal time, and the date of Easter. The watch can also add a day in February to compensate for leap years and leave out the extra day each 100-year interval.
Vacheron Constantin is the oldest of the three brands in the Holy Trinity with a founding in 1755 in Geneva. The house was started by Jean-Marc Vacheron, an independent watchmaker who helped create the first complication and the first engine-turned dials.
In 1979, Vacheron introduced one of the world’s most expensive wristwatches, the Kallista, which was then priced at $5 million. It incorporated more than 100 emerald cut diamonds and took 6,000 hours for the watchmakers to create. Later, in 2015, for its 260th anniversary, the brand introduced the world’s most complicated mechanical watch, Reference 57260. This 57-complication watch took eight years to complete.
At DavidSW we are proud to offer Holy Trinity watch brands along with other premium timepieces such as Rolex, Omega, Panerai, and Tudor. For over a decade, DavidSW has been in the business of buying and selling some of the world’s top authentic watch brands. We source some of the most popular luxury watches at insider savings for the discerning buyer.