The Holy Trinity of Watchmakers: A Timeless Affair
- 11th Jul 2020
A watch rests on our wrists to remind us what time it is, but a luxury timepiece reminds us of what are we to the time.
The Holy Trinity, also known as The Big Three is a pious designation for the brands that have come to be known as pioneers of luxury watchmaking: Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe. They are called so, because bestowed with their finesse, character, and decadence, the luxury watch industry retained its opulence, even while undergoing radical transformations. But with luxury timepieces gaining new meaning today, this designation is increasingly being questioned for the trio. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that drive our judgment of The Holy Trinity of Watchmakers today:
Art & Technology
Most handcrafted watches still echo the sentiment of luxury, but these brands have established an exceptional legacy with artisanship, in addition to their meticulous technological build.
This Egérie Moon Phase watch by Vacheron Constantin is a true embodiment of artistic excellence (Source: https://www.vacheron-constantin.com/en2/watches/egerie/egerie-moon-phase-8005f-000r-b498.html)
Hailing from the heartland of fine craftsmanship, all the three luxury watch manufacturers exude the charisma of Swiss art. What is even more striking is that they have a more-than-a-century-old streak of exclusively sticking to haute horlogerie (French for high-quality watchmaking).
Some of the most venerable complications we know of today, have been credited to these brands. (A complication refers to a function that goes beyond a watch’s elementary display of hours, minutes, and seconds, like calendar, alarm, time zones etc. Today, ultra-complicated watches are considered to reflect glorious artisanship in haute horlogerie).
Patek Phillipe’s Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6200A-010 is the most expensive watch sold at an auction. (Source: https://www.patek.com/en/company/news/only-watch-2019)
Incorporating a perpetual calendar is said to be one of the most notable complications in the horological world when it comes to wristwatches. While it was invented by English horologist Thomas Mudge in 1762, Patek Philippe patented the function in 1889. (Fun fact: Patek Philippe's Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A-010 is said to be the most expensive watch ever sold at an auction, fetching a whopping 31 million USD. Embedded with 20 complications, the dial of the watch reads out its exclusivity: The Only One.)
Vacheron Constantin, one of the world’s oldest watchmaking brands, came up with the most complicated watch in 2015, the Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260.
Unparalleled legacy and sustainability
This condensed prestige also comes from the unperturbed production upheld through the most trying times. Consider the influx of wars, natural disasters, and immense changes that the twentieth century was smothered with, leading to erratic markets. Sustainability, is not only reflected in their archives, but also in present-day industry, where machine-made watches are relatively low-priced.
The Royal Oak Collection by Audemars Piguet spells luxury all over.
For instance, the infamous Audemars Piguet Royal Oak collection, introduced in 1972, is a staple in all the watch bibles. In what is now considered as a befitting example of change brought on by a challenge, the luxury sports timepiece was created in response to the Quartz Crisis (a period characterized by heavy replacement of mechanical watches by quartz watches).
The Holy Trinity, today…
When it comes to the consumer, an interplay of factors like budget, features, purpose/occasion, sway their decision. Which is why, at a given price point, the buyer might drift towards brands like A. Lange & Söhne, Blancpain, or the highly popular Rolex among others. Even with the grandeur, status, and sacredness upheld by The Holy Trinity, these brands pose stiff competition today.
Luxury watch brands like Cartier, Bvlgari, Chopard have also been very strong in the industry, appealing to even mainstream watch enthusiasts. However, for the purists who celebrate brands that only breed watches, and exclusively worship the alluring enigma of Swiss timepieces, the Holy Trinity remains the eternal soul of watchmaking.
All the images used in this article belong to their respective owners.