Quality and reputation are everything in the world of horology. Each brand is constantly fighting for a legacy of greatness. The big 3 watchmakers in the world are Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin. Together they form the holy trinity of watches, and each of these Swiss luxury watchmaker brands set the standard in innovative complications and style.
The holy trinity of watches is constantly seeking to outdo each other and keep competitors, like Rolex, at bay. Out of the big 3 watchmakers, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin have held the honor at different points in the storied horology history of crafting the most complicated watches in the world.
Audemars Piguet Watches
Since 1875, Audemars Piguet has been iconic and aspirational as one of the big 3 watchmakers. The Swiss luxury watchmaker brand’s earliest achievements include creating the first minute-repeating movement for wristwatches in 1892, the world’s first skeleton watch in 1934, and cutting-edge thin watches in 1986.
Childhood friends and watchmakers Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet formed a business partnership in a small village inside the Vallée de Joux in Switzerland. Audemars had previously created complex watch movements for iconic brands such as Tiffany & Co., while Piguet specialized in watch movement regulations. At their own company, Audemars helmed production and tech components, and Piguet zeroed in on sales and management, which helped them become one of the big 3 watchmakers.
The company remains the oldest watch manufacturer still run by its founding families, currently led by Jasmine Audemars.
Audemars Piguet truly rose to prominence after the introduction of the Royal Oak collection in the 1970s. The Royal Oak is the Swiss luxury watchmaker brand’s signature timepiece and a very popular one in Hollywood. Designed by Gérald Genta, who was inspired by traditional diving helmets, it is the first luxury sports watch with its exposed screw heads and integrated bracelet. Royal Oak would craft the next century of horology and cement the status of Audemars Piguet in the holy trinity of watches.
The Royal Oak has defined luxury integrated steel sports watches for the Swiss luxury watchmaker brand and the world. For the iconic timepiece’s 20th anniversary, Emmanuel Gueit was hired to design its refresh, known as the Royal Oak Offshore. It had a larger case and was more durable than the original Royal Oak. Discerning collectors of the big 3 watchmakers emphasize the concept of luxury in a luxury sports watch embodied by the Royal Oak collection.
Millenary Frosted Gold Aventurine Dial
Debuting in 1995, the philosophical yet creative Millenary collection showcases the iconic brand’s creativity and free-spirited vibe while harnessing the power of aesthetics and functionality. The Millenary Frosted Gold Aventurine Dial sets a new standard in modern design and technical know-how. Featuring a hammered and satin-finished 18-carat white gold elliptical case, deep blue aventurine dial, and 3-D architecture, the watch is a masterful blend of exquisite jewelry via the “Polish” bracelet with folding clasp and elevated watchmaking from the blue aventurine off-centered disc and a small second counter.
The iconic Swiss brand rarely releases a new collection of watches. The world pays attention when it does. The two-tone [Re]master01 is not a historical reissue; it is a faithful remastering of the original concept of this integrated self-winding chronograph that is 40mm across with the bezel, crown, and pushers made of pink gold.
With just 500 made, the timepiece showcases the brand’s stories and histories in a wearable masterpiece from the company’s internal brain trust.
The brand’s collections feature high-end mechanical movements exhaustively crafted by their future-looking team to make an impact on the world of horology by surpassing technical and theoretical boundaries/challenges of innovative complications including perpetual calendars, chronographs, and chiming watches.
Add a Touch of Personal Style
While Audemars Piguet watches are part of the holy trinity of watches, they don’t need to be locked up in a safe. Take yours on your next adventure with our bracelets, leather and rubber straps for Audemars Piguet that perfectly complement these revered timepieces with impeccable ergonomic design.
Patek Philippe Watches
The world pays attention to Patek Philippe as one of the big 3 watchmakers. Eight out of the ten most expensive watches ever sold at auction were from Patek Philippe. Founded in 1839 in Geneva and known for creating and popularizing complications, such as the perpetual calendar, split-seconds hand, chronograph, and minute repeater in mechanical watches, Patek Philippe is the oldest uninterrupted watch and clock manufacturer in the world. With a start in pocket watches, the Swiss luxury watchmaker brand took off after a few changes of leadership and hit its stride with the Polish-French leadership alliance of Antoni Patek and Adrien Philippe.
Known for popularizing complications, the invention of more than 20 basic calibers, and more than 100 patents, the Swiss luxury watchmaker brand earned the blue blood nod when Queen Victoria wore a keyless pendant watch and a timepiece suspended from an opulent brooch at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Almost two decades later, Countess Koscowicz of Hungary made history by requesting the first Swiss wristwatch.
The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime still holds the title of being the priciest watch and wristwatch to be sold at auction for $31.19 million. The timepiece is the most complicated brought into existence, holding the record for 20 complications, a reversible case, two separate dials, and six patented innovations at the cost of more than 100,000 hours of hard work.
In 1932, Patek Phillippe was taken over by the Swiss Stern family and debuted the first Calatrava model that was designed by David Penney, who drew inspiration from Germany’s Bauhaus movement. Legendarily pure and defining an elegant round watch, the timepiece is understated and enduring for future generations.
Sky Moon Celestial
Introduced in 2015, the Sky Moon Celestial is an homage to the pocket watches that collectors such as Henry Graves, Jr. and James Warm Packard fought bitterly over. Patek is famous for celestial complications with hints of poetry. Besides standing out for its expansive size (compared to the rest of PP’s collections) at 44 mm and 10.58 mm thick, the timepiece calls more attention to the meridian passage of Sirius and the moon than the details of solar time.
The Sky Moon Celestial is meant to be a slow-moving watch with its slow-moving indication and dreamy moon phases on black sapphire-crystal disks. The superb dial is crafted from several layers of sapphire crystal. Patek’s famous movement architecture and high-quality finishes, including polished beveled angles and circular graining on the plates, make this piece a must-have.
Vacheron Constantin Watches
Founded in Geneva in 1755 by Jean-Marc Vacheron, Vacheron Constantin is distinct from being the oldest uninterrupted Swiss manufacturer of luxury watches and clocks. Vacheron had strong ties to the Enlightenment philosophers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire, who also had a strong interest in watchmaking.
The company is often described as having the taste of the French harmoniously blended with the technology of the Swiss. Thanks to the machines designed in-house, Vacheron Constantin became the first company to produce standardized interchangeable watch parts.
After partnering with François Constantin, Vacheron thrived and was able to sell his watches. Strong cultural ties and the desire to move forward defines the iconic Swiss watch brand that survived the French Revolution while headed by two women who took the company into the 20th century.
In 1770, the company created the world’s inaugural complication. Nine years later, Vacheron introduced engine-turned dials to the world. Thus began the company’s expression of its true commitment to art and culture that remains timeless fine watchmaking via technical signatures and iconic looks like the Maltese cross.
Created in 1979 and going on to inspire diamond watches everywhere, the original Kallista was the most expensive watch ever made at what would be $11 million in current dollars for its 118 emerald-cut diamonds.
Designed by artist Raymond Moretti in the late 1970s, the timepiece took 20 months and 6,000 hours to craft and weighed more than 2.2 pounds. The watch was whisked away in secrecy after its debut to a vault in the VC headquarters where it still sits, appreciating by $4,000 a day.
The Kallista inspired a spin-off series of limited-edition diamond watches called the Kalla collection.
A new high-end sports line was introduced by Vacheron Constantin in 1996. The line was revamped in 2004 and reinvented in 2016. Complications include chronograph, world time, tourbillon, and moon phase.
The timepieces are designed to capture the spirit of freedom and enjoy the exotic with an open mind. The watches have interchangeable straps/bracelets and an easy-fit system.
Why Rolex is not in the Holy Trinity of Watches
When you look at the uninterrupted watchmaking innovation history of the holy trinity of watches, it is easy to think no other brands can be equally revered. Rolex had a rebranding in the 1980s when it went from being a tool watch to being a status symbol, rivaling the big 3 watchmakers.
Rolex is highly functional and versatile. In the beginning, they were sold through authorized dealers who would happily change out an oyster bracelet for a strap upon request. We offer a wide range of top-notch Rolex watch straps for your favorite timepiece.
Aside from the rare rattrapante chronograph, Rolex has not generated high complications. Its bread and butter lie in being consistent with incremental improvements to basic time-and-calendar wristwatches.
Approval of the Masses
Popularity does not always make you iconic. Rolex is a name that is known to the masses as an inarguable status symbol. For some, only the holy trinity of watches should be revered for all the innovative movements that were developed in-house.
Immediately recognizable with its three sub-dials, you wouldn’t regret adding one of these to your collection.
The first wristwatch able to remain reliable to a depth of 100 meters under the sea is the Submariner. This original tool watch, released in 1953, was specifically designed for divers. Non-divers, such as Sean Connery, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, and Charles Bronson, raved about the varying dials, bezels, crown guards, iconic oyster bracelets, and versatility.
Revamps in 2012 and 2020 made incremental changes, such as an expanded diameter.
Some critics of Rolex say its appeal lies directly with its marketing. Founder Hans Wilsdorf would heartily agree. He contracted racing driver, Sir Malcolm Campbell, to promote the Daytona model. Years later, Paul Newman would become an unofficial spokesperson after actress Joanne Woodward gifted him this unparalleled automatic chronograph of simple and balanced design.
The holy trinity of watches is a fascinating look at how ingenuity and strategic partnerships have allowed horology history to happen. Many only approve of the big 3 watchmakers, leaving out the utilitarian Swiss luxury watchmaker brand that is Rolex.