The Watch Holy Trinity Explained

product image on white of Holy Trinity of watches FASHIONPHILE

Holy horology.

The Holy Trinity of watches, also known as ‘The Big Three’, are comprised of three ultra-high-end watch names all produced in the heart of high-end horology. That is Switzerland, of course. And those names are? Audemars PiguetPatek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin. Together, these famous watch brands make up the watch Holy Trinity.

In a way, they’re like the three musketeers. But, actually, way bigger than that. These three names are *holy* for being the first in, well, everything. Not only do they all carry a rich and fascinating history. But they continuously reach new heights in developing luxury timepieces with complicated and impressive features, thus setting a superior standard for beauty and advancements in the watch industry. After all, a little healthy competition is never a bad thing. Not to mention, with releases of limited edition styles, pieces from these watch brands can be harder to obtain. And well, it can’t get more niche than that.

The watch world is a competitive landscape and being part of ‘The Big Three’ is quite the honorable rank to maintain. To better understand the dynamic of the Holy Trinity, we’re taking a closer look at each watch brand and how they earned their virtuous title.

But first. Why The Holy Trinity?

Like most people, you may be wondering why not include luxury watches like RolexJaeger-LeCoultre, or your other favorite Swiss-made designer watches? There is a great debate out there about this. But long story short, the phrase known as the Holy Trinity of watches has been used since the 1970s and the brands associated with it basically got lucky.

At the time, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin were the strongest players. Rolex takes great pride in producing luxurious everyday watches and at the time was still somewhat early in the game. Jaeger LeCoultre, known as the “watchmakers’ watchmaker,” was primarily focused on designing watches for other brands (you guessed it: for Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin).

Hence, the phrase as we know it today sort of came about during a period when many brands were in the early stages of embarking on developing quality watch movements and parts, as well as establishing a solid reputation. But ‘The Big Three’ already hit the ground running and were at an advantage. Time was definitely on their side. But, although they were at an advantage, they have proven themselves. Keep reading to learn about each member of the watch Holy Trinity!

Audemars Piguet Watches

The youngest of ‘The Big Three,’ Audemars Piguet was founded in 1875 by Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet. It’s one of the original and truly enduring luxury watch brands out there. The coveted brand was established around friendship and high regard for watchmaking. Today, Audemars Piguet is the oldest watch brand in the industry to still be run by a member of the founding family – that is over a century later! Humbly speaking, that’s pretty much the closest thing to a legacy you can get, unless you’re of royal descent of course.

There are so many styles to admire from Audemars Piguet. However, most notable and in-demand is the Royal Oak introduced in 1972. This style is a horological masterpiece and one of the most sought-after models designed by famed watch designer Gerald Genta. The concept for this watch, inspired by a traditional diver’s helmet, was conceived in just 24 hours – a challenge only a genius like Genta could pull off. You’ll often see this particular timepiece paired with the others from ‘The Big Three’ to best represent the Holy Trinity of watches.

What really sets Audemars Piguet apart from other luxury watch brands is the process required to build and develop its unique timepieces. In Royal Oak pieces, for example, both superior engineering and materials are used. Specifically, the bezel screws. On Royal Oaks (with the exception of the sportier Royal Oak Offshore) the bezels are secured by eight gold screws. Even better? The Royal Oak Extra-Thin watch features a full 18K yellow gold case and bracelet. Only 50 pieces of that style exist today.

Patek Philippe Watches 

Safe to say, who doesn’t love a Patek? It’s the Holy Grail of watches. Today’s collectors, celebrities, tastemakers, and more know quite well the level of investment PP watches possess. Patek Philippe was founded in 1839 starting out with pocket watches. Its founders Antoni Patek and Adrien Philippe soon thereafter began creating watches for an impressive clientele, including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

As a privately-owned entity and leader in luxury watch manufacturing, Patek Philippe watches are extremely rare because of the few quantities made. Often there is a waitlist that stretches out for years due to its unquestionable exclusivity. Take, for instance, the iconic Patek Nautilus 5711 Tiffany watch.

Athletes, musicians, and TV personalities like Lebron James, Jay-Z, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Ed Sheeran are spotted daily sporting their Patek Nautilus 5711 Tiffany watch in the iconic Tiffany blue. The love for the Nautilus style (also designed by none other than Gerald Genta himself) is unquestionable and explains why this Patek Philippe style is closely associated with the Holy Trinity.

However, another notable style from Patek Philippe is the Calatrava. This iconic model, first released as a prototype (ref 96) in 1932, is often distinguished by its dressier aesthetic and leather bracelet. The Calatrava collection, both newer models and vintage, are truly legendary. If by any chance you’re new to the watch world, consider Patek Philippe’s Annual Calendar model – a patented design launched in 1996. This model was made to appeal to a new generation of watch lovers.

Vacheron Constantin Watches   

And then there is Vacheron Constantin – the oldest watchmaker in continuous operation since its foundation in 1755. With over two centuries of watchmaking under their belt, Vacheron Constantin continues to win distinctions for record-breaking achievements. The introduction of the first wristwatch in 1889, the Royal Chronometer Pocket watch in 1907, modernized wristwatches that appealed to the American market during the Roaring twenties, and the emergence of ultra-thin watches starting in 1955. All these successful feats resulted in Vacheron Constantin becoming the first watchmaking company to be awarded the Diplome du Prestige de la France.

Today, the brand is most notably known for its Overseas collection, which embraces the spirit of travel. In the 1970s, Vacheron Constantin came out with one of their first water-resistant sports watches, (known as ref 222), to celebrate their 222nd anniversary.  The latest reinvention of this model in 2016 gave it innovative upgrades to satisfy modern-day needs.

From the refreshingly revolutionary ultra-thin Split-Seconds Chronograph and the original 1979 Kallista worth millions to timeless timepieces like the 1955 Corne de Vache revival, Vacheron Constantin watches continue to make history — and stands at the top of our list of must-have luxury watches.

Next time someone mentions the Holy Trinity, you know exactly what brands they’re talking about. But you never know, maybe one day the ‘Big Three’ will change. Discover our newest arrivals at FASHIONPHILE featuring the Holy Trinity of watches and other top watch brands.