Who Are the Big 3 Watchmakers?

    “The Big Three” or “Holy Trinity” is what horologists and enthusiasts have loosely called the most ubiquitous deluxe watch brands in the world. The watch brands that make up this heralded group are Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Vacheron Constantin.

    These brands are all known for using top-of-the-line materials and possessing unrivaled manufacturing prowess. However, what truly makes them stand out is their long, prestigious history that continues to rack up acclaim to this day.

    Today, we’ll give a brief rundown on each of these watchmakers so that you may better choose between them. You can also get an equally enlightening overview of these brands over at www.timemachinegeek.com.

    The “Big Three” of Watchmaking

    In the world of timekeeping, these three names embody the elite of the elites:

    Audemars Piguet

    This brand’s long history began when its namesakes, Jules Audemars and Edward Piguet, teamed up in the mid-1870s. Both had already garnered repute as watchmakers by then, but neither expected the heights their brand would soon reach.

    They reached their first success milestone as a duo around the turn of the 20th century. The highlight of this period was their very first repeater watch, which tells time through chimes on demand. While not a remarkable feat by today’s standards, it was as legitimate as watch mastery got in the late 1900s.

    The 1970s To Present

    Audemars Piguet became a household titan in watchmaking in the years that followed. However, it wasn’t until the early ‘70s that it forged ahead of the pack to join its counterparts at the pinnacle.

    The Royal Oak is what allowed Audemars Piguet to cross that threshold, from mere titan to godlike status. The piece was ahead of its time, joining the two worlds of sport and luxury in such an appealing way that it surprised even the most skeptical of horologists. It then became the brand’s proprietary design for high-luxury craftsmanship.

    The success of the Royal Oak paved the way for the brand’s other watches, which equaled, if not surpassed, their predecessor’s success. Today, the brand continues to unveil line after line of state-of-the-art watches. Though these creations tend to garner mixed reviews, they have timekeeping enthusiasts excited with the brand’s shift to having a more unpredictable nature.

    Patek Philippe

    A couple of decades before AP was founded, Patek Philippe was already a household name in the luxury watchmaking industry. In such a short time, the brand had earned a reputation for being “a master of complications.” Theirs were the very first watches to bear the perpetual calendar. On top of their more complex features, Patek Philippe also made use of the highest quality materials for watch creation.

    Present Status

    PP’s status among the upper echelons of watchmaking is no secret. Though, surprisingly, the brand has decided to stay true to its commitment to exclusivity, providing only a very limited catalog to their prospective buyers. That said, you won’t find their collections at all lacking when it comes to addressing your luxury timekeeping needs. 

    Vacheron Constantin

    The last, but definitely not the least, member of the “Big Three” is Vacheron Constantin. A top luxury watch brand for all intents and purposes, it remains the least popular of the trio. However, that shouldn’t upset fans of the brand, as it is undoubtedly up to par with PP and AP standards.

    One thing that makes VC stand out even from this group is its veteran status. Swiss brands are known for being old, but this brand is a truly ancient one, so to speak. It’s been around since the mid-1700s and carries an illustrious history behind it. Having one of this brand’s esteemed watches on your wrist makes you feel like you’re wearing a piece of history, even more so than its counterparts.

    Choosing From Among the Holy Trinity

    There are three things to keep in mind when choosing from among the top luxury watch brands. They are:

    • Royal Oak

    The Royal Oak is the watch that started it all for Audemars Piguet and the number one consideration for many prospective buyers. It’s hard to overlook its name when talking about the top luxury watchmakers. Whether you’re adding or starting your collection, it’s a watch you won’t regret going for.

    • Specific Models

    For AP, it’s the Royal Oak. In comparison, the Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin catalogs give you the Calatrava and Patrimony, respectively. Before browsing these brands’ catalogs for other models, consider researching their most sought-after timepieces.

    • Brand Reputation

    These brands are not in equal standing popularity-wise, and that might matter to some people. If you want to wear an immediately recognizable timepiece, go for an AP watch. Patek Philippe sits in the middle in terms of commerciality, while Vacheron Constantin is the relatively obscure member of the group.

    The Luxury Watch Brand for You

    Whichever brand you choose, you’ll still end up a member of an exclusive club. If you happen to have the budget to purchase a watch from any one of these brands, your personal taste should matter more than anything else. That’s because quality- and acclaim-wise, these three all sit in relatively equal standing.

    Main Photo by Anders Kristensen.


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