Luxury Watch Brands: The Holy Trinity of Watchmakers

The Holy Trinity, or Big Three, is a loose designation that watch experts have given to the most prevalent luxurious watch brands in the world. Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin are the three luxury watch brands that make it up. Each of them is thought to have reached the pinnacle of horology. They use top of the line materials, possess undeniable manufacturing prowess, have an illustrious history, and continue to dominate the luxury watch space to this day. Below, I give a brief overview of each of these companies and provide some guidance on how you might choose between them.

Audemars Piguet

AP’s story began with Edward Auguste Piguet and Jules Louis Audemars teaming up in 1875. Both were acclaimed watermakers at the time, but neither knew just how successful their brand would ultimately become. Their notable achievement at the end of the 19th century was creating the first repeater watch, which on demand, would tell you the time in the form of chimes. While this may not sound impressive in the modern day, it was a legitimate show of mastery in 1892.

front view of Audemars Piguet Royal Oak blue dial watch

Audemars Piguet was one of the titans of the watch industry for a long time, but they didn’t necessarily separate themselves from the pack until 1972. That date marks their unveiling of the now famous Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. It is not often that a timepiece truly shocks the horology world, but in this case, the Royal Oak absolutely did. It combined two worlds that previously had stayed separate: Sport and luxury. On the one hand, it was incredibly tough and made of stainless steel. On the other, it was manufactured with the kind of craftsmanship you usually find in high luxury.

The Royal Oak quickly became one of the most popular watches in the world, and that trend has not gone away. The most recent move AP made was unveiling their new Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 line. While its reception was mixed, most enthusiasts are excited to see the brand evolve from almost exclusively manufacturing one collection to creating a more extensive catalog.

Patek Philippe

Patek Philippe is another brand that has been around for a long, long time. It was founded in 1851 and quickly became one of the top names in the watch world. One thing that almost everyone knows them for is their mastery of complications, such as the perpetual calendar. The other is that they produce truly incredible watches.

front view of Patek Philippe Nautilus watches

While AP has a relatively limited catalog, Patek Philippe has a variety of options. For example, luxury lovers can choose the elegant Patek Philippe Calatrava, while sporty watch fans can go with the Patek Philippe Nautilus. Either way, collectors always get an excellent product when they purchase from this esteemed brand.

Vacheron Constantin

The last member of The Holy Trinity is Vacheron Constantin. Though they are a top watch brand in the world, I would say they are the least famous of the bunch. That being said, the quality of their products is up to the standard of both AP and Patek.

front view of Vacheron Constantin Overseas brown dial watch

One thing that makes Vacheron Constantin special is just how old they are. While most Swiss brands are over 100, this company has been around since 1755. That’s an astounding amount of history, and you get a small piece of it on your wrist when you choose to wear their products.

How to Pick Between Them

If you’re interested in buying from one of these brands, I recommend going through the following three points. They should help you make the right decision.

  • The Royal Oak – When choosing between these brands, I suggest you start at the Royal Oak. Of all the models sold by each company, this is the one that catches people’s eye the most. If you love it, go with AP. If you don’t, then choose one of the other two.
front view of Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 5296R-010 watch
  • Other Specific Models – Though the Royal Oak is the most notable of the bunch, there are other models that you might instantly be drawn to. I suggest you take a quick look at Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe’s catalog. You might find yourself falling in love with the Patek Philippe Calatrava, Vacheron Constantin Patrimony, or some other beautiful timepieces.
  • Brand Recognition – Lastly, ask yourself how much you care about brand recognition. Audemars Piguet likely sells the most recognizable watches, while Patek Philippe is a close second. On the other hand, you might want to wear a brand that fewer people recognize. In that case, go with Vacheron Constantin.


From now on, whenever you hear “The Holy Trinity” or “The Big Three,” you’ll know the brands that make up this exclusive club. Even better, if you have the budget to purchase from one of them, you now have a bit of guidance on how to choose between them. No matter what, any watch you get from The Holy Trinity will be a true Swiss masterpiece.

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