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Who is the holy trinity of watches in haute horlogerie?

There are always industry leaders in the world, regardless of which market you’re in. There will always be a niche group that is looked at as the gold standard for that particular field. For the tech industry, it’s always Apple and Samsung who are your two heavy hitters, constantly upping the ante in terms of technological innovation and evolution. So what about luxury timepieces? In the world of haute horlogerie aka the high-art of watchmaking, there stands the term ‘the Holy Trinity of Watches’.

holy trinity of watches
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar. (Picture: Audemars Piguet)

The ‘Holy Trinity’ is also sometimes known as ‘The Big Three’ of watches. But who are the three luxury brands that make up the holy trinity of watches? That is reserved for the very best as well as being the longest serving in the industry. While many Swiss luxury watchmakers have been around for the longest time, none are more experienced than Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Vacheron Constantin.

Right off the bat, you will notice that all three brands are from Switzerland. While many nations are proud luxury watchmakers, Switzerland still remains at the pinnacle of luxury watchmaking. All three brands are ultra-prestigious in its own right while also coming with a rich history and background. This is a level of experience and expertise that cannot be found anywhere else, which results in all three brands still remaining relevant to this day.

holy trinity of watches
The Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar

Both Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe were founded in the 1800s while Vacheron Constantin holds the title as the oldest watchmaker in the world, dating back to 1755. Of course, the holy trinity of watches is more than just being the oldest of the bunch. While many luxury watchmakers are capable of producing timepieces with intricate complications, the trio takes things up to another level. This ranges from minute repeaters to flying tourbillons, perpetual calendars, and even split-second flyback chronographs.

Another reason as to why these three brands deserve to be called the holy trinity of watches is its in-house movements, which are usually done by hand using traditional techniques that are passed down through generations. These watchmakers are also known to heavily feature the iconic Côtes de Genève, or also known as the ‘Geneva Stripes’. It’s because of the level of detail that these brands put into its watches that allows them to be a class above the rest.

holy trinity of watches
A wide range of Patek Philippe timepieces with different complications. (Picture: Patek Philippe)

While the likes of Rolex, Jaeger-LeCoultre, A. Lange & Söhne, and Richard Mille are exceptional brands, each is known for a unique selling point rather than actually focusing on producing at the level these three companies have been known for. That isn’t to say that these luxury watchmakers are any lesser as the big three; quite the contrary, it can still carry a pretty steep price tag, depending on its model.

The debate on who should really form the holy trinity of watches is a never-ending one. There will always be people with differing opinions from others but that shouldn’t be the case. In the end, when one talks of the big three or the holy trinity of watches, they can only mean Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Vacheron Constantin.

Wi-Liam Teh
Senior Writer
Wi-Liam is a geek at heart with a penchant for tattoos. Never without a drink in hand (preferably whisky, gin, or Guinness), he is also a writer by day and a keyboard warrior by night. On his day off, he masquerades as a streetwear and sneakerhead enthusiast while his bank account says otherwise.