You may have heard of the Holy Trinity of watchmaking. It consists of three of the top luxury Swiss watch manufacturers: Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe.
These three have earned their venerable ranks through generations of impeccable watchmaking, exciting inventions and flawless design. Let’s take a look at the history and traits of each of these watchmakers.
Back in 1875, two young Swiss men created a partnership that would change the watchmaking world. Jules Louis Audemars was just 23, and Edward Auguste Piguet was only 21 when they committed to building a watch company. Audemars' expertise? Creating complicated watch movements. And Piguet’s? The final regulation of watch movements.
Between 1894 and 1899, Audemars Piguet made only 1,208 watches, but among them were some of the most sophisticated timepieces ever made. The legendary Grande Complication series, for example, offered minute repetition, a perpetual calendar and a chronograph. It has been so popular that it’s still in production today.
Audemars and Piguet passed away in 1918 and 1919, respectively, but the company continued to grow in size and reputation. Building on a tradition of craftsmanship and innovation, Audemars and Piguet timepieces are still meticulously handcrafted. Bevelled by hand and retouched to eliminate imperfections, these watches are sought by true connoisseurs.
Audemars Piguet produced the world’s first minute repeater movement wristwatch. This achievement launched the company’s preeminence in the industry and built a solid foundation for its future research and development.
The company created the first jumping hour wristwatch. Jumping hour watches don’t have traditional sweeping hour hands. Instead, they have a disc viewed through an aperture that jumps to display the next hour precisely as the minute hand reaches 60 minutes. In a sense, it’s a forerunner of the digital clock.
Why not observe a timepiece’s movements in all of its complicated glory? In 1934, Audemars Piguet created the first skeleton watch, which allowed watch lovers to do just that. Today, skeleton watches are as popular as ever.
Nearly a hundred years into the company’s history, Audemars Piguet released a collection that was destined to be one of its most memorable. Royal Oak watches, with their octagonal porthole-based design, pulled the company out of its post-Depression slump and introduced the world to a new concept: the luxury sports watch.
Today, world-famous stars like Jay-Z and Arnold Schwarzeneggar are spotted with Audemars Piguet watches on their wrists. It’s the finest watchmaking company that is still in the hands of its founding families. But that doesn’t mean it’s stuck in tradition.
From the very start, Audemars Piguet has pushed the frontiers of human invention, and that mindset continues in the twenty-first century. If you follow the trends, you’re sure to see Audemars Piguet leading the way.
Although the brand Vacheron Constantin was established in 1755, the company’s heritage reaches much further into the past. During the 16th century, many European Protestants sought refuge in Geneva, Switzerland. As a result, skilled artisans from many countries met in the watchmaking capital of the world and collaborated on new designs and technologies.
Jean-Marc Vacheron was one such artisan. The silver pocket watches he produced bore the mark of an innovator, and within two decades, Vacheron had proven himself as a pioneer in the industry.
Jean-Marc Vacheron’s grandson, Jaques-Barthelemy, led the Vacheron brand into a new era by introducing the company’s products into new markets outside of Switzerland. By exporting timepieces to France and Italy, the Vacheron company expanded rapidly. Jaques-Bathelemy Vacheron realised he needed assistance, so he brought on a partner, a respected business strategist called François Constantin. Vacheron Constantin was born.
Vacheron Constantin hired Georges-Aguste Leschot to design parts for their watches. He developed a machine called a pantograph, which made individual watch components interchangeable and easy to mechanically duplicate. As you can guess, this development forever changed watchmaking; it took the craft into the industrial age. In recognition of this achievement, the Arts Society of Geneva awarded Leschot and Vacheron Constantin the Rive Prize’s gold medal in 1844.
Vacheron Constantin debuted their first pocket chronometer. By 1872, they were entering their inventions in the inaugural chronometry competitions at the Geneva Observatory. Vacheron Constantin won distinctions, which encouraged them in their pursuit to win many record-breaking achievements over the upcoming century.
For the company’s 200th anniversary, it debuted the Caliber 1003, the world’s thinnest manually wound calibre. It’s thought to be the precursor to the ultra-thin watch movements we see now.
The Richemont Group acquired Vacheron Constantin in 1996 and continues to lead the brand today. Although the original family is no longer involved with the company, the brand continues to push watchmaking technology along and stay true to its historical roots.
For instance, since the turn of the millennium, Vacheron Constantin has introduced several significant collections: the Patrimony (2000), Overseas (2003) and Metiers d’Art (2007).
In 2019, the company continues to push the boundaries. It added a tourbillon and an ultra-thin perpetual calendar to its Overseas collection and released the Traditionnelle Twin Beat Perpetual calendar, which features an incredible 65-day power reserve. Yes, you read that correctly: 65-day reserve.
In 1839, Antoine Norbert de Patek and Francois Czapek founded a watchmaking company called Patek, Czapek et Cie. A few years later, in 1844, Antoine Norbert de Patek attended an industrial exposition in Paris, where a young man named Jean Adrien Philippe won a bronze medal for his invention of a keyless system to wind and set a watch.
Just one year later, Patek, Czapek at Cie was liquidated. Philippe moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where he signed a partnership agreement with Antoine Norbert de Patek. The resulting company, Patek Philippe, quickly moved to combine the skills of the two owners. In the same year, 1845, Patek Philippe released its first watch, No. 1181, which featured Philippe’s keyless winding mechanism.
In 1851, Patek Philippe displayed its smallest pocket watch at the London Great Exhibition, and both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert acquire Patek watches. In the same year, Patek established a partnership with New York-based Tiffany & Co., which remains in place to this day.
Patek Philippe unveils its first tourbillon-regulated watch. Later that year, Jean Adrien Philippe reveals a new horological invention called the slipping spring, which can be overwound without breaking. The invention greatly influenced the future designs of power reserves and self-winding calibres.
Patek Philippe received two patents. The first was for a perpetual calendar function for pocket watches. The second? For a movement with independent seconds, in which paired mainspring barrels were simultaneously wound using the keyless system.
Patek Philippe released its first perpetual calendar wristwatch. The company built on this first watch to create the Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph, one of the most important luxury watches ever made.
Today, Patek Philippe continues to create and engineer all of its watch components in its own workshops. From simple models to grand complications, all parts are manufactured in-house. It also continues to service and repair every watch the company has produced since 1839.
The Stern family has owned the company since 1932. You can recognise a Patek Philippe watch by the Calatrava cross, the graphic symbol that has represented the brand since 1887.
These highly renowned luxury watch brands are worth protecting. Whatever brand you choose, be sure to protect your luxury timepiece with Q Report watch insurance. Wear your watch with pride, knowing that it’s covered should anything happen to it.
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