The Legendary Big Three Watches
Once upon a time, there exist a Watch King called Vacheron Constantin, the founding father of all things – horology. His reign dates as far back as 1755 which was the year of its founding by Jean Marc Vacheron. It is worth noting that even though Vacheron’s reign began in 1770 when he crafted the first watch complication ever. In 1785, Vacheron gave leadership of the workshop to his son Abraham. To keep the watchmaking tradition strong within the family, Abraham shared his expertise with his son Jacques-Barthélemy Vacheron. By 1810, Jacques-Barthélemy Vacheron assumed leadership of the family business. Under him, the company continued to explore new complications and other historic innovations and in 1819, Jacques decided to share leadership with Francois Constantin a trusted business man with an unshakable passion for fine watches joined. That is how the brand Vacheron Constatin was born and by the 1830s, Vacheron had helped the brand expand beyond Europe to the U.S., Brazil, and Cuba. Just like Jacques-Barthélemy and his venerable Vacheron ancestors, Constantin deeply believed in striving for perfection and constant improvement. This high-principled philosophy was immediately apparent from an early business letter Constantin sent to Jacques-Barthélemy, dated July 5, 1819.. Vacheron Constantin, with its signature “croix pattée”, is known as “The Old King”.
Then there is another important character. His name was Audemars Piguet. In 1875, Jules Louis Audemars formed a partnership with Edward Auguste Piguet. Both were watchmakers, specialized in creating movements for other manufactures to use. Both men complemented each other so well. While Audemars was a production and assembly specialist, Piguet was a repasseur (Quality Inspector and Marketer). Their technical nature made them develop extremely complex watches, which were so beautiful and perfect that in the 1889 World Expo in Paris they won a special medal for their “Grande Complication” watch. In this way, the two visionaries made a highly-effective team. They would lead the company together successfully for the rest of their lives. Ultimately, the founders’ legacy would be proudly upheld through at least four generations of their respective families. Also, it is worth noting that till this day, the original division of labor established by the founders is still in effect. So, in general, the Audemars family takes responsibility for technical affairs while the Piguets manage finances and other business matters. Always in advance of its time, young and stalwart, Audemars Piguet (AP) is known, in the watch world, as “The Prince”.
And here comes the “The King” also known by its brand name Patek Philippe. Founded in 1839 by a Pole, Antoni Patek with another partner, it was joined by the French Adrien Philippe in 1845, They invented the first wristwatch which was made for a woman, Countess Koscowicz of Hungary in 1868. The company assumed its present name in 1851. Its clients have always been the KINGS and the nobility worldwide, and its technical skill and superb quality are second to none. The company has created in 1989 the most complicated movement ever made on Earth, the Cal. 89, which has 39 different complications, and is composed by 1,728 unique parts. “The King” makes watches for Kings (such as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert) and they are truly worth a King’s ransom. The Henry Graves Supercomplication made in 1933 for a prominent American banker, was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2014 for a wooping 24 Million USDs.
With stats like these, do you really think these watches can be cheap?
Imagine a workforce of 2.000 people manufactures only 50.000 Patek Philippe watches per year (mostly handmade), while Rolex with a similar workforce manufactures around 1.000.000. This means with a Patek you get;
– Sheer exclusivity. Lots of artistry involved for uniqueness
– Longer production time (7-8yrs). The concept and design of a Patek Philippe watch takes 3–5 years to complete. Then it takes another 1–2 years to handcraft all the parts and assemble one watch.
– Mostly made of gold and platinum
– Small production.
– Mostly handmade. If you know the fashion industry, this is not Pret à Porter: it is Haute Couture – in watch form.
You are bound to expect the top quality, the top materials, the finest workmanship when you buy a watch from the king of horology, you are buying a legacy, generation, tradition, heritage, engineering, craftsmanship, artistry etc Thus, their tag lines: “Begin your own tradition.” and “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely take care of it for the next generation.”
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