You said it very well - I should buy what makes me smile, irrespective of historically correct facts or marketing blurb which constructs some "connection" to the past when in fact the company in its current state is a relatively new venture.
I know that VC is "older" than PP and somewhen back in time was actually ahead of PP in this or that, and that Cartier made good watches a few times thoughout their history (as I said, I am about to discover what they did in the 60ies, but let's rather not talk about the Le Must series, and yes, that came up when Swiss watchmaking was on the fritz because of quartz). Surely a few JLCs and even Junghänse (the plural of Junghans - I recently discovered their "Max Bill Chronoscope" in YG!! Great stuff.) are nice. But...
But for some reasons a very small group of manufacturers are "doing it right", hitting the nail on the head. Rolex for the Audi-like mass market, PP for high-end stuff.
Of course, just like in the old days when RR and Bentley were under one umbrella, one brand simply existed because people would not be seen dead in the other, so that might play into the reverse-snobbery Burberry-Aquascutum relationship of PP and VC. In my opinion, VC sadly does not have "their own way" - which Breguet (think coin-like case, fine-detailled dials) or ALS (retro 1930ies Auf-und-Ab Doppelfederhaus Teutonia). VC Patri is great, although also more generic than, say, a 5196 which very much shows its 96 heritage. And don't get me started on VC's "Sport/Diver" range, even if designed by Genta, he also had his unique (Nautilus, although I would never wear one) and less unique moments. And since you mention VC's market position in the 1950ies, that was also the time when Chevrolet and Cadillac were building very good cars. Then.
As long as a watch - or anything you buy - needs a long narrative to make it more desirable, it does not speak to me. The same goes for linking a watch's image with bomber pilots, motorcar racing drivers or successful golfers. When looking at Wempe's shop window (to take a very boring example), looking at a pedestrian Sub or a simple PP 5196 makes me think "this is a product which speaks for itself". It is much more difficult to do something extraordinary in a simple way.
BTW thanks for "stoic" - a very good description of the 1990-2000 Patek style. When everyone is funky/innovative, being stoic is quite unique.
While I appreciate your view and opinion, about VC, I challenge you to spend some time on TheHourlounge learning about VC. I can accept that you aren't into the brand, or you feel they do not have their own way, but that isn't accurate. As brand they have nothing to do with Patek or copying Patek. They have their own distinct style and designs. The tear drop shaped lug is something they were famous for using over the course of many decades and they were still using on various models until about 2005. I imagine we will see it again at some point. Using shapes outside of round is something they are famous for (although they do make lots of round watches). I do like VC's orginal sports watch the 222, but I am not a fan of the subsequent sports watches that followed. However, you should be aware that NONE of VC's sports watches were designed by Gerald Genta. The original 222 sports watch release around the time of the Nautilus was designed by another famous designer Jorg Hysek. People frequently and mistakenly think it was designed by Genta, but it was not.
Regarding ads and long naratives Patek is far from being above that nonsense. Tugging at the heart strings showing a dad and his son on a yacht, with the tag line, "You never really own a Patek, you merely take care of it for the next generation." The best part of the ad was a funny variation about that ad campaign someone posted on another forum saying, "You never actually own a Patek, you merely pay for Phillip Stern's future generations."
As for the Les Must Series...the Swiss watch market was at its worst at that time. There are tons of hidous desings from AP, Patek, VC, and other brands. Patek made Nautilus models that cost a fortune to service or change batteries for so those are virtually worthless. It was an age that brought this version of the Elipse ...yuck. The original version of the Elipse is a Genta design. This is Liberace inspired sibling.
You mention Patek circ 1990 - 2000, but I would not say it was the best period at all. It brought the hideous Sculpture watch and the Neptune
Here are a few other Pateks I could live without such as the elongated Nautlius.
I like Patek, they make a high quality product and my father has owned a few, but I don't give them a pass for their mistakes and I think they offer very little value for what you get when buying a current new watch. I don't want this to seem like I'm anti Patek, I am not. I just think if you are going to give them all the credit for being what is right in the world of watches, you should hold them equally responsible for there blunders...of which there have been many. Sadly, we live in a world where due to auction price values on rare pieces or limited production pieces...many people hold them above all others or as perfect, and they simply are not. If they were perfect I don't think they would have provided the world with this Patek Limited Pimp edition.
Again wishing you much fun and enjoyment on your journey to find the right watch.