Originally Posted by in stitches
newcomer - that is very interesting.
i first started learning about watches in my early 20s, mostly through advertisements, and then through watch articles and eventually watch magazines at about 25. around that time, i actually had mentally grouped AP/VC/PP together in my head, before i ever heard the term, "the big three." just from the ads i saw, the things i read, and the vibe i got. i just put those 3 at the top of the pile, and i dont think i am from an earlier generation, i mean, im only 30 (even though saying that makes me feel old).
so i find it interesting that though you probably saw much of the same things i did, you processed it differently.
i do think that a lot of people think first of RO/ROO when they hear AP, and that is certainly different than the vibe of VC/PP, but for me, the first image i think of is the equation of time watch, and that is probably because i saw so many ads for it. when i think of AP i think of their very rich history, the fact they are still privately owned and partially by someone of the original family, their many many high complication watches, their constant innovations in haute watchmaking, and their very classy models. the RO/ROO are a nice (the nice ones that is, everyone makes watches that people dont like) afterthought to me. like a tasty dessert after a steak. and for me, that is why i feel they deserve to be planted firmly in "the big three."
sidebar - i also had, and still do have, the impression, that though PP is part of "the big three," i see them as slightly above.
Interesting to read how you and Newcomer started learning about watches. You guys are both younger, your perceptions are different, but each makes sense based on your experiences. I'm almost 42, and I have been interested in watches since I was about 10 or 11. I learned a lot from my Dad who knew the brands Patek (his uncle owned one in the 1950s) and he met someone in the early 1970s that showed him an AP. VC was a brand he learned about from another doctor in the 1980s who had gone to school in Europe. Back in those days, the only way to get information about watches was from printed ads or to get catalogs. The internet didn't exist and it was really tough to get information about watches. Back then I though each company made its own movements. Its really only been since the 1990s that those printed Wristwatch Annual Catalogs came out and then there were website like TZ and eventually watch companies created there own sites.
I think you hit a number of important points regarding why AP is rightfully considered one of "The Big Three." They have made some very amazing complications, and if I am not mistaken, in the 1980s they were the first company to incorporate a tourbillion into a wristwatch. They are the originator of the luxury steel watch with the Royal Oak. Everyone including PP, VC, GP, and IWC to name a few all followed with luxury sport watches once they eventually saw the ROs were selling. AP also has as you pointed out the distinction of still being owned by a founding family, and Jasmine Audemars is the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors.
I think Patek might be at the top of the big three in my mind, as I do think their finishing and quality is maybe a notch above, VC. I think PP and AP are really on par in terms of quality from what I've seen, but I think their edge over AP is they dominate in the world of resale and auction prices so for that reason maybe I see them as a step above. Although, I've alway thought most Pateks while beautiful, with the exception of the Nautilus, were largely for much older men and many of their dress watches were a bit sterile compared to what was offerd by VC and AP. Just my 2 cents.
Originally Posted by Newcomer
Talking about AP, PP, and VC, and their respective reputations has kind of got me thinking recently. As a relative newcomer to horology, it is interesting to read the perspective of others in regards to the 'trinity.' As a younger guy (at least in regards to most on this thread), I feel like I have a very different perspective of the trinity than most. I think that out of the three, I definitely view PP to be in a league of its own (I am excluding AL&S). PP is definitely what I have always perceived as the tip-top of the tier. Somewhere below them I view VC. I actually never heard of VC until I became more interested in watches. Even now, I view them as a slight step down from PP, but in the same realm.
What I find kind of funny is how people tend to lump AP in with PP and VC (and AL&S). At least from my perspective, I generally associate AP with rappers, nouveau riche, etc. In a lot of ways, like a more expensive Hublot or possible IWC. Now, that is not to say that I necessarily think
that. There are a lot of AP pieces that I would LOVE to own. I just typically do not think of them as being part of that top tier anymore. They do not market like PP or VC, they have much more 'mainstream' styles, they use celebrities. When I think of AP, I automatically think of the ROO, and various special editions.
I guess I just find it interesting, because for me, AP just does not hold the same cachet as I think it does for other generations.
You perspective is a bit too narrowly focused and maybe your experience growing up in the age of rappers and sports stars wearing APs has prevented you from really seeing the brand beyond what it has been in the last 20 years. As mentioned AP really invented the luxury sport watch with the Royal Oak and others followed. In addition, AP was really known for dress watches and highly complicated pieces for decades before the RO existed. In addition, even in the 1980s the RO was a pretty rare sight and was not as prominent a model as it has been during the last 15-20 years. Also their advertising campaign and who they associated with up until the 1990s, included old aristocracy, old actors (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), historians (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.) and others that were hardly the house hold names back in the 1980s, that Lebron James and JayZ are today. Check out these old watch ads (for fun just to see the pricing of an all gold AP or Rolex). http://www.vintageadbrowser.com/jewelry-and-watches-ads-1970s http://www.vintagepaperads.com/1984-Audemars-Piguet-Royal-Oak-Watches-Ad_p_51976.html
AP and Patek are both relatively young compared to VC which was established in 1755. Until roughly the 1950-1960s, VC was considered the top brand of the big three. I think some of what caused that to change were the changes in ownership that I believe took place around that time. VC also went through periods when they were underfunded and had lots of different models but no real cohesive collections.
Patek is well known, they make roughly twice as many watches as AP or VC. And although coveted by colletors and auction houses today...years ago dealers sat on huge stocks of them and as recently as 2003/2004 you could easily walk into dealers and get 30%+ off anything other than a 5070. Heck my Dad bought a brand new Calatrava from an AD back in 1994 or 1995, and just to move it they gave him 40% off the list price. So these watches were not always these items that people covet in the same way they do today. Years ago one dealer told me they carry it more as a novelety and occasional sell them, but they make all of their money selling Rolex and Cartier...they could live on those alone, all the other brands were for show.
Vacheron makes beautiful watches. I have 2 of their dress watches and I adore them. Although the oldest brand of the three they seem to have been the the least well known of the brands during the last 30-40 years. In part as mentioned, they have had several owners, sometimes been underfunded, sometimes had collections with no real direction, they were the last of the big three to figure out how to make a sport watch that would be successful and enduring (They started with the 222 in the 70s which I thought was nice looking, then came out with an ugly offshoot the 333, then the uglier Phidias, and finally in the mid 90s they released the 1st generation Overseas). Overall I like some of their dress watches, but I don't think the quality of their sports watches in terms of finish and reliability have been on the same level as AP or Patek.
Personally, I don't like the marketing direction that AP has taken. I think it cheapens the brand and maybe your perception of the brand is proof of that. However, I suppose their success and need capture the attention and funds of a younger generation, may be proof that being an obscure brand with a slogan "Known only by those who know" will not provide the clients, success, or funds neccessary to carry on with important R&D and to sustain themselves rather than having to be bought out like most companies.
I'm a bit saddened that you really only know the brand as a watch that appeals to rappers and sports stars, as I think you have not seen or been given enough information by AP to know how rich and strong their history of making superb watches is. However, I can't blame you based on their ad compaigne which I don't like. I think if you do some serious research into the brand you will see and understand they are deserving of being one of "The Big Three."