The Swiss Holy Trinity is supposed to encapsulate three watch manufacturers that represent the best of high horology, with Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin being written in metaphorical stone as aforementioned watch manufacturers. Patek Philippe is regarded to sit at the top of the Holy Trinity, often being called the best watch manufacturer in the world. However, times change, and with those times came many new (and revived) manufacturers that have surpassed Audemars, Patek, and Vacheron, a fast-paced market, along with a decline on both the importance and meaning of the words “Swiss Made.” These changes have effectively killed the concept of the Swiss Holy Trinity by making it irrelevant.
A watch is far greater than just a brand name.
The emergence of newer manufacturers mostly consists of independents, including Kari Voutilainen, Akrivia, F.P. Journe, Philippe Dufour, Roger W. Smith, Laurent Ferrier, and MB&F. The most notable non-independent is the revived A. Lange & Söhne. All of these brands listed surpass the antiquated Holy Trinity in watchmaking. The heritage of a brand doesn’t matter if the quality begins to get neglected, creating a product that is inferior to those of contemporary brands. A watch is far greater than just a brand name. When you compare an A. Lange & Söhne to the equivalent Patek Philippe, the Lange often surpasses the Patek, all while demanding a lower retail price. So, unless you as the consumer just don’t like the A. Lange & Söhne aesthetic for some reason, from a horological perspective, their watches are better when compared to watches of the Holy Trinity. See our article on why people are obsessed with horology to learn more about why that is.
More and more people are realizing that at the price point of pretty much every Holy Trinity watch, there’s a better watch from another manufacturer.
Due to modern internet and media, it has become much easier to learn about horology and what brands actually do than it was during the mid-20th century “golden age” of horology. This forces transparency onto the market that heritage and marketing can only stave off so much. More and more people are realizing that at the price point of pretty much every Holy Trinity watch, there’s a better watch from another manufacturer. This isn’t to say that the Holy Trinity watches are bad (they aren’t), but they aren’t as good as everyone says they are and they’re far from being the best. Simply (and frankly) put, they are quite overrated.
The nails in the coffin are the near complete devaluation of the “Swiss Made” label in technical terms due to both light regulatory laws, and the rise of foreign powers in watchmaking. It’s all too easy nowadays to get a German or Japanese watch that is better than its Swiss alternative, for less money. In the eye of studied enthusiasts, a watch no longer has to be Swiss to be great.
All of this is ultimately great for consumers and non-Swiss brands, but it may spell bad times for some Swiss brands in the long term.