(Photo courtesy of: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-big-three-watch-art-studio.html)
If you were to ask 100 people to name a famous watch brand, almost all of them will include Rolex within their first three answers, and probably the most mentioned as well. So, the question is why Rolex is not considered one of the “Big Three” of Swiss watchmaking? Within the world of horology and luxury timepieces, the Big Three, or often referred to as the “Holy Trinity” consists of Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin. More recently, people are questioning whether a fourth should be added to this list, and you will be surprised to find out that once again, it is not Rolex, but A. Lange & Söhne that is in the conversation. There are at least two main points that the Big Three have in common, which separates them from Rolex, and other modern brands.
The first being that they have been around for much longer than most other brands and have been in continuous operation since their inception. Although Lange does have an incredibly long history, because it ceased production after the end of WWII, and returned as a new independent brand afterwards, this is one of the reasons it doesn’t get treated in the same regards as the others.
(Photo courtesy of: https://watchesbysjx.com/2019/07/vacheron-constantin-overseas-perpetual-calendar-review.html)
The second is that the Big Three have always focused their efforts on producing only high-end luxury timepieces. Although there are some minor degrees in which this is true for each brand, their movements have been hand finished to a high-degree using traditional watchmaking techniques and methods. Of course, these brands also use the highest quality materials for every component of the watch like the case, dials, hands, and even the parts you don’t see.
When we look at Rolex, they have never quite been the high-end manufacturer that the others have been. In fact, they have never actually tried to be either. Rolex, since being founded, has focused their watches on being extremely reliable, robust, and produced to very high quality standards, but did not necessarily focus on the high-end finishes that the Big Three made so important. Rolex also does not pride itself on producing highly complicated watches, instead they improve their products by making consistent incremental changes to their products from time to time. Oftentimes, these changes are improvements towards reliability, and accuracy for their basic time and calendar timepieces.
(Photo courtesy of: https://robbreport.com/style/watch-collector/the-5-rolex-watches-every-collector-should-know-2851854/)
Nothing previously mentioned means that Rolex should not be considered one of the best and most iconic luxury watch brands. In reality, they are constantly noted as one of the most important watchmakers. They are highly respected for their build quality, quality of materials, and the advancements made towards reliability and functionality. So don’t think that any brand that is not one of the Big Three, does not produce great timepieces, and it surely does not stop after Rolex either.