Holy trinity

The new “Holy Trinity” is taking the watch world by storm

What is the best watch brand in the world? This is a loaded question.

If we’re talking pure desirability, you might suggest Richard Mille or Rolex. Maybe “best” means “most distinct”, in which case you could argue Bell & Ross or Panerai; it is perhaps “the best done”, and you could say Breguet or Jaeger-LeCoultre. Or maybe it’s a simple question of price, and then you could offer FP Journe or Jacob & Co.

But ask any watch connoisseur worth their salt and they’ll tell you three brands widely regarded as the absolute pinnacle of the watch world: Audemars Piguet’s so-called “Big Three” or “Holy Trinity.” , Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. These legendary Swiss brands are not only incredibly prestigious (and exclusive and expensive), but claim centuries-old histories of fine watchmaking. Few brands have made an impact on the world of high quality watchmaking like these three and for true watch purists, nothing else really compares.

But in the 21st century, another trio of brands are increasingly entering the watch conversation: Grand Seiko, NOMOS Glashütte and Tudor. Noted American author, satirist and renowned watch connoisseur Gary Shteyngart described them as the “New Holy Trinity,” a particularly apt label: just as the “Big Three” hold legendary status at the pinnacle of the watchmaking world, these three are also beyond reproach, but for quite different reasons.

Unlike the “Old Holy Trinity”, these marks do not share a common origin or long storied histories. What they do share, however, is a spirit of innovation, precision and design that gives even the Holy Trinity a run for its money – while being incredibly affordable; a fraction of the price of most luxury watch brands. Let’s dive deep and explore what makes these brands so special.

Grand Seiko – Japan

The Grand Seiko Evolution 9 ‘Tree Rings’ (ref. SLGA008).

No serious discussion of watches – whether affordable everyday pieces or the absolute the best of the best of luxury candy on the wrist – can be obtained without mentioning Seiko. One of the biggest watch brands in the world, the Japanese firm has been responsible for several world firsts in the world of watchmaking, including introducing the world’s first quartz watch. Grand Seiko is their premium sub-brand, which was created in 1960 to challenge the status of Swiss watches, which they have been doing ever since.

Indeed, this is why Grand Seiko is so respected in the watch community. Unlike many of their Swiss competitors, Grand Seikos are not flashy. They are conservative in style and very rarely use exotic jewels or complications. What Grand Seikos are, however, is the purest expression of fine watchmaking. No other brand comes close to the build quality and sophistication of a Grand Seiko watch – much to the embarrassment of the Swiss.

The other great strength of Grand Seiko is its technical advantage. The iconic Spring Drive movement – a Seiko invention and something exclusive to the brand – combines all the precision of a quartz watch with the class and convenience of a traditional automatic mechanical movement. The complex treatments of the dials and their famous “zaratsu” polishing are other hallmarks of the brand. It’s another league of watchmaking.

In the same way that the ascendancy of Japanese automakers like Honda and Toyota embarrassed Europe and America after World War II, Grand Seiko single-handedly undermines the myth of Swiss watchmaking supremacy. You don’t buy a Grand Seiko because you want to show off; for brand recognition. You buy a Grand Seiko because you care about the true art of watchmaking and because you want the best watch possible, money be damned. The fact that Grand Seiko prices are so competitive anyway is just the icing on the cake…

NOMOS Glashütte – Germany

The NOMOS Glashütte Zürich World Time (ref. 807).

NOMOS Glashütte is the youngest brand on this list, founded only in January 1990, two months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in the German city of Glashütte. Glashütte is to Germany what the Jura Valley is to Switzerland: it is the heart of German watchmaking. The small Saxon town has a long history of fine watchmaking and is home to other prestigious brands such as A. Lange & Söhne, Glashütte Original and Moritz Grossmann.

Where other Glashütte brands draw on years of tradition, NOMOS instead draws inspiration from the Bauhaus movement, one of Germany’s most profound contributions to the world of modern art. Their pieces may be handmade in Glashütte, but they’re designed in Berlin, and it’s easy to see that Berlin influence if you look at one of their watches: NOMOS pieces are clean, minimalist and refined with a coherent and modern aesthetic.

It’s the ultimate “basic quality” watch, which is why it’s so popular among watch fans, design nerds, and iconoclasts alike. Although made in Germany, they are also incredibly affordable while being made to equally high, if not better, standards than most Swiss luxury watch brands. Do you sense a theme here?

Tudor – Switzerland

The Tudor Black Bay P01 (ref. M70150-0001).

Unlike NOMOS or Grand Seiko, You sleep is a brand constrained by heritage – or at least it was. Founded in 1926 by Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, Tudor positioned itself from the start as the affordable sister brand of Rolex. For most of its existence, it was just that: Tudor watches featured similar designs and a level of build quality as their Rolex siblings at a cheaper price, at the expense of individual identity as what brand.

But in recent years, the so-called “People’s Rolex” has increasingly charted its own course, emerging from the shadow of Rolex and becoming a bonafide player in the watch world in its own right. Commentators say Tudor is today what Rolex was in its early days: an affordable innovator. Unlike Rolex, which is constrained by its brand image and the need to maintain exclusivity, Tudor has been free to experiment and go in different directions, manufacturing its own movements in-house (a characteristic of all three “New Holy Trinity” is at the heart of their popularity) and posting more designs “out there”.

What hasn’t changed is the value proposition of a Tudor. Tudor watches offer all the refinement and durability of a Rolex while being much more accessible… And without the sometimes negative connotation that a Rolex carries.

Check out our guide to the most expensive watches of all time above.

Indeed, this is quite the key to understanding the ‘New Holy Trinity’. Where the “Old Holy Trinity” requires hundreds of thousands of dollars, connections, and luck to get your hands on a desirable piece, the “New Holy Trinity” is accessible, affordable, and arguably makes a more powerful statement.

Modern luxury isn’t just about spending bulk money, it’s about knowing a good thing when you see it. It’s about demanding excellence, not exclusivity. In the 21st century, where authenticity is society’s most prized motto, these “if you know, you know” watch brands say all the right things. That’s why these “New Holy Trinity” watchmakers are so groundbreaking – and why the old school should pay close attention…