What is the best brand of watches in the world? This is a loaded question.
If we’re talking about pure desirability, you might suggest OMEGA, Richard Mille, or Rolex. Maybe “the best” means “the most distinct”, in which case you could argue Bell & Ross, Panerai, or TAG Heuer. Or maybe it’s just a question of price, and then you could suggest FP Journe, Franck Muller or Jacob & Co.
But ask connoisseurs of watches worthy of the name and they’ll point you to three brands that are widely regarded as the absolute pinnacle of the watchmaking world: the so-called “Trois Grands” or “Sainte Trinité” from Audemars Piguet, Patek. Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. These legendary Swiss brands are not only incredibly prestigious (and exclusive and expensive), but they boast a centuries-old history of fine watchmaking. Few brands have had 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 is increasingly entering the watchmaking conversation: Grand Seiko, NOMOS Glashütte and Tudor. Renowned American author, satirist and renowned watch geek Gary Shteyngart described them as the “New Holy Trinity”, a particularly apt label: just as the “Big Three” have legendary status at the top of the watchmaking world, these three are also unassailable, but for totally different reasons.
Unlike the “Old Holy Trinity”, these brands do not share a common origin or a long history. What they share, however, is a spirit of innovation, precision, and design that give even the “Old Holy Trinity” a run for their money – while being incredibly affordable; a fraction of the price of most luxury watch brands. Let’s take a deep dive and explore what makes these brands so special.
Grand Seiko – Japan
No serious discussion of watches – whether it’s affordable everyday pieces or the absolute crème de la crème of luxury wrist candy – can be had without mentioning Seiko. One of the biggest watch brands in the world, the Japanese firm has been behind several world firsts in the world of watchmaking, notably by 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.
RELATED: Grand Seiko Returns To Its Roots With Special Anniversary Models
Indeed, this is why Grand Seiko is so respected in the watchmaking community. Unlike many of their Swiss competitors, Grand Seikos is not flashy. They are conservative in style and very rarely use exotic jewelry or complications. But what the Grand Seikos are 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 rise of Japanese car brands like Honda and Toyota embarrassed Europe and America after WWII, Grand Seiko single-handedly undermines the myth of Swiss watch 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 made watch possible, damn the money. The fact that Grand Seikos’ pricing is so competitive is just the icing on the cake.
NOMOS Glashütte – Germany
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 Tutima.
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 modern art world. Their pieces may be handcrafted 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 is the quintessential “basic” watch, which is why they are so popular among watch fans, design nerds and iconoclasts. Although they are made in Germany, they are also incredibly affordable while being manufactured to an equally high standard, if not higher, than most Swiss luxury watch brands. Do you feel a theme here?
RELATED: Cristiano Ronaldo’s ‘Unique’ Taste in Watches Reveals Weird Truth About the Super Rich
Tudor – Switzerland
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 has positioned itself from the start to be the affordable sister brand of Rolex. For most of its existence, it was just that: Tudor watches featured similar designs and a similar level of build quality to their Rolex siblings at a lower price, to the detriment of individual identity. as a brand.
But in recent years, the so-called “people’s Rolex” has increasingly forged its own path, emerging from the shadow of Rolex and becoming a bona fide player in the world of watchmaking in its own right. Commentators say Tudor today is what Rolex was when it started: an affordable innovator. Unlike Rolex, which is limited by its branding and the need to maintain its exclusivity, Tudor has been free to experiment and go in different directions, making its own internal movements (a hallmark of the three ‘New Holy Trinity ”is at the heart of their popularity) and the release of more“ exterior ”designs.
RELATED: David Beckham Spotted Wearing a ‘Refreshing’ Version of the People’s Rolex
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 of a Rolex.
And this is entirely 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 coin, the “new Holy Trinity” is accessible, affordable, and arguably makes a more powerful statement.
Modern luxury isn’t just about spending money in bulk, it’s about knowing a good thing when you see it. It is about demanding excellence, not exclusivity. In the 21st century, where authenticity is the company’s most valuable motto, these “if you know, you know” watch brands say it all. This is why the “New Holy Trinity” is so revolutionary – and why the old school should pay special attention …