For many decades, the Horological Holy Trinity has consisted of Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. These three pillars of traditional Swiss watchmaking produce exquisite, historically important, valuable timepieces. They’re unimpeachable. (And, yes, watch aficionados actually speak of this trio as “The Holy Trinity.”) For many watch collectors, owning at least one of each is mandatory for gaining entrance into horological heaven.
Among us mortals, however, there is a New Holy Trinity emerging: Grand Seiko, Nomos, and Tudor. I hadn’t seen the light of this new Holy Trinity until my friend the author Gary Shteyngart — a man well known for succinct and brilliant insights — casually rattled it off one day. I owe my conversion experience entirely to Gary, and it is with his permission and my gratitude that I share his reformist vision of the new horological religion.
The original Holy Trinity (Vacheron, Patek, & AP) is out of reach for many of us because their watches are so expensive. And that Holy Trinity may be a bit too old-school. It might even be out of style. But the quest to commune with a three-headed horological god still compels us devoted watch worshipers.
Three is a powerful number. It is significant across religions, where three-headed gods occupy the highest of holy echelons. Three is the first odd prime number, and the second of all primes — divisible only by itself and the great unifier, One. We mortals can perceive just three dimensions, and we can do so much with those three dimensions. And our eyes are trichromatic, seeing just three colors and blending them infinitely into our gorgeous experiences of reality. You can do a lot with three of something, and that even extends to a small watch collection able to cover just about every situation we might find ourselves in. And with Grand Seiko, Nomos, and Tudor, you can have it all. These three brands share a number of attributes that elevate their timepieces to holiness:
The Sacred In-House Movement All three brands offer in-house movements, a most sacred attribute among devoted watch aficionados. Grand Seiko’s movements are highly evolved mechanisms with roots going back to the 1940s and ’50s. Nomos, a German company, produces beautiful and rather original movements in Glashütte. (Their balance bridge and free-sprung balance wheel are especially worthy of worship.) Tudor has been introducing in-house movements in many of their watches lately, elevating the brand up Mount Horology to sit alongside its Titan Father, Rolex.
Worship-Worthy Value Attitudes toward luxury have shifted to include a new emphasis on value. It’s no longer necessarily in vogue to spend wildly and ostentatiously display one’s expensive watch. Good value is worshiped now along with great quality and excellent style, and Grand Seiko, Nomos and Tudor offer some of the best value, quality, and style in timepieces today.
Alignment with the Mysteries of the Zeitgeist If only the marketeers could predict — or better, create — trends. They just can’t do it, and the ability of a watch to capture the spirit of its moment remains a mystery to even the most astute analysis of culture. The dark forces at play here, shrouded in the vagaries of the lightning-fast global economy, have somehow not eluded Grand Seiko, Nomos, and Tudor. These brands seem to have dipped their timepieces in stardust that casts a spell on those who behold them.
Deep Roots Though Grand Seiko, Nomos, and Tudor form a new Holy Trinity, these companies have deep roots in horological traditions. Grand Seiko was formed in the middle of the 20th Century as a high-end expression of Japanese craftsmanship, and the brand employs thousand-year-old techniques in small workshops across Japan to produce some of the most transcendent dials, markers, and hands made today.
Nomos formed in 1990 after the Berlin Wall fell, setting up shop in Glashütte with a spirit of democracy and modernity that rings throughout the company’s ethos today, a bright light of hope and free-market ingenuity shining where a dark cloud of dictatorial fascism once loomed. Tudor has roots reaching back to the minister of sport-oriented watch worship himself, Hans Wilsdorf, founder of Rolex. Tudor was, and still is, the more affordable little brother of the Rolex brand, but is no longer bound to house 3rd-party movements as Rolex once mandated in order to meet standards of affordability. Tudor worship today is a religion in its own right.
The Good Works of the New Holy Trinity As a Holy Trinity, Grand Seiko, Nomos, and Tudor offer an incredible variety of timepieces that, taken collectively, inhabit just about every niche an horological devotee could want to explore. Here, we examine three examples from each of the three new horological gods, each a manifestation of their good works.
Grand Seiko SBGA211G
Nicknamed the Snowflake, this watch has captivated people around the world with its textured white dial that glistens like freshly fallen snow on Mt. Fuji. The genre-defying Spring Drive movement uses a self-powered mechanism combined with an integrated circuit to power a perfectly smooth seconds hand. Considered by many to be the most significant movement development since Seiko brought quartz to the market in the late 1960s, the SBGA211 watch may just reconcile the differences between art, science, and religion.
Grand Seiko SBGH268G
With a dial intended to replicate autumn leaves reflecting off a black lacquered floor in a traditional Japanese home, and a flecked titanium rotor in bright green meant to represent summer leaves prior to their seasonal turning, this watch reads like verses from the scriptures of horology. An in-house Hi-Beat movement ticks 36,000 times per hour, offering unparalleled accuracy and a smooth sweeping seconds hand. Grand Seiko refuses to reveal the mysteries of how this dial is crafted.
Grand Seiko SBGW259G
To celebrate Grand Seiko’s 60th Anniversary, this watch recreates the very first watch from the revered Japanese manufacture. With no date, a hand-wound in-house movement, a titanium case, and a deep blue dial that transcends earthly hues, this watch carries the weight of its elegant history in its ultra-light body.
Nomos Orion Rose 35mm
Orion dominates our night sky with its familiar rows of three stars each, but in Nomos’s world, the Orion is more like the North Star, having consistently guided the brand from its earliest days. This is spiritual minimalism, providing a quiet mechanical refuge to souls grown weary of the hecticness of the digital age. Though the Orion is available in many sizes and with either a handwound or an automatic in-house movement, the 35mm Rose stands out for its dreamy, pink champagne dial and gold markers and hands.
Nomos Club Siren White
Nomos is known for the use of bold, Bauhaus-inpsired color schemes, and the Club range of watches offers sporty looks in a wide selection of bold and funky hues. The Siren White houses an in-house Minimatik auto-winding movement, and the white dial gleams in contrast against the blued-steel hands and bright red luminescent markers.
Nomos Zürich World Time
Earthly in orientation, heavenly in execution, this watch is the most complicated from Nomos to date. With a uniquely skeletonized dial that shows two time zones as well as cities from around the world, the watch features an in-house movement that achieves maximum efficiency of operation through just one pusher to advance local time.
Tudor Black Bay GMT
An in-house GMT movement in an incredible-looking watch for $4,050? That’s exactly the kind of value that New Holy Trinity represents. The familiar “Pepsi” bezel speaks of the Rolex GMT Master of the 20th Century, but the matte ceramic bezel insert and signature “snowflake” hands of the Tudor Black Bay GMT assure no one is going to confuse the two.
Tudor Black Bay Bronze
Housing an in-house movement that meets the stringent COSC accuracy standards, the Black Bay Bronze’s gray-to-black faded dial and bronze case cast a steampunky shadow-spell on all who behold it. Even if you’re descending to the depths of hell, this incredibly rugged and accurate dive watch will see you through to the light.
In-house COSC-rated movement. Light titanium case. Durable enough to go anywhere and withstand anything. The Pelagos may just be Tudor’s most badass dive watch. And for those who are tired of the vintage-inspired trends (though it certainly features some throwback influences), the Pelagos will show you The Power of Now.
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