Funny how so many things come in three's.
I have been a long time fanatic about the "Big Three" (about two decades) so my thoughts on them are probably anachronistic, old guard, and traditional. But being a student of consumer psychology and brand marketing (who woulda thunk, huh?) I find public perception of them fascinating.
Patek has pretty much been number one or two, for just about forever. There was a time when Vacheron may have vied for the top spot, but that was many decades ago. AP has always had the image of the young turk among the three, and the (relatively) recent date of their founding supports this.
In my mind, and most of the "traditionalists" I know, Patek is the mature young king, Vacheron is the retired and fading, though still revered, King Father, and Audemars is the bright and rambunctious Crown Prince.
AP is renowned for being adventurous with design and materials use, though not always so successfully. Their Royal Oak preceded PP's Nautilus, leading to a whole new category - the SS luxury sport watch, and they were (one of) the first to successfully use Tantalum, among other unusual and rare metals. Their innovativeness and technical prowess even goes back to the early 20th century - they made the first wristwatch minute repeater, for Omega, thus in effect playing the role of "the watchmaker's watchmaker."
Vacheron is frequently referred to (at least among my acquaintances) as "The greatest watch of my grandfather's era" (I'm under 40), though with the popularity of retro-chic, Vacheron Constantin still commands a great "ooh" factor.
I got a kick out of the time when, with about 11 other young (under 30) up and coming business execs, professionals, and bankers (I was the outsider visitor to the group), sitting around the table at a local beer pub in Taipei, the "big swinging xxxx" (he always got the seat at the head of the table, and walked out the door first, and was never the designated driver), from the other end of the 10 foot table, asked if he could see my watch, then nodded with approval and said, "I always wanted a Vacheron, ever since my grandfather told me they were the best watches in the world" after I passed it over to him. He was wearing an IWC Mark XII. Besides the ego stroke, it was a fascinating look into the mind of the next generation Watch Idiot Savant. (btw - he was a hot shot ForEx SVP for BNP)
Vacheron Constantin never quite got a brand icon established in the way AP has the Royal Oak and PP has the Nautilus and Golden Ellipse (the Calatrava has too many different and differing variations to qualify as a brand icon, imho) - the 222 and the Phidias lines never really quite finding market acceptance. The Overseas line may finally work for them, but this awaits the test of time. Interesting that the Overseas owes clear design elements to both previous lines. If at first you don't succeed...
So, in the spirit of your one liners, I would say that VC is the watch of your rich retired uncle (or old money), PP the "power watch" of the CEO or banker, and AP the watch of choice of artists and other avant-garde.
Not sure if this is profound, but it sure is fun.
I welcome comments, suggestions, and corrections to this article.