history of certain of the brands he names such as Breguet which basically stopped making watches from around 1850 til the 80s when it was bought by the Chaumet brothers, Lange is also a reborn brand etc...
As Kazumi states VC did not put itself in the category of the big 3 but the industry (professionnals, experts, colllectors etc..) did. When you have collectors such as Fouad of Egypte or Packard ready to pay immense sums for VC to make them a watch its because the brand was considered as one of the best.
VC may have somehow missed the mechanical watch revival in the late 80s due to ownership and management by Sheik Yamani (the former Saudi minister of petrol) who was more interested in VC's real estate than watch making capacities. With the Richemont ownership VC did come back but not like it should have: some fantastic high horology pieces such as the skeleton minute repeater and tourbillon but an evident lack of communication and sometimes a difficult to understand product strategy leading to a lack of brand identity.
I think that since the 250th anniversary the VC management / team has really understood the wonderfull brand VC is and are now in full speed with the creation of some extraordinary pieces and of a brand identity with well distinguishable models.
On the in house movement side VC currently has 4 base movements: 3 automatic, 1 manual, a tourbillon movement and a perpetual calendar / minute repeater / tourbillon movement. In the pipe lines are an inhouse chronograph movement, a large sized manual etc..
The finish of the above movements is also extraordinary not only on the visible parts but also on the underdial, for me these movements are the most beautifully finished among "mainstream" brands. I recently showed the caliber 2450 to independent watchmakers Roger Smith and Kari Voutilainen (Philippe Dufour himself lauds the finish of Voutilainen's movements which says alot) and both were amazed by the quality of the finish which both said was something extremely difficult to achieve in "production" pieces.
As to inventions I don't have the list but off the top of my head: VC was the first to create tools for standardising components as to create "serial" production, they invented the first retrograde indication in a wrist watch, they were the first to serially produce a precision time keeper (the Royal Chronometer)...
Its not all to make your own movements and to invent (I can't really think of any major horological breakthrough since Abraham Louis Breguet!!) but your watches need to be beautiful and VC has made some of the most gorgeus watches I have ever seen.
All this to say that in 252 years of history you have ups and downs and VC's main problem was communication, its not enough to have fantastic products and world firsts but you should let the public know it. I'm not saying that VC should become a purely marketing brand but what the hell if "you have it flaunt it" :-)
Just my 2c