Patek Philippe and the Royal Oak Watch Company have indeed put a lot of effort into building their images. They have also gotten slightly (in the case of AP) and considerably (in the case of PP) ahead in terms of "manufacture" status. VC's strength has always been in subtlety and harmony of design.
In the past few years, we have experienced an "SUV-ization" of watches. Much of the market is demanding big, flashy pieces. AP has (from my perspective) sold its soul to provide them, and Patek is certainly trending that way. VC has to a considerable extent resisted the trend; while it is making some bigger watches, they still are not flashy.
This has happened before. If you look at watches from the late '60s and early '70s, you will find some truly god-awful specimens of fashionable excess. They were not made by Vacheron. There certainly are Vacherons that are obviously from that period, but Vacheron generally showed some taste and self-restraint, as a result of which its watches, even when dated, are aesthetically pleasing and quite wearable. I predict that in ten to twenty years many of the more outlandish watches we are seeing now will be relegated to drawers, while the current Vacherons will be worn and prized.
One other point about Vacheron watches: they work. I have noticed far fewer complaints about mechanical issues on the Vacheron forum than on the PP and AP fora.