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We need to figure out what "better" means.
To me, better for mechanical watches (what most of the enthusiast community is enthused about), they should be more accurate, more durable, more resilient, and better finished. The first three have indeed been realized and you can bet your A. Lange & Sohnes that a low-end watch with an ETA 2824 or 2892 is more accurate, durable, and resilient (to shock for example) than most movements from the 1950's including high end ones. Accuracy can be debated as some vintage watches can indeed be regulated to very high accuracy.

However, the finish of movements in relation to price have not changed much. With modern production methods of stamping and CNC machining, it is arguably easier to have a rough finished movement that still performs very well.

Are they better? No. But they are more durable, tougher, if at the cost of beauty and craft.
 

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watchmakers of the 50s had more accountability and worked with quality materials from well respected manufacturers at a fraction of the price, even after adjusting for inflation. Globalization has made crap readily available to anyone with a computer

I like vintage watches, but the variety of designs of a watches in the 50's aren't really all that diverse. And many if not most watches weren't waterproof or terribly shock proof either. Further I assume most people didn't have a choice of watches apart from mail order or more likely, whatever the local jewelry shop stocked. If you lived in NYC or London - fine, but I think most folks faced a fairly limited choice of wares.

I agree prices suck and there's a fair bit of trash out there (not like there wasn't plenty of a crap watches decades ago as well), but from a collector's perspective, now is probably a better time than ever to be into watches (although I would have loved to have been a collector in the 80's when high end mechanicals could be had for a relative pittance).
 

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I think if you stepped it up from low tier to mid tier you would probably have to hand the win to a modern mid tier watch of today compared to a top of the line watch from the 50s/60s in most cases
 

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Discussion Starter #25
No. In fact, in this throwaway age, I almost feel the converse is true. Put another way, I think it was more common in the past that things were made to last, whereas many things are made to be disposable these days.
You think that Petek or JLC are making less robust watches than they were 75 years ago? I agree that in lower priced watches they dont make them to last, Im sure they calculate the average the consumer usage of the product just like the iphone isn't made to last. But at higher price points I believe (i hope) people intend to keep them (or flip them...)
 

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Discussion Starter #27
In a way its sad.. What makes vintage pieces impressive that they have indeed lasted for so long (survival of the highest finest). But in 50 years from now it may not be so special to "have a watch from 2016".
 

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Depends how low tier you want go to make the comparison. Rolex had stamped metal clasps and hollow end links up to the mid/late 90's that would not be considered acceptable today in a mid priced watch. Even a cheap Casio bracelets have solid end links now. Finishes are better because precision machines and automated production have made cases, dials, hands and bracelets easier and cheaper to manufacture. Not even talking of movements, springs, synthetic oils, improved seals and sapphire crystals which is a recent improvement almost any mid price watch has today.
 

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Of course they're better, that's why "luxury" watches are focused on obsessive polishing, "in house" movements (which offer little/no benefit), sapphire case backs showing a bit of finishing, snazzy applied markers and fancy dial finishes.

It's not so easy these days to differentiate your brand based on the actual qualities that matter i.e. reliable time keeping, robust case and movement like it used to be.
 

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That's a pretty wrong statement about Luxury watches, not all are high polished, with an in house movement and sapphire caseback

Not to mention applying markers isnt about being snazzy, its just the way modern watches are done, for the most part anyways (some still have that cheap looking vintage thing where the markers look like paper)

i truly think if you spend $2000+ on a watch, its probably built to a high enough quality to last a lifetime, but would of course need occasional maintenance
 

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Discussion Starter #31
I have to agree with Curio, I think he drove the point home.
Now days it's so hard to objectively justify what constitutes a "quality" watch that anyone can have their own interpretation of "quality" rather than time keeping, durability, etc as was said above.

What's the differnce between a watch with an ETA 2824 in Tudor, omega or Sinn, and an I Invicta with a 2824? I mean really whats the huge differnce.. the "grade", the polishing...

But we are getting a big off topic. We could compare an Invicta 9937 with a 1940 Rolex submariner.
 

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If you've ever seen a full take down of vintage examples of watches from the old prestigious makers, you'll see the same differences that you see today between them and the middle and lower markets.
Mostly, the differences are still to do with the level of finishing, what gets finished and as far as applicable, choice of materials and methods.

Certainly there have been improvements to shock resistance and further development to materials for balance springs so the outright performance may be better but the production value is still evident and still not matched in modern cheaper products.
 

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I have to agree with Curio, I think he drove the point home.
Now days it's so hard to objectively justify what constitutes a "quality" watch that anyone can have their own interpretation of "quality" rather than time keeping, durability, etc as was said above.

What's the differnce between a watch with an ETA 2824 in Tudor, omega or Sinn, and an I Invicta with a 2824? I mean really whats the huge differnce.. the "grade", the polishing...

But we are getting a big off topic. We could compare an Invicta 9937 with a 1940 Rolex submariner.
That 1940 Rolex is still running. The test will be if the Invicta is still running 75 years from now.
 

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You think that Petek or JLC are making less robust watches than they were 75 years ago? I agree that in lower priced watches they dont make them to last, Im sure they calculate the average the consumer usage of the product just like the iphone isn't made to last. But at higher price points I believe (i hope) people intend to keep them (or flip them...)
Arguably, the level and quality of finishing on a Patek has decreased over the years. The simple fact of the matter is that the number of skilled watchmakers and artisans has decreased dramatically, so the amount of time dedicated to crafting and finishing an entry-level high-end watch has decreased accordingly as the cost of such skilled labor has increased.
 

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I'll take a stab at this since I've owned an 80's Rolex 5513, currently own a 90's plexi Tudor Sub, and have owned several Hong Kong and other micro brands and several entry level Swiss pieces. In my limited experience I would say, very generally, no. The 80's Submariners still seem of higher quality than the typical micro brand. Of course, I can't speak to the genuinely vintage Submariners - those from the 70's and earlier - as I have not spent any time with them.

By quality, I'm going by my own assessment of fit and finish: crown action and alignment, alignment of dial indices, time keeping and the like. I'm not a watch maker so I haven't opened these watches up to inspect the movement and other tolerances.

I have found a great deal of variation in the quality of $400-900 micro brands and entry level Swiss pieces (Victorinox, Bathy's, Hamilton). With micros, I've seen crowns that don't line up, poor crown action, crystals not seated properly, poor dial alignment, etc. I've also seen similar issues with entry-level Swiss pieces, but they generally seem better. Some are better than others. My Zixen Zulu was impeccable but my last Raven had some fit and finish issues.

Finally, at least by what I can discern, my Tudor Pelagos and Nomos Ahoi are head and shoulders above both of the plexi Subs I've owned, never mind the micros and entry level Swiss watches. Having owned many watches, and being a person that's noticed tiny flaws in micros that other WIS have missed, my Pelagos seems as though it was carved by the hand of G-d. I would expect at least as much from modern Rolex, Grand Seiko, JLC et al.
 

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We need to figure out what "better" means.
Exactly! How are we defining better? More durable? More accurate? If that's all we're after wouldn't a G-Shock or a Timex be the answer? For some people it is, but for most watch enthusiast they're after something more and that something more can be very hard to explain let alone quantify.
 

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By quality, I'm going by my own assessment of fit and finish: crown action and alignment, alignment of dial indices, time keeping and the like. I'm not a watch maker so I haven't opened these watches up to inspect the movement and other tolerances.

I have found a great deal of variation in the quality of $400-900 micro brands and entry level Swiss pieces (Victorinox, Bathy's, Hamilton). With micros, I've seen crowns that don't line up, poor crown action, crystals not seated properly, poor dial alignment, etc. I've also seen similar issues with entry-level Swiss pieces, but they generally seem better. Some are better than others. My Zixen Zulu was impeccable but my last Raven had some fit and finish issues.
Bingo. There's a huge amount of variance in quality within the modern "lower tier". We could probably find examples that are better than old-stuff, and a lot of examples that are, still, worse.


And, yes, if we take away subjective aesthetic preferences, and look at the raw capabilities of a watch, then, of course, a G-Shock is objectively better than old-school top tier stuff. Kind of like roaches vs. peacocks: only one of the two will survive a nuclear apocalypse, and it ain't gonna be the blingy bird.
 

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I can buy " 133 " Seiko 5 day/dates for the price of " one " Submariner.

I think the larger companies with highly mechanized robotic production lines are probably turning out a decent watch that will run for a while.
 
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Arguably, the level and quality of finishing on a Patek has decreased over the years. The simple fact of the matter is that the number of skilled watchmakers and artisans has decreased dramatically, so the amount of time dedicated to crafting and finishing an entry-level high-end watch has decreased accordingly as the cost of such skilled labor has increased.
From memory, pics very much say otherwise, though admittedly I've never handled a vintage "Trinity" watch.

Everything is on display today, and the competition has arguably never been steeper. While I think it's more difficult to ascertain the question posed in the OP, I do believe that the best Pateks, Vacherons, Rolexes, etc in terms of average level of finish, accuracy, durability, etc. are made today.
 

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Yesterday's lower tier was pin levers.

So, no.
 
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