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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Over the past 6 years, my small collection has gone through quite a few changes, moving from pieces in the $100-300 range, into the $2000-6000 range.

One thing that hasn't changed is the ability of minor flaws (and sometimes major ones) to take away my enjoyment of the specific piece. Playing in the price range area I am now, I demand the piece to be as close to perfect with the naked eye as possible, after all, the way your company's marketing material talks about the 50 steps of inspection has made me come to expect it especially when I am buying luxury goods. This has led me more recently to being burnt out and taking a break from looking for my next watch as I feel like I am forcing it.

My first foray into the luxury arena was a Tag Heuer WAK2110 ceramic bezel Aquaracer. Back then (only 4 years ago) my personal inspection process consisted of basically making sure the main bezel pip lined up at 12. If it didn't, I wasn't buying it. Luckily everything on this watch lines up perfectly, including every marker, all the text, the bezel, and all the date numbers. There are no marks on the hands, no particles on the dial, it keeps great time with the Sellita movement, the crown has not stripped its threads etc..

My second purchase to celebrate my first fathers day and to be handed down hopefully when my son has his first child was a Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39, the newer model with the gray dial and light blue markers. This begins the spiral. Now, by this point (1 year ago), my personal inspection consisted of checking that the indices lined up straight with the minute markers. This one was bezel-less so no issue with that. So then I am wearing it a few days after purchase, and in the sunlight I see white specs all over the dial. I clean the crystal multiple times, but nope, these are under the crystal on the dial. I just paid almost $6k for this watch, and Rolex for all their claims of perfection, couldn't see these with a loupe under what I assume are bright desk lamps? The watch was sent back to Rolex and fixed, it took three weeks, and it marred the enjoyment of the purchase.

Now, more recently I had been looking at purchasing another dive watch, something with color. I checked out some Oris, some of which had crooked indices, or crooked printing on the dial.

But, I had been eyeing a Bremont Supermarine S500 in a Tourneau for a while. Finally, the price was right and my wife and I were ready to pull the trigger. Cue the pre-purchase inspection, which now included cycling through all the dates/days, making sure the indices and bezel lined up, checking the text alignment, and shining a flashlight on it to check for particles under the crystal. So, what do I find on this watch which I was about to spend a few thousand dollars on? Both the date, and day of the week have printing issues, as well as dust under the crystal. It would have been under warranty, and I could have possibly got them all fixed, but who wants to send an expensive watch off to get fixed right after purchase, and who knows if it will come back in proper order. So I decided against it.

Ok, that purchase didn't work out, but next on my radar, only a few weeks later, a Nomos. They had new models in bright colors, display casebacks, high water resistance perfect for a vacation, beach, pool, fun watch. I've also been reading about Nomos, and all their quality control steps, so this one for sure won't have any issues. I order online as sourcing Nomos in person for a good price is hard, but I am stressing big time over if it will have problems. I get the watch, all looks good, until I look at it from an angle. The minute hand looks bent upwards and almost, if not touching the underside of the crystal, not level with the dial. Surely, I must be seeing things. So I cycle through the time and I see that both the hour and minute hand angle up in certain spots on the dial and down on certain spots on the dial, and will move in those directions when pulling the crown out or pushing it. So back it went for a refund. I am not dealing with a $3k watch with hands that couldn't be aligned parallel to the dial or are even loose and sending it back to Germany right after purchase.

So there you have it. Two purchases, one of which soured my father's day, the other which soured me on a brand and online purchase in general. One near purchase of a watch I had liked for years. When we are buying watches, especially those which cost multiple thousands (I wouldn't accept some of these issues on a $200 Seiko), a device which doesn't tell time any better than a $50 g-shock (my g-shock is perfect and has been going on 8 years with the original battery), these issues to me are unacceptable. Anything that can be seen with the naked eye, which takes me a couple minutes to see if that should never leave the factory.
 

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I've been facing the same issues a number of times, albeit in the 1-2K range, with brands like Perrelet (dust particles under the crystal), Frederique Constant (oxidized seconds hand), Eterna (hands not advancing correctly), Longines (bezel jammed soon after purchase) etc.
It is probably a fact of life that perfection simply does not exist.
To avoid the frustration of discovering small but irritating imperfections I am simply buying used watches. And it doesn't really annoy me that much if/when I add new scratches myself.
 

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There seems to be a trend among watch forum owners to more closely inspect their new purchases. This doesn't mean that the makers are all putting out junk, just that those few watches getting out less than "ad copy" perfect are now being discovered. It's like discovering a new virus - it's been out there for who knows how long, putting a name on it and then specifically testing for it reveals it's spread - or that it's simply been there all along.

A lot of those higher end watches that were less than representative have likely been out there, it's now a process of looking for them and we see the issues. We simply didn't care as much in the past, and we didn't have the internet to share with a mass audience.

This is putting a lot more pressure on makers who are now having to approach final assembly and QC with more restrictive standards. I'm not sure how many use the "clean room" with suits and masks approach, but continued reports of dust under crystals will prompt a much closer inspection of how it's happening. I've worked in an assembly room with dedicated HVAC because humidity was actually a fire hazard to the chemicals involved. It's not cheap. Some of those makers have a long history of tradition in how they operate and it's not easy to change.

Then again - are we asking too much? There is a lot to say about factory produced art vs the single composition artist - we see the former in motel rooms, the latter in the Louvre. Do we want perfectly assembled watches with absolutely no contact with human hands in their construction? We already have to deal with machine stamped parts and robotic assembly, the last frontier of provenance is knowing that the maker actually drops the works into the case and tightens the screwback. On high end watches it's supposed to be actual hand work of the sort that costs money.

Anybody can find nice clean quartz Timex's free of dust. They are reportedly assembled just like computers, dust free, masks, gloves, etc.

I think I'd like a $6000 hand decorated and chased product of a watch making company to be more individual and show the touch of humans. If that takes a speck of dust, fine. Even more so, the marks of each person who participated in the assembly, like the proofs we used to see in watch cases for silver or gold content, etc.

There's a lot to say about which is better - robotic assembled perfection vs the marks of skilled craftsmen using their hands. Do we want expensive watches to be the result of highly complex machinery motions, or the talents of a team of artisans?

I'm reminded of Native Americans who reputedly included a deliberate flaw in their work - as they felt it was offensive to their higher deities to produce perfection. That provenance is what now separates the originals from the fakes - machine made goods are always governed with the standard of reducing errors to the absolute minimum. A perfect Navaho artifact with no blemishes is considered a fake by experts.

It's the same with other items, factory produced vs bespoke. Two chairs of similar style will sell for a much different price when one came out by the tens of thousands, the other the limited expression on one craftsman producing a few hundred.

If we really want to celebrate the human endeavor of hand made and hand assembled watches of rare provenance, maybe we should then tolerate the artifacts of that heritage and stop insisting they be factory perfect. Which would be more valuable to you - one of ten thousand perfectly rendered Mona Lisa's, or the original?

One of one hundred thousand Timex watches, or one of a few hundred Omegas? I'll take a speck of dust in the latter every day.

Lets be careful what we ask for, or the handiwork of humans will completely disappear in the new AI controlled manufactory of the future.
 

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It's the same with other items, factory produced vs bespoke. Two chairs of similar style will sell for a much different price when one came out by the tens of thousands, the other the limited expression on one craftsman producing a few hundred.
However, the point of luxury is attention to detail, - especially when things cost more than some people make in a year.
Difference between the craftsman's personal touch is imperfection in, let's say, the manner in which a pattern or relief is executed. It can also be argued that it's striving to attain better-than-machine perfection by hand. Sloppiness doesn't come into it, it is not excusable (unless there is deliberate roughness).
This also does not apply to antiques, since the rules get murky there (I am sure someone more knowledgeable can enlighten us on the criteria of acceptability).

I agree with the OP. If that is OCD, well, watchmaking itself with that perfectionism and details is an OCD-enabling activity. And thank you for posting, it will remind me to check more things carefully.
 

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... And you think Rolex and Bremont are assembled by hand? Some blokes or girls hunching on watch maker tables meticolously installing hands? I am unsure bout Bremont but Rolex are assembled on line by robots

The problem is: prices of watches have gone up insanely over the years and yet no particular reason for it. No major innovation no "technical achievement" that you can think of (unless 2 mm larger case or higher power reserve are breaktrough) but... Marketing. Endorsement. It sucks money. So in the end you have dust under the hood but logo at prime time sports event...just the way it goes
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
... And you think Rolex and Bremont are assembled by hand? Some blokes or girls hunching on watch maker tables meticolously installing hands? I am unsure bout Bremont but Rolex are assembled on line by robots

The problem is: prices of watches have gone up insanely over the years and yet no particular reason for it. No major innovation no "technical achievement" that you can think of (unless 2 mm larger case or higher power reserve are breaktrough) but... Marketing. Endorsement. It sucks money. So in the end you have dust under the hood but logo at prime time sports event...just the way it goes
Actually, Rolex are assembled by hand.
 
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I am not sure about the Rolex question but I do know a bit about robotic manufacturing. Robotic machines are very expensive to purchase upfront and begin using for manufacturing. The details that they can get right, if programmed correctly, are usually at a higher level than humans can achieve. The robots require regular maintenance but they don't call in sick much nor do they require vacation days. The prices that we would be paying without robotic processes involved would be cost prohibitive and would keep most of us out of the hobby.

Please notice the discreet caveat that I added about the robots being programmed correctly. They can achieve tasks like lining up indices, repeatedly accurately applying luminous paint, making calendar dates center in the date window and all of the other myriad of details that drive us nuts about our watches. Jmho.
Kevin
 

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Oh really? Over 1 million per year?
Ford Motor Company assembled 10,000 Model T cars a day in 1925.
Rolex has a state of the art assembly line and logistics system.
3900 watches per day assembled by hand is not a big deal, (1,000,000 watches / 261 working days a year).
If they have just 500 employees that works out to about 1 watch assembled per employee per hour in a 8 hour day.
 

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Yeah, I would just ignore the thousands upon thousands that have been sold flawless and just stay sour of a brand.
 

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Oh really? Over 1 million per year?
With the exception of the Swatch Sistem51, all mechanical movements involve some hand assembly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Pretty much says it all in a few words.
And yet, it was the only watch that was perfect. So what do you consider a luxury watch, if something that has a price of $2k-3k from a well known brand is not.
 
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