Watch quality: objective or subjective?

A recent post by @GoingTopShelf talked about 'quality over quantity' in the context of saving up for a more expensive watch rather than buying multiple cheaper watches.

Despite the fact I have another exam in 2 weeks it seemed a completely legitimate use of my time to spend this morning thinking about the question of what actually is a 'quality watch' rather than trying to revise this stuff...

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So when it comes to questions of what is a luxury/expensive/desirable/good watch we as a community (myself included) always tend to say the same thing...

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But is it the same for 'quality'?

My next exam revolves around spirometry (breathing tests). When these tests are performed on patients there are a specific set of quality criteria for the test. If the test does not meet these quality criteria it is not fit for purpose and cannot be used for diagnosis. These criteria are decided by panels of specialists who are much more knowledgeable than I and accepted as having the expertise to decide these criteria.

Can we apply this same principle to watches?

Can quality always be boiled down to well defined criteria such as materials, finishing, the movement, quality control? Are we plebs in a position to decide on such criteria? Or are we exactly the ones to be deciding, since we are the customer?

Should price factor in? Or should we not confuse 'value for money' and 'quality'?

Should the fact I desire this:

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...more than this:

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...play any factor on which is a watch of higher quality to me?

Or are watches closer to art, and so...

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They've been arguing about this for a hundred years and they'll be arguing for another hundred years without end. Let it be.

Wise master dugong departs

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I we wanted quality in a watch, as defined by function and reliability, we would probably all wear solar G-Shocks, or something of that sort. 

I think in the watch world the term quality is used for something else, such as the cleanliness of the movement, the ability to keep precise time with the anachronism that is a mechanical watch, but often also the artisan effort that went into the production of the watch. Because the term "quality" morphed into something different from the start, it will be very hard to define.

So yes, I believe you are right with your last statement, watches are closer to art or fashion.

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reminds me of the old saying: "if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, you will be         disappointed in that fish.'

Objective Quality as it relates to purpose/materials might be one part of the equation . A Vintage dress watch my look incredible but does have to build quality to go saturation diving. Same with materials....Titanium for example , some don't feel "lightweight" cannot equal quality. 

Subjective Quality in terms of aesthetics could be another part. And yeah, that's all about beauty being in the eye of the beholder.  

Lifestyle is a big factor, too. I prefer tool watches over dress watches. There are tons of quality dress watches out there that are gorgeous and well built that I don't get along with because I have no occasion to wear them. 

I guess one more category is price. Some equate price to quality and in some case that is true. I am look at you Moonswatch. There are a few Micro's out there are undeniably quality no matter the criteria and yet some won't consider them because of price or name on the dial. 

The other side of price is "investment" Look, you have to decide for yourself if this is a hobby or a business. Decide which and live your life accordingly. 

There are watches I am "supposed" to love The MM300 for example. Quality is off the charts in construction, movement, lume, etc. Likewise, in the looks department, the hands, the dial, the bezel, the finishing, again everything is top shelf. however, I cannot get it to fit right on my wrist and I have tried. Several times. And as such despite its objective and subjective characteristics being almost universally praised will not have a place in my watchbox.

At the end of the day "the most expensive watch you will ever one is the watch you bought      instead of the watch you wanted." 

have a great day

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TalkingDugong

They've been arguing about this for a hundred years and they'll be arguing for another hundred years without end. Let it be.

Wise master dugong departs

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hbein2022

I we wanted quality in a watch, as defined by function and reliability, we would probably all wear solar G-Shocks, or something of that sort. 

I think in the watch world the term quality is used for something else, such as the cleanliness of the movement, the ability to keep precise time with the anachronism that is a mechanical watch, but often also the artisan effort that went into the production of the watch. Because the term "quality" morphed into something different from the start, it will be very hard to define.

So yes, I believe you are right with your last statement, watches are closer to art or fashion.

So would you say a mechanical watch is always of higher quality than a quartz?

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VegasDancer

reminds me of the old saying: "if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, you will be         disappointed in that fish.'

Objective Quality as it relates to purpose/materials might be one part of the equation . A Vintage dress watch my look incredible but does have to build quality to go saturation diving. Same with materials....Titanium for example , some don't feel "lightweight" cannot equal quality. 

Subjective Quality in terms of aesthetics could be another part. And yeah, that's all about beauty being in the eye of the beholder.  

Lifestyle is a big factor, too. I prefer tool watches over dress watches. There are tons of quality dress watches out there that are gorgeous and well built that I don't get along with because I have no occasion to wear them. 

I guess one more category is price. Some equate price to quality and in some case that is true. I am look at you Moonswatch. There are a few Micro's out there are undeniably quality no matter the criteria and yet some won't consider them because of price or name on the dial. 

The other side of price is "investment" Look, you have to decide for yourself if this is a hobby or a business. Decide which and live your life accordingly. 

There are watches I am "supposed" to love The MM300 for example. Quality is off the charts in construction, movement, lume, etc. Likewise, in the looks department, the hands, the dial, the bezel, the finishing, again everything is top shelf. however, I cannot get it to fit right on my wrist and I have tried. Several times. And as such despite its objective and subjective characteristics being almost universally praised will not have a place in my watchbox.

At the end of the day "the most expensive watch you will ever one is the watch you bought      instead of the watch you wanted." 

have a great day

So if we divided into categories of dive/dress/field... Could we then agree on quality criteria? 

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I actually think quality, unlike the other more subjective factors you mentioned can be objective. I’m a construction project manager and we definitely measure the quality of our construction projects using a variety of different measurements, where the designers/builders must prove that what they do matches the required quality. Everything should be taken into account from whether the designers have taken the building requirements into consideration, the sourcing of materials to basically things like ensuring the concrete is the right strength and hardness before any casting. 
This should be possible for watches to and I bet many brands have their own quality checks. 

This of course does not necessarily have anything to do with desirability, but it can impact performance and longevity. 
Sorry about the ramble hope that made sense short answer yes I think quality is objective, just not sure that with watches it’s essential. 

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Deeperblue

So would you say a mechanical watch is always of higher quality than a quartz?

Quality in the sense of effort that went into the production and regulation of the movement? With maybe the exception of watches based on a Grand Seiko 9F, certain Cartier models, and a few select other watches, yes absolutely. Most quartz movements are mass-produced, require comparatively little assembly, and are utterly reliable and very precise. The quartz watches are also generally also the ugly stepchildren of many manufacturers' offerings. 

Or what I'm trying to say is: Watches are similar to jewelry, so a lot depends on the design and the artisan effort.

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Everything in life is subjective and depends on someone’s perspective…I read that somewhere on a bottle cap…I think it might be Snapple ….

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Quality is one of those thing hard to measure objectively in watches. It’s different for every manufacturer and based on set tolerances. 
 

Some brands like Seiko make so many movement in such a short time that factory regeneration isn’t important as it would add substantial cost and time. Rolex regulates all movements to very high tolerances beyond COSC or METAS. Many high horology brands don’t certify movement accuracy at all as they place more importance on beauty. Doesn’t make one better than the other. 

Watches hold this weird place of both beauty and function for many of us. The guy across the street may use his porcelain Credor to tell people about his station in life, his neighbor bought his Omega Speedmaster to celebrate a new promotion, and the guy around the corner times glue drying in his workshop on a Seiko Chrono. All are ok. 
 

Quality is like trying to quantify pain in a patient. It’s different for everyone. One person’s 6/10 is someone else’s 10/10. That’s why pain is a subjective part of the exam and quality should be too. 

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Whilst not wanting to overcomplicate... there's a third term that I think is actually a better way to use when considering "quality"... 

It's not purely objective

It's not purely subjective

It IS purely relative

i.e. quality can only be assessed relative to agreed criteria and competing choices for those criteria. So San Martin / Cronos make amazing quality watches... relative to most of the other sh*t on Aliexpress (AND to be fair most swiss and japanese offerings under $500) in terms of materials and finishing. 

A G-shock is great quality against a need for indestructibility relative to higher end swiss tool watches. 

A Tudor is better quality relative to most of its peers in the 2-4k price bracket when it comes to bracelet and case-finishing and movement spec. 

Them's my musings anyway 👍

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Let me preface this by saying that I am clearly a quantity over quality collector. I will have 30 watches that cost as much as a mid-priced Tudor because I value the variety of wearing experiences over the "sure thing" of the Tudor. It is a subjective choice, I suppose. There are a few here that are both quality and quantity collectors, those two preferences are not necessarily opposed, it is just that combining the two is beyond the reach of most.

The "it is all subjective" crowd fails to do any analysis whatsoever. They are not interested in the discussion. Answers to some of the questions raised may make them uncomfortable. Easier to retreat to the "is what it is" form of fatalistic non-answer.

The "objective quality" folks overlook that some of their "objective" benchmarks contain subjective elements. If you like gold in your watch then a two tone Datejust is "objectively" a good watch. If you don't I will never convince you to own one.

What we pretentiously refer to as "our journey" is really just the very normal evolution of our tastes as we age and mature. We started out listening to the Bangles and now we prefer a Shostakovich string quartet. Our tastes may have evolved but the feeling that we get from the music is the same. If you liked Manic Monday when you were 12 you will always like it.

Watches are less like art or cars then shoes. They are a good that can be measured by hallmarks that can be designated as "quality" but cost will still be the primary consideration. We can make a very rational choice of cheap flip-flops over more expensive and better made Birkenstocks. And eventually we may choose both.

And as to the question as to why one would choose a vintage Constellation over a modern Rolex, one only has to look to Microsoft Word. We have all watched as Word has offered more and more features to be able to do more for word processing and publishing.  However, these "improvements" have also worked to make the program more clumsy and counter-intuitive. Functions that used to be readily accessible are now hidden behind multiple menu dropdowns. I don't want to read a manual to know how to access a function on my watch. I want to set it, wind it or shake it and go. That's why some of us think that watch design peaked 50 years ago. All that was left to do was to complicate the watch and add functions. The evolution of watch design gave us the most readable and simplest dials in the 1960's. Form and function came together only to later diverge again. There have been posts praising the new Nomos release. Nomos issued a three hander with a even numeral distribution. This style of dial is eighty years old. Will we praise them again when they issue a model with just stick indices, a style that is sixty years old?

It is what it is, I guess.

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I believe like @Matt84 quality of watches can be measured objectively. One trick is to decide what quality parameters to be used.

But I don’t buy my watches from a quality scale. For me they are jewels or toys. Naturally I want good enough quality without having measuring methods to verify it. It’s a combination of price, aquired knowledge and recommendations.

Like you I can appreciate a patinad or tropical dial a lot but it’s definetaly not a quality parameter on the plus side. Modern dressier pieces I’m sure is of better quality than vintage. But there are very few I’m attracted to. I can also as in your Submariner sample appreciate an older version by it’s look but I have a modern one. In this case, comparing the two, I’m sure all can agree that the quality of a modern Sub is objectively of better quality compared to an old version. But how desirable they are is all subjective.

Good luck with your exam.

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Aurelian

Let me preface this by saying that I am clearly a quantity over quality collector. I will have 30 watches that cost as much as a mid-priced Tudor because I value the variety of wearing experiences over the "sure thing" of the Tudor. It is a subjective choice, I suppose. There are a few here that are both quality and quantity collectors, those two preferences are not necessarily opposed, it is just that combining the two is beyond the reach of most.

The "it is all subjective" crowd fails to do any analysis whatsoever. They are not interested in the discussion. Answers to some of the questions raised may make them uncomfortable. Easier to retreat to the "is what it is" form of fatalistic non-answer.

The "objective quality" folks overlook that some of their "objective" benchmarks contain subjective elements. If you like gold in your watch then a two tone Datejust is "objectively" a good watch. If you don't I will never convince you to own one.

What we pretentiously refer to as "our journey" is really just the very normal evolution of our tastes as we age and mature. We started out listening to the Bangles and now we prefer a Shostakovich string quartet. Our tastes may have evolved but the feeling that we get from the music is the same. If you liked Manic Monday when you were 12 you will always like it.

Watches are less like art or cars then shoes. They are a good that can be measured by hallmarks that can be designated as "quality" but cost will still be the primary consideration. We can make a very rational choice of cheap flip-flops over more expensive and better made Birkenstocks. And eventually we may choose both.

And as to the question as to why one would choose a vintage Constellation over a modern Rolex, one only has to look to Microsoft Word. We have all watched as Word has offered more and more features to be able to do more for word processing and publishing.  However, these "improvements" have also worked to make the program more clumsy and counter-intuitive. Functions that used to be readily accessible are now hidden behind multiple menu dropdowns. I don't want to read a manual to know how to access a function on my watch. I want to set it, wind it or shake it and go. That's why some of us think that watch design peaked 50 years ago. All that was left to do was to complicate the watch and add functions. The evolution of watch design gave us the most readable and simplest dials in the 1960's. Form and function came together only to later diverge again. There have been posts praising the new Nomos release. Nomos issued a three hander with a even numeral distribution. This style of dial is eighty years old. Will we praise them again when they issue a model with just stick indices, a style that is sixty years old?

It is what it is, I guess.

Great read, big man. Found myself nodding all the way through 

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As said before, the quantity of a ($500-$1000) watch is as good as any watch.  From that point on it becomes an investment or jewelry.   Generally I would agree with that.