I used to think so, and still do to certain extent
I mean, with the price we are paying for watches these days, the least they can do is have something unique about the movement, no ?
Recently I have started to question this.
It was brought home to me, when someone said their new Tudor Blackbay had simply stopped working after 6 months, and they had to send it to Tudor under guarantee.
Now I am not saying that Tudor's mechanisms are bad or there is any systemic issue. This is probably just a one off which can occur in any watch brand. Last year I received a watch with an ETA GMT movement and it was DOA. Although frankly I blame the watch brand more then ETA for not checking properly before they sent out ....
But it does make you think
Movements which have proved their worth over time, for example, the ETA 2924, 7750, the Rolex 3131, 3132, Zenith El Primero, etc. there is something to say about the fact that these things really have lasted the test of time, and can be shown to have run for 70 years with servicing.
New silicon balance springs are probably ok !! but what about escarpments which trade smoothness over reliability ? New materials which have not stood the test of time, finer tolerances, as opposed to over engineering in the old days, to bring down costs or make the reserves longer ?
Are the new Tudor, Breitling, Tag Heuer 02 movements not just a reaction to the overcrowded watch market, where manufacturers need to differentiate themselves more and also a reaction to ETA stopping ebauche supply to non-subsidiaries ?
Effectively, whatever modern innovations there have been, like the internal combustion engine, the mechanisms we use today are essentially the same we the first pocket watch mechanisms before the 20th century. Yes, there have been tweaks, but very marginal.
Its difficult to know, in functionality stakes, apart from the inner working craziness of some of the tourbillons or manufacturers like Richard Mille, what more we actually want. In fact there has been a reverse fashion of complications in the last 10 years, many now favouring even no-date dials. Perhaps the length of reserve is the last frontier. But frankly anything that gets me through the weekend is good enough. I have manuals winds and really don't mind winding occasionally.
I am told, BTW, that manually winding your automatic watch full every week, makes it more accurate. I guess it depends on the manufacturer ?
The move from 40 to 70 hour movements has been more a result of computer aided design and the shaving off of weight and tiny modifications. The reduction in cost for certain movements has been the move to lower cost parts and automated machining. In fact, IMHO, one of the best movements today is in the £115 automatic Swatches. Its completely machine made, not sure even if any human hand touches it. Also it has moved to 70 hours. A real achievement. Will it last 50 years ? probably not but if it did that would be very interesting ...
In conclusion, I now have a more a more nuanced view. There is value in movements which have stood the test of time. My latest watch is a Rolex with a 3131. Perhaps I will let others test out some of the 5-10 day reserve movements for the next 10 years and see how they settle in ....