I've been thinking about the evolution of standard features in cars, and how things that used to be found only in luxury vehicles have very rapidly made their way down the market. Wireless connectivity, GPS, antilock brakes, antitheft security measures, parking assist... while they obviously haven't all made it to the economy car level (yet), they are ubiquitous as options in mid-level cars.
We've seen this to some extent in watches - sapphire crystals and display case backs are now found at the $300 level or lower - but I'm surprised that other features are still limited despite being seemingly easy to mass-produce. What I'd really like to see make it to the mid and entry-level watches are:
1. Drilled lug holes. Updating tooling and production lines is expensive, but most cases are already mass-produced in China, including from the brands with the "Swiss Made" logo on the dials. Standardizing the cases to having drilled lug holes seems like something whose costs can be minimized via economies of scale.
2. Quick-adjust bracelet clasps. This is still the province of the upper-middle level and higher, but this also seems like the cost can be minimized through mass production. Most companies do not make their own components in-house; they are subcontracting them to be built under their specs, often from the exact same machining companies as their competitors. Standardizing on a few different clasp designs would allow you to improve quality at a low marginal cost.
3. Easy modifications/modularity. Start publishing design specs to allow third-parties to sell their own hands/dials/crystals/etc. and make it easier for customers to modify their watches. The computer industry didn't get to where it is today by IBM deciding what to build for their high-end corporate clients; it happened when a bunch of kids started buying inexpensive hardware and modifying it in their parents' garage. There's been a revolution in small-scale manufacturing which hasn't quite made it to the watch industry. To some extent, this niche has been filled by microbrands, but I feel like there's a future in selling inexpensive, easy-to-mod watches to individuals to muck about with. It's already a hit with the Seiko 5 (which isn't even officially sold outside of Asia); how big can this get if the big players were to actually get behind it?
4. Antimagnetic movements/cases. This is more of a pipe dream, as is represents an engineering challenge on top of a manufacturing one, but the fact that we are all surrounded by electronics these days means that this seems like it should be a priority. How many people spend eight hours a day typing on a laptop keyboard? How many of them then go home and hold their tablets in their left hand for a few more hours? And it's only going to become more and more pervasive over time. Demand for antimagnetic watches is only going to increase; now seems like a good time to start R&D on a cheaper way of implementing it in standard movements, instead of leaving it only to the luxury brands.