There is a trend in watches that I hope will not be as predominant as in the Car or Electronics industry. The Japanese invented this and almost everybody else followed. I call this phenomenon "SPECFLATING"; this is inflating specifications and numbers that seem to be eye-catching to the consumer, and use it as a sales-pitch. We have the tendency to pass judgement upon products by placing two spec sheets side by side. We value the data that we think is important. How many times have we collected info on the internet and then compared it side by side? Things get worse when manufacturers tell YOU, what you should think is important and market it accordingly.
An example of this in the car industry are bhp (horsepower). Many people (especially men) tend to judge a cars potential and performance according to that number, at least I used to. Unfortunately we tend to neglect figures such as torque, lateral acceleration, weigh or even aerodynamics (drag-coefficient). Almost anything can be made to look good on paper. When comparing side by side the Japanese cars can emulate European specifications for 20% less money, on paper. Once you test drive both models, things look and certainly feel different. Another example of this can be found amongst European car manufacturers. Some time ago I remember a comparison between a Porsche Carrera 2 and a BMW M3. Two power cars around the Nuerburgring in Germany. Both had almost the same lap times, I am not certain but the M3 was slightly ahead. The significant factor here was that the M3 was 30% cheaper than the Carrera 2. Great value for money? Nope... Specflating? Yep... Why? Easy answer. Both cars where tested as new, yet when the test was repeated after both cars had 60,000 km under the hood... things changed. While the Porsche maintained practically the same lap times, the BMW did not. What made things worse was that the BMW, between its first test and the second test, had the clutch and brake disks replaced due to wear. The Porsche had only an oil change. Bottom line, there are no 9 cent dimes...
The MegaPixel race in the digital camera world is another example. Consumers don't seem to be aware that what is important here is the size and type of the Sensor (CCD or CMOS) that captures the image and not the amount of pixels. In many cases more pixels in the same area means worse quality. This is so because the smaller the light capturing diode of the sensor the worse the quality of the light captured, etc... This becomes apparent when comparing images of a professional 5 megapixel camera with a large Sensor and 10 megapixels compacts with smaller CCDs. The difference in favour of the 5 meg is quiet striking. Sure, the pictures can't be enlarged to that of a 10 megapixel but at regular sizes the 5 megapixels will be simply superior. The goal is to make 10, 12 or 20 megapixel cameras with larger and better performing CCD or CMOS sensors. Am I being unfair comparing a SLR with a point-and-shoot? Not really, what I am trying to convey here is that the general consumer is led to believe that his/her 10 megapixel camera is better than a 5 megapixel camera, regardless if it's a point-and-shoot or an SLR.
Now to our world... There are several controversies arising regarding frequency rates in watch movements. Personally I like that my watch is as accurate as possible, yet being a very critical consumer, (this means that even though I just bought something I do not believe it is the best in the world...) when it comes to watches I favor material quality rater than specifications. I do believe that on the long-run this will be much more favorable for your watch. Personally I would rather have a 18,000 vph movement that will last a long time (200 years if necessary that will have less wear) than a 36,000 vph movement that will burnout sooner. Many of these high-frequency watches will not be able to keep the initial specs over time. Just like F1 engines designed to reach incredible revs but will only last for two races. Which would you choose? In a long term race high frequencies will not be ahead. New materials!.. I hear over there. Yes, that is correct. Like the megapixel race, the right thing to do is to increase specifications (frequencies or megapixels) once new materials permit you to do so. Unfortunately, I am almost certain that once this "war" is declared longevity will not be the concern of "most" manufacturers.