At the present time, the vast majority of high grade mechanical watches are equipped with automatic movements. The hand wound mechanical movement represents a relatively small % of most companies' total production. For example, well over 90% of Rolex watches are automatics. The Rolex Cellini models are manual winds. Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin still make a significant number of hand wound movements. The Patek 215 for example is still made and is used in a number of basic Patek Philippe watches including the 5196 and 5119 Calatrava models. Interestingly, Patek recently discontinued its ultra-thin manual wind 3520 model which was equipped with the caliber 177 movement which was not a Patek-designed movement.
Vacheron still makes watches equipped with its ultra-thin 1003 manual wind movement. Additionally, Breguet, Blancpain, A. Lange, and even IWC, Zenith, Omega (the classic Speedmaster Professional) and Panerai make manual wind watches. Other companies like Breitling seem to have virtually abandoned the manual wind movement for movements equipped with automatic winding systems. Although the original Navitimer and Cosmonaut were manual wind.
As to which is better, there is no answer. Many of the best watches in the world are manual winds including most minute repeaters and toubillons and many high end chronographs including Patek Philippe's 3970, 5970 and 5004 perpetual calendar chronographs as well as Vacheron's Patrimony Traditionnelle Chronograph model 47192 as well as the ultra complicated Patrimony Traditionnelle Calibre 2755 which includes both tourbillon and minute repeater complications.
Interestingly, other than Rolex, the majority of women's high end watches are equipped with quartz movements. Patek Philippe's production is about 25% quartz movements and virtually all of these are for women's watches including the ladies' Nautilus and Twenty-Four models.
Many of the best watches in the world are manual winds including most minute repeaters and toubillons and many high end chronographs including Patek Philippe's 3970, 5970 and 5004 perpetual calendar chronographs as well as Vacheron's Patrimony Traditionnelle Chronograph model 47192 as well as the ultra complicated Patrimony Traditionnelle Calibre 2755 which includes both tourbillon and minute repeater complications.
what confuses me however is the following.......is the watch one of the best by virtue of Name Brand but keeps unreliable time OR is it the fact that manual watches are amongst the worlds best by virtue of the fact that they keep such reliable time?
If the latter I am amazed as I would have quickly predicted that an automatic movements would keep better time than manual winding so again is it the manual wind that is so accurate that makes the watch "best"
BTW, I think a great daily thread which could be on going is to have you post one photo per day of a watch going by either make,movement (manual wind, self wind, automatic) or by vintage to present era or by your choice. I would bet that thread would be our longest ongoing thread. I hope you consider Alex because I bet our members would love such a thread (I would)
In response to Steve's question/comment, it is impossible to generalize that a manual wind movement is better than an automatic because it depends on the movement in question. There are cheap and expensive and high and low quality nmanual wind movements. And the same applies to automatics. Both have their attributes as well as their detractions.
Moreover, a name/ brand /trademark does not necessarily mean the watch/movement is of high quality.
Here is a link to an article about the Rolex Exporer by Walt Odets that is worth reading:
Jewels are used to reduce friction between moving parts/pivot points in a watch. Today, most jewels are synthetic rather than natural. A good hand-wound mechanical time only wristwatch should have at least 17 jewels. Most Patek Philippe manual wind watches have 18 jewels. Most automatic watches have more.