When we look at new models released by Patek Philippe, more often than not the inspiration for the new model comes from a prior reference. From my perspective, to really understand a modern watch one needs to see how it evolved. Take, for example, the 5070 chronograph. When I was at the museum a couple of years ago, the Reference 2512 was highlighted as being the inspiration for the 5070. The 5070 was Patek's first simple manual would chronograph for over 40 years. The introduction of the watch was seen as a very bold move. In the following image, I combine the Reference 2512 split second (believed to be a unique version) and the 5070J, which can be said to be the most directly-related model of the four 5070 metals.
The DNA is not stolen from the past, but borrowed. Look how the sub-indices cut into the numerals. Look at the style of the bezel. The pushers. Yellow gold and black dial. It really is borrowing heavily from the DNA of the past. I thought the above image was fun to reproduce just to show it. Modern Patek Philippe watches are more than the sum of their parts because of the history on which the watches are built. That history plays a big part in giving a watch its character and personality. Patek have been at the horological top table for most of the last 100 years. So, when a modern watch is developed, it owes its perceived status to that rich heritage.
For me, when we look at modern watches and decide to call them "better" or whatever comparative is used, i think we miss the point. Recently, a member here described the 5970 as having a relatively mundane appearance. Its movement was described as relatively uninteresting. Further, it was argued that to go for a 5970 the only reason would be the correct scaling at 18000 beats. To be honest, I think these type of comparatives are slightly inuslting, blinkered and totally missing the point. The 5970 derives its appearance from the 1518 and to some extent the 2499. Patek, themselves, describe the 5970 as a watch with cult status. It has that status, I believe, because the history upon which it was built is so rich. When Patek developed the perpetual calendar chronograph, it led the industry. Indeed, both 2499 and 1518 are still considered by many as essentially the most perfect watches ever made. To have had that durability is quite something. Understanding how history has shaped a watch, then, becomes quite relevant when that history is as important as that of Patek Philippe.
My point here is that many of Patek Philippe's modern watches exist solely because they are an evolution of the past - in the same way that the DB11 is an evolution of the DB5. The DB11 is faster. Safer. With technology and build quality that is far superior to its grandfather. Yet, to make the leap and call it "better" is not something that one does readily.
Instead, perhaps, we should embrace both modern and vintage as inseperable and almost beyond comparatives. Rather than derogation of one or the other, perhaps mutual appreciation of the process of how a modern watch evolved would be a better approach. Each of us has our own "truth" about what a watch should be. That individual "truth" should never be mistaken for a generalised truth.