Over my 40 + years in the bicycle industry, my goal has been to search for quality - not in just the product but in the company behind the product. Today it has become more difficult, as most companies no longer make their own stuff. Furthermore, they are often located thousands of miles away from the people who do. When I worked for Tom Ritchey, who is one of the most brilliant designers in the industry, I noticed that he had problems with accurate “quality control” regarding his manufacturers.
All the companies listed below do make their own stuff. They are also small enough to allow me to be in contact with their process. Since I have been with them for years, we have built mutual trust in the relationship.
For hubs I build with Phil Wood, White Industries, and DT Swiss. For my wheel designs I find these hubs to be the best choice. Each brand has its advantages, depending on the design. Phil Wood is the best choice for conditions requiring first and foremost dependability, durability and ease of repair. All Phil Wood hubs can be taken apart and reassembled in minutes - which is important if you are touring in a third world country. Phil Wood also has top quality bearings for low rolling resistance and energy saving efficiency. Phil Wood has the best finish and the most color choices.
DT Swiss in my experience is the best choice for performance with a classic design. The top 3 hubs (190C, 240S and 340 classic) have the best quality bearings and seals, the most innovative efficient drive system (Hugi), and are light weight. DT also has the best price points for the hubs I use. DT is a Swiss-German company which therefore is more focused on function than looks; the finish is good, but nothing compared to Phil Wood and White Industries.
White Industries is my second choice for performance use. They also have the advantage of more design possibilities with more spoke drills and color choices (silver and black) and a Phil Wood quality finish. White Industries also has innovative cranks, bottom brackets, pedals and the best single speed free wheels available.
All 3 brands have designs for road, off road, single speed and tandem bikes. DT is made in Switzerland; Phil Wood and White Industries in CA, USA. Nothing from China!
For rims I recommend DT Swiss, Mavic, and Velocity. All suit my classic design requirements.
DT rims have the best quality material, and quality control. They build up quicker with the best even tension and trueness. DT rims have the fewest spoke drill choices and like the hubs an adequate finish. DT engineers say anodizing makes the rims and hub flanges "brittle" so they prefer to use quality powder coat.
Mavic is second in quality, quality control, and finish, as they use anodizing with silver, black and the hard anodized CD dark gray.
Velocity has adequate quality material and quality control but the most variety in design and color possibilities. Try to find a decent 20 inch recumbent wheel anywhere else.
DT Swiss spokes are the best quality and have the best availability. Most of the North and South American market spokes are made in Grand Junction, CO.
All of these brands are available to me direct from the manufacturer so I receive excellent service and warranty attention. They all allow me to handle my own warranty issues instead of having to ask my customers to send the wheel back to them for replacement and build. If I say the part is defective they usually send a replacement.