Sunday Morning Showdown: Grand Seiko SBGW295 Vs. Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Monoface Small Seconds
In our Sunday Morning Showdown series, two writers go head to head in an epic showdown for the ages. Strong opinions and hysterical hyperbole are welcome (so feel free to join in with the fun in the comments section below). And don’t forget to let us know which watches you’d like to see torn to shreds/effusively exalted next week. We’ll try to feature as many of our readers’ choices as possible. Today’s showdown is about stylish wristwatches for the elegant connoisseur — the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Monoface Small Seconds against the Grand Seiko SBGW295.
In today’s showdown, our writers aim to class up the joint from the previous rough ‘n’ ready timepieces in previous editions. While you could call today’s opponents “dress watches” or argue that the concept doesn’t exist, you can’t deny these are elegant wristwatches. But neither the Grand Seiko nor Jaeger-LeCoultre offerings are quintessential pairings for cocktail attire. Instead, the watches represent a subtle lineage of decades of manufacturing might, inspiring national pride and dedication to arts and creativity. The Grand Seiko SBGW295 showcases 110 years of development since the first Japanese-produced wristwatch and echoes the more contemporary style of the first Grand Seiko from 1960. On the other hand, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Small Seconds takes us back to the early 1930s with its elegant and iconic presence. Which one will win? You decide, so read on and vote below.
Through the looking glass…box
Before we slide into today’s topic, it’s time to announce the winner of last week’s showdown. Billing it as “a battle between two iconic chronographs” was perhaps tongue in cheek. Anything that faces the Fratello-favorite Speedmaster is going to have a tough fight. As it so happens, last week was no different. Though the Speedy achieved 72% of the votes, 28% for the TAG Heuer Carrera Glassbox is nothing to be scoffed at, and Daan fought his corner well. Even if the polls suggest the Speedmaster has the upper hand, some of the comments concede the TAG Heuer Carrera revives some welcome vintage cues:
“Nevertheless, I’m impressed by the Glass Box.
Even if I don’t need a date indicator, I like the position at 12.
The price is recognizable in today’s landscape, and the size is a clear advantage.” – MAFRAZEL
With that, let’s begin today’s battle.
Ben: Grand Seiko SBGW295
When choosing the watch to rep, the Grand Seiko SBGW295 was a knee-jerk reaction. Dropping at the top of this year, this model simultaneously pays homage to the first-ever Japanese wristwatch and the first-ever Grand Seiko. I must admit, I had to read and reread the first paragraph of Brandon’s article several times to understand the inspiration. “So it’s commemorating one watch in anniversary terms, but the design of another?” I thought. I get that the 110-year-old styling may not be as relevant as the swinging ’60s (although that didn’t stop me from buying a revived watch design from 1917 as my wedding watch). But combining two sets of inspirations 50 years apart seemingly creates a mixed aesthetic. The results, however, speak for themselves — this Grand Seiko is drop-dead gorgeous.
I have to let you in on a little secret, Jorg. As much as I appreciate the creativity and innovation of Grand Seiko and repeatedly wax lyrical in our Sunday Morning Showdowns, I rarely find the watches, dare I say, sexy. I know I shouldn’t describe watches this way; you won’t find the term in a press release. But as a red-blooded male, I can’t help this lustful appeal to specific designs. The Patek Philippe 2499, Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Sphérotourbillon Moon, Omega Speedmaster Silver Snoopy, and many more watches feature on that beating-heart-inducing scale. Yet never did a Grand Seiko feature on that list…until this year.
Chief of the reasons why the SBGW295 achieves this primal response is the combination of the black dial and gold indices. I know you like the combo of black and gold, Jorg, but I am doing this a disservice. The black urushi lacquer dial appears jet black, and the gentle curve has this natural, stone-like appearance. I also get a shark’s-eye influence, or as Quint says in Jaws (1975), “…lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye.” The lacquer and expertise in applying the indices are sourced from Japan. Each lacquer application builds up the indices layer by layer for the 3D effect. To top it off is the 24K enameled gold maki-e treatment that blends each hour index with the curvature of the dial.
The polished cylindrical seconds hand also bends to follow the curve of the dial, symbolizing the symbiosis of the SBGW295’s creation. Accentuating the black sheen dial is the 38mm Brilliant Hard Titanium case, which is resistant to corrosion and scratches. The case also shines brighter than typical gray titanium, possibly thanks to the Zaratsu polishing that appears even more reflective. While the manual-winding 9S64 is a non-Hi-Beat movement with a 28,880vph frequency, the jewels and finishing are still lovely to view via the sapphire case back. With a 72-hour power reserve and accuracy between +5 and -3 seconds daily, the beating heart provides commendable specs to drive the beautiful dial side. Jorg, I’m smitten, so take it away with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Small Seconds.
Jorg: Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Monoface Small Seconds
I will let you in on a secret, too, Ben: dress watches hardly ever get my heart beating faster. I gravitate more to sports and tool pieces in the vast world of watches. But as a design nerd, one watch in the realm of dress watches stands out. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso is a creation that celebrates the Art Deco style beautifully. It’s a unique testament to the time it was conceived without being too defined by it. During Watches and Wonders last month, the Reverso Tribute line made headlines. Out of the new offerings, I pick the white-dialed Reverso Tribute Monoface Small Seconds in stainless steel for this week’s Showdown — a wonderful celebration of the original design in its most pure form.
Some basic specs of the new Reverso Tribute Monoface Small Seconds
We’re used to the three color versions of the same watch in blue, red, and green. Especially the green version was a Fratello favorite that Lex reviewed in 2021. But seeing the new silver-dial version had me realizing this is the perfect classic aesthetic. Other than the dial, this new model is technically the same watch. It comes with a stainless steel case that measures 45.6mm × 27.4mm × 8.5mm and is water resistant to 3ATM. The hand-wound caliber 822/2 is comprised of 108 components, beats at 21,600vph, and has a 45-hour power reserve. As a result, the watch brings nothing new to the table except for its dial. The new gold versions that Jaeger-LeCoultre released feature a slimmer case that is now 7.56mm thick compared to the 8.5mm thickness stainless steel version.
But despite being “just” a new version of a familiar model, it did surprise me. I don’t usually get excited about white or silver dials, but the combination of the silver opaline dial with the black nickel-finished hands and indexes is something else. We are used to seeing applied polished silver hour markers gracing the dial, but the combination with the black nickel hands and indexes is a winner. It’s a wonderful design twist that makes you look twice because it is out of the ordinary but not drastically different. I love the contrast with the dial and the overall contemporary feel of the face of this new model.
It’s all about the design details
It’s the details that I love about the Reverso that make this a winner over your Grand Seiko. If you are a fan of mechanisms, the Grand Seiko is sublime. As you know, Ben, I greatly appreciate Grand Seiko’s technical wizardry and incredible craftsmanship. And you’re right in saying that I love the combination of black and gold. No question, Grand Seiko has done an exceptional job creating this dial. But taking a little sidestep and looking at the dial of the Reverso Tribute Monoface Small Seconds in rose gold and black makes my heart beat out of my chest. The Grand Seiko “First” design is very straightforward. Yes, the dial is stunning, the movement superior, and the levels of craftmanship exceptional, but it lacks the character to make it a must-have.
The Reverso Tribute is a matter of the right style and story
However, I do get that must-have feeling from the Reverso Tribute Small Seconds. Besides the combination of colors and materials, the case and dial design are brilliant. With its rectangular railroad track, perfectly integrated small seconds, sharp indexes, and dauphine hands, the dial design is proportioned and a feast for the eyes. It feels right with a dial supported by the characteristic rectangular case design and three grooves at the top and bottom. You also can’t forget the flip mechanism that gives the Reverso its name and makes it an icon. This is the watch that I prefer out of the two, and the details only add to its glory.
Notice, for instance, how the striped pattern reveals itself when you flip the watch, how the crown also contrasts beautifully with the rounded case sides, and how the lugs have such a beautiful design. They are simple but graceful and match the case perfectly, resulting in one of the best statements. And then there is the proud Jaeger-LeCoultre logo on the dial as a testament to the proud Swiss watchmaking tradition. This watch will save you roughly €4K compared to the Grand Seiko. Not to mention that Grand Seiko and Seiko keep limiting the editions of the watches we want — something you don’t have to worry about with the new silver-dial Reverso Tribute Monoface Small Seconds.
Time to vote!
There you have it, folks — another Sunday-morning battle with two popular timepieces going toe to toe for the win! Will the new tribute to the first Grand Seiko get your vote? Or are you a fan of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso? Make sure to vote for your choice below, and let us know why you also picked it in the comments. See you next week for another installment of Sunday Morning Showdown!