Sunday Morning Showdown: Zenith Chronomaster Sport Vs. Grand Seiko Tentagraph
Welcome to another edition of Sunday Morning Showdown. Today, two editors go toe to toe with two watches of a similar persuasion. Expect no holds barred as these writers vie for your votes to be crowned the winner. In this fight, we have two high-beat chronographs with automatic calibers. The Zenith Chronomaster Sport is going up against the Grand Seiko SLGC001 Tentagraph. Both watches have spectacular movements, but which one will take the crown? Our writers are ready, so let’s get this battle going.
Today’s showdown is an interesting clash between two brands that are known for producing amazing high-beat movements. It’s been only three months since Grand Seiko unveiled the Tentagraph, which was met with praise. The all-new SLGC001 Tentagraph is the brand’s first all-mechanical chronograph and part of the brand’s Evolution 9 collection. It goes up against the Zenith Chronomaster Sport that was introduced in 2021. Initially dubbed the “Zaytona” by skeptics, the watch quickly gained the respect of many watch enthusiasts. And it too comes with a high-beat chronograph movement but one that can accurately measure 1/10th of a second. So it’s definitely about more than just looks. Can it beat the Grand Seiko Tentagraph? We’ll find out.
Last week on Sunday Morning Showdown…
But first, let’s take a look at last week’s battle between the Breitling Navitimer B02 Cosmonaute and the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch. It will come as no surprise that the Moonwatch crushed the Cosmonaute, taking a total of 72% of the votes against the Breitling’s 28%. Although it might not be a surprise, the margin is quite impressive, actually, and in the comments section, the battle seemed a lot more balanced. Then again, the votes don’t lie, and they showed that the Navitimer B02 Cosmonaute is no match for the Moonwatch. With that settled, it’s time to hand it over to Robert-Jan and Jorg. Will Jorg’s Chronomaster Sport win against Robert-Jan’s Tentagraph? Gentlemen, take it away!
Jorg: Zenith Chronomaster Sport
Straight off the bat, I have to voice my admiration for the Grand Seiko SLGC001 Tentagraph, just as I did in the introduction article. The angular lines of the case shape, the beautiful blue dial, and the wonderful movement make for a great-looking chronograph. But it’s also a rather big and chunky one. As I said in my article, I really wished that Grand Seiko had made the Tentagraph a bit smaller. At 43.2mm in diameter and 15.3mm thick, it’s a sizable slab of titanium. That’s nothing to be scared of necessarily, but I would want my almost-€15K chronograph to be the right size, at least. And that would be the main reason it’s a pass for me. At €11,800, the Zenith Chronomaster Sport does offer what I would want from my high-beat chronograph.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have any reservations when the Zenith Chronomaster Sport came out. During the product presentation, Zenith’s representatives uncomfortably pulled out three glorious watches from the brand’s archives that the Chronomaster Sport’s design was supposedly based on. At first, this design did not feel like a construct of three historical Zenith timepieces at all but a Rolex Daytona-mimicking design that watch fans immediately nicknamed “Zaytona.”
The Zenith/Rolex connection
And I agreed with that first sentiment. Could Zenith claim a piece of the Daytona heritage with the Le Locle brand having provided Rolex with its high-frequency El Primero movement for the first automatic Daytona ref. 16520 in 1988? And should that result in a claim to fame by copying the Daytona’s design? Not exactly. But then again, I’ve never been a modern-era Daytona fan, so it’s also not a reference that bothered me much. Over the last five or six years, my passing interest in Zenith has grown into a full-blown love affair, so my sympathy has always been with the Chronomaster Sport rather than with the overhyped Daytona.
I love Zenith for its past and its present. The brand today proudly takes inspiration from the past while moving forward with modern designs that have a distinct identity. It’s something the brand has been known for since the 1960s, and it’s what I and many Zenith fans can enjoy with the current collection. It is no secret that I adore the El Primero A384 and all of the different iterations that use the same blocky case shape. But the Chronomaster Original is another modern version of the classic A386 that is stunning. And the Chronomaster Sport is the perfect bridge between the iconic past and the present with the modern Defy Skyline and Defy Extreme.
The Chronomaster Sport on the wrist
After having initial reservations about the design, experiencing the watch up close made all the difference for me. Once on the wrist, the Chronomaster Sport doesn’t feel like a Daytona at all. It feels like a modern Zenith timepiece that takes inspiration from the brand’s eclectic past. The 41mm case is 13.8mm thick and measures 47mm from lug to lug. The profile of the case looks and feels great with its solid lugs and pump-style pushers, and the Oyster-style bracelet is very comfortable too.
The bracelet wraps around the wrist with great elegance and assures the watch wears very comfortably. Once on the wrist, a couple of elements stand out immediately. First, the tri-color sub-dials give the watch a distinct Zenith look in addition to being easy to read. Just like on other models, the date window is neatly tucked away between the 4 and 5 o’clock markers. It is integrated, so it’s there when you need it, but it doesn’t stand out when you don’t want it to. Another nice element is the mixture of polished and brushed surfaces. It gives the watch plenty of visual flair to make it a joy to look at every time you take a short peek.
The modern El Primero 3600 movement
An element that is hard to miss is the black ceramic bezel. But as most of you will know, this is no ordinary tachymeter bezel. It allows you to read the elapsed time to 1/10th of a second. It is the first hint at the extraordinary movement that Zenith uses for the Chronomaster Sport. The in-house El Primero 3600 caliber is visible through the exhibition case back and it is a beauty. The movement operates at 36,000vph and boasts a 60-hour power reserve. While the glory of the movement might be most visible through the case back, the true action happens on the dial side.
With a firm click of the start pusher, the chronograph seconds hand starts traversing the dial and completes a full lap in 10 seconds. The sight of the chronograph hand zooming over the dial is a thing of mechanical beauty that makes this Chronomaster Sport even more special. After wearing the Chronomaster Sport for some time, I found that it is the perfect addition to the Chronomaster collection alongside the vintage-inspired classics that define the line. And the watch has been a success for the brand from the start.
Why I choose the Chronomaster Sport
What seemed like an easy win piggybacking on the success of the Daytona quickly turns into a stylish, modern chronograph that is as much a true Zenith as any of the other models in the brand’s collection. The great success of the two initial models was followed by some amazing new introductions. The special boutique edition with its tri-color bezel looks very cool, and the glorious rose gold models are stunning. They all show the great style of the Chronomaster Sport perfectly. This style, combined with a stunning movement and my great love for the brand, would make this my pick in this battle every day of the week, especially on Sunday.
Robert-Jan: Grand Seiko SLGC001 Tentagraph
Let me start by telling you that I love Zenith and the El Primero movement. Just recently, I purchased a vintage watch with an El Primero caliber inside. Admittedly, it’s not a Zenith but an Ebel Sport Classic Chronograph. Ebel purchased a batch of El Primero movements in the early 1980s and used the caliber for the Sport Classic Chronograph line. It could be seen on the TV show Miami Vice on the wrist of the main character Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson). More about that watch another time, in another article, but the movement is pretty special. Like Seiko and Heuer/Büren, Zenith also developed an automatic chronograph and released it in 1969. And except for a decade-long hiatus from production due to the popularity of quartz watches, the El Primero has been around ever since. So yes, I love the El Primero for that reason alone. It has been the lifeline for Zenith for many decades.
I don’t like the Daytona, I don’t like the Chronomaster Sport
While Zenith has been on a good ride in the last couple of years, I felt the Zenith Chronomaster Sport lacked identity. Zenith informed us that it is based on some of the brand’s models from the past, but to me, it looks too close to the Rolex Daytona. And perhaps it’s slightly better than a Daytona, nicer looking, or at least available, but it still looks like a Daytona. And the thing is, I don’t like the Daytona. Yes, it is an excellent, high-quality chronograph that has been around for ages, and the demand is incredibly high. I am aware of all that, but I just don’t like it. I tried wearing one for a while, and it just didn’t click. So the Zenith Chronomaster Sport is not something I aspire to have either, even though it has some things that fix the Daytona flaws for me.
Grand Seiko 9SC5 movement
Like the El Primero, the Grand Seiko SLGC001 Tentagraph is a high-beat chronograph caliber that ticks at 36,000vph. It’s a joy to see the large seconds hand gliding smoothly over the dial. Grand Seiko introduced the 9SC5 movement during this year’s Watches and Wonders in Geneva. The dial layout looks very similar to the El Primero-powered Zenith, featuring sub-dials at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock and the date between 4 and 5, but the GS chronograph works slightly differently from the El Primero. For example, there’s no nervous 1/10th-of-a-second hand moving around the dial. It’s just a classic chronograph with a central seconds hand for the chrono and minute and hour recorders in the sub-dials. The running seconds are shown in the sub-dial at 3 o’clock.
What I enjoy so much about Grand Seiko is the brand’s quest for perfection. The 9SC5 movement has a column wheel, uses MEMS technology, features a Dual Impulse Escapement, and is regulated well within chronometer specifications. On top of that, the movement is wonderfully finished and decorated.
Evolution 9 design
However, it’s not only about the movement, of course. It is also about the design of the watch. This Grand Seiko SLGC001 Tentagraph is part of the Evolution 9 collection, and it clearly shows. The titanium case and bracelet follow the shape of the other Evolution 9 models, with sharp edges and large mirror-polished surfaces. Grand Seiko claims that the high-intensity titanium used for the case and bracelet is more scratch resistant than steel, so it will preserve the clean look of the SLGC001 for a long time. The case measures 43.2mm in diameter and 51.5mm from lug to lug, so it’s not for the faint-hearted. But if you can get away with a watch this size, it does look fantastic.
A blue Mt. Iwate dial motif
On the dial, we find the Mt. Iwate motif, which Grand Seiko has been using for some time. It gives the dial a lot of depth, and the blue color changes from bright to dark, depending on the light. The finishing of the hour markers and hands reflects the Grand Seiko Evolution 9 concept and shows the utmost precision. There’s not much you can criticize about the finishing and quality of this SLGC001; it’s done in the Grand Seiko way. Design-wise, no one will mistake this watch for something from another brand. The retail price of the Grand Seiko SLGC001 Tentagraph is €14,300.
Time to vote!
There you have it, folks — another Sunday battle with two popular timepieces going toe to toe for the win! Will the Grand Seiko SLGC001 Tentagraph get your vote, or are you a fan of the Zenith Chronomaster Sport? Make sure to vote for your choice below, and also let us know why you picked it in the comments. See you next week for another installment of Sunday Morning Showdown!