Revue Thommen vs. Jacques Lemans Diver Comparison Review

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At a Glance:
Model # 17030.2137
Brand/Model:  Revue Thommen Diver Professional
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet
Complications:  date display
Price:  approx. $600 USD street price
At a Glance:
Model # GU223D
Brand/Model:  Jacques Lemans Geneve Tempora
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet
Complications:  date display
Price:  MSRP (fantasy) $1,495 USD; $250 USD street price
Click on the pictures to enlarge
It’s been a busy two weeks at the MCV watch atelier with the arrival of not one, but two, nifty new BCD (big, chunky diver) divers.  I really like dive watches for their style, practicality, features and robustness.  These two new divers entered my radar and I took the plunge at prices I couldn’t resist! 
Since these two watches are similar in features and style, I have decided to do a side-by-side comparison review to see which will win, so here we go!

Watch #1: 

Revue Thommen Diver, abbreviated here as ‘RT’.  This diver was a limited run and doesn’t even appear directly on the RT web site, but rather on an addendum .pdf file.  This is the fourth RT watch I have owned, but the first produced by Grovana.  Grovana?  Read on, please.

Ref#  17030.2137

Price point – MSRP unavailable; Street price new about $600 USD on stainless bracelet.  A rubber strap version is also available.

Watch #2: 

Jacques Lemans Geneve Collection ‘Tempora’ Automatic, abbreviated here as ‘JL’.  The Geneve line from JL is their higher grade line, many with Swiss automatic movements and a higher level of fit and finish, befitting their higher cost.  This is the second JL watch I have owned.

Ref#  GU223D

Price point – MSRP $1495 USD (what I call a fantasy retail price); Street price new usually around $250 USD on stainless bracelet.  Swiss quartz models are also available for less money.

General Overview:
Both of these watches are solid stainless steel construction, automatic movement divers that hack and manually wind.  They both feature unidirectional timing bezels, quickset dates @ 3, sapphire crystals, screwdown case backs, at least 200M of water resistance, black dials, signed screwdown crowns and real ‘Swiss’ pedigree.  Let’s see how they stack up against each other.

Swiss Heritage: 
Revue Thommen is the clear winner here.  With a real company history dating back to 1853,  Revue Thommen is one of many smaller, almost boutique Swiss brands.  The company also has a storied history producing instruments for aircraft beginning around 1920. 
Since 2001, Grovana of Switzerland has held an exclusive license agreement to manufacture and distribute RT.  Grovana has been a Swiss watchmaker since 1924 and also produces watches under its own name, as well as private label pieces.  Grovana makes a solid product at a great value and while the company’s association with RT dilutes RT’s deep heritage to a certain degree, in my opinion, it still remains a true Swiss product.  Grovana employs just 40 people, 25 of which are involved in actual watchmaking.

Jacques Lemans is an Austrian company with production facilities in Switzerland and Hong Kong plus a subsidiary company in Germany, so their Swiss claims are legit, although they have been around only since 1975.  Still a small company, they employ 300 people, but are large in comparison with RT/Grovana.

Case and Bracelet:

The RT has a large 44.5mm (w/o crown) stainless steel case that is fully polished and fairly squared off in appearance with 24mm lugs.  Thickness is substantial at 16.5mm and lug-to-lug length measurement is 53mm.  With crown, case diameter is a beefy 50mm.  This is a big boy watch, the limp wristed need not apply!  I don’t have a scale (I really need one) but specifications list the weight of this BCD at a substantial 235 grams!

The case back is signed, brushed and screws down as it should.
 
The solid link bracelet is a substantial 24mm in width that does not taper to the signed double locking clasp with proper machined deployant.  The center links on the bracelet are polished with the outer links brushed.  The edges of the links are polished.  End links are solid.  Links are secured with standard split pins.  There is no diver extension.
The case is fairly basic in its design, no fancy angles or brushed surfaces, it’s almost as if they said, ‘let’s produce a big chunky diver that looks cool but let’s make the case as economically as possible.’  I like it, but it could use a bit more pizzazz to fit its Swiss heritage. 
The edge of the case between the lugs is flat, not curved, so if you wanted to fit a dive strap or leather strap, it would fit the case well and look good with no gaps.  This watch would look good on a beefy leather strap.  A mesh bracelet would also rock on this watch.

The JL has a strong look as well, with a not quite as large case as the RT, clocking in at 44mm without crown (48.8mm with crown).  The 316L stainless steel case is polished and brushed and has a few sexy angles and curves that give it a more upscale look, mainly around the lug area.  Thickness is 13.2mm, lug width is 22mm.  Lug-to-lug length is 54.4mm.  The screwdown case back is polished and embossed with the JL logo.

 

The solid link bracelet is 22mm at the lugs and tapers to about 19.7mm at the signed pushbutton butterfly clasp with polished machined deployant.  The links are fully brushed with polished edges and are held in place by standard split pins.  End links are solid.  There is no diver extension.
JL also includes two half-links on the bracelet for more accurate sizing.  While I prefer a non-continuous link bracelet with a machined deployant like the RT has, JL has done a nice job here.
Both bracelets sized up easily and there was none of that black debris that is often found on lower end bracelets in-between the lugs or on the split pins.

Advantage:  JL, by a hair.

Dial and Handset:
The RT has a near perfect matte black or deep charcoal grey dial with applied luminous markers and great looking Omega Planet Ocean-style hour and minute hands.  I love arrow type hands and these are superb.  The second hand has a nice oval-ish luminous tip. 

Minimal dial printing is a nice touch.  The dial and hands impart a classy, expensive look to this watch.  The hands look great, but may be a bit thin for some.

The date window is standard black on white and with the cyclops, is easy to see.  Date alignment in the window is as it should be, that is, even.

The JL has a cool black dial that isn’t glossy nor is it entirely matte.  It has a bit of striation to it, sort of like slate.  Very subtle and nice.  The hands are a simple, squarish beveled style and look great.  The second hand disappoints, though.  It’s just a simple silver stick, non luminous and worthless on a true diver.  One nice thing about this thin, simple second hand is that it does not magnify the movement’s less-than-smooth sweep.  More on that in a bit. 

Like the RT, the JL’s dial has minimal printing.  The black on white date window is normal size, easy enough to see and alignment is good.

The JL has a dished black plastic chapter ring that includes the luminous markers.  This design is fine with me, I like the look, but some might consider it a bit low-end for this price point.

Both watches pass the 8x loupe test, with no defects on the dial or hands noted under magnification.  I must say that under magnification, the hands on the JL look to be of higher quality than the hands on the RT, but let’s not get caught up in loupe vision here.

Advantage:  RT

Crystal:
Both watches feature a moderately heavy flat sapphire crystal.  The RT adds a rather large but effective cyclops (thankfully put on straight), while the JL has no cyclops.  Regular readers will know I’m not a big fan of cyclops magnifiers, but this one works good and will stay put.

The crystal on the RT is perfectly flush with the bezel for a smooth, quality look and feel.  The JL is pretty similar, so not much difference here.
Specs for both watches made no mention of anti-reflective coating on the crystals, so I am assuming there is none, but I may be mistaken.

Advantage:  Equal

Bezel:
The RT has a 60-click unidirectional bezel with a polished coin-edge.  A lume pip resides at the ‘12’ mark.  The bezel insert is black and has about the perfect size and width of printing for its markers and numbers.  It looks superb.  The bezel rotates easily and has minimal play.  The pip lines up with the ‘12’.

The JL has a 120-click unidirectional bezel with a very nice brushed edge that has an expensive look to it.  The bezel insert is black until the ‘20’ mark, then it becomes a pleasing shade of green, which is not minty nor too bright, but rather just about right.  A lume pip is also located at ‘12’.  Printing is large and cheaper looking than on the RT.  The bezel action is smooth and play is minimal.  Alignment is fine.

I do wish the RT has a 120-click bezel for a better feel.

Advantage:  Equal

Crown:
The RT has a great, big crown, just what a BCD needs.  I love large crowns because they make winding easy as I prefer to wind my automatics.  The crown itself measures 7.4mm in diameter.  The crown is signed with the RT logo and is finely knurled and screws down with precision.  The size of the stem tube is substantial on this watch.  Well done all the way around, although there are no crown guards on the case.

The JL has a smaller signed crown that is protected by rather hefty crown guards protruding from the case.  It screws down fine.

Advantage:  RT

Lume Quality:
Presumably, both of these watches have SuperLuminova or something similar.  Both have luminous hour and minute hands, luminous markers and the RT has a luminous second hand.  They both glow equally bright and the lume seems to be applied evenly.

Advantage:  Equal

Movement:
The RT is powered by the venerable ETA 2824-2 25-jewel automatic movement that so many of us know and love, running at 28,800 bph.  It hacks and manual winds and is known for its reliability and long life.  Out of the box, dial up, the RT has kept superb time to +6 seconds a day with a 42.5 hour power reserve on a full wind.  No complaints here.  Winding action is smooth and the second hand sweep is smooth and accurate.

The JL’s engine is the somewhat controversial ‘Swiss’ Claro-Semag 888 18-jewel automatic that many of us are skeptical of.  It hacks and manual winds and has been criticized for a less-than-smooth second hand sweep.  This is the case with this example, pretty much the same as the Claro 888 in my Zodiac Oceaniare.  Even a non-Wis was able to see the imperfect sweep of the second hand on the JL.  

On the contrary, the Claro 888 in the Swiss Legend I recently sold was perfectly smooth.  I understand a modification or adjustment was made on later versions of this movement to help alleviate the second hand sweep situation.  Please note that the second hand sweep does not affect timekeeping. 

The JL is markedly less accurate, though, out of the box running +27 seconds a day dial up with a fine 48+ hour power reserve on full wind.   Winding action is definitely noisier than the ETA and it just doesn’t have as nice a feel; it’s more gritty and less precise. 

This is also one of those movements that doesn’t hack very well, you have the second hand stopped and when you push the crown in, the second hand jumps a few seconds ahead, thus negating the hack feature.  Frustrating to say the least!
To me, the Claro movement is on par with a Miyota 8200-series automatic in terms of performance.

Advantage:  RT by a wide margin

Water Resistance:

The RT is rated at 300M, the JL is rated at 200M.  The deeper a watch can go, the better.

Advantage:  RT

Presentation:
The RT comes in a dark blue padded inner box and a fully enclosed dark blue outer box.  A signed black polishing cloth is standard and comes in its own holder.  Strangely, there were no operating instructions included, but maybe RT trusts their customers to know what they are doing!

The JL comes in a nice wooden box with padded flip top. A nice quality outer box with separate lid encloses the wooden box.  Documentation was standard.  Overall, a nice presentation befitting a quality Swiss automatic diver.
Advantage:  Just about equal, JL takes a slight advantage

Price:
The RT costs about twice as much as the JL at the street.  About half this cost difference could be attributed to the superior ETA movement.  The smaller distribution of the RT network also helps to keep the price higher and the fact that Grovana is a small operation.  But both watches exhibit strong value, especially when purchased prudently as I was able to do.

 

Advantage:  Equal

So where does this leave my RT vs. JL BCD comparison review?  In the final analysis, these are two superb Swiss divers, don’t get me wrong.  But according to my non-scientific ratings, even though these watches are pretty much equal, in the end, the scale tips to the RT, mainly for its long-term Swiss heritage, ETA movement and greater cache.  A Revue Thommen?  Never heard of it, but nice watch!
 

The JL is a fine watch, especially at its price point, but the Claro 888 is a definite deal killer for some.  If the JL had an ETA 2824-2 or a Sellita SW200 movement in it, it would totally rock, even if it cost $150 or so more.  If that was the case, the JL would win this comparison, but as it stands, it comes in a close second.

Thanks so much for reading and hope you enjoyed the pics!

Excelsior!

-Marc

UPDATE!
Since I wrote this review last year, I have sold off the JL diver.  The reason was I could not get past the uneven sweep of the seconds hand on the Claro 888 movement.  This really bugged me and does not fit in with ‘Swiss Made’ cache.  Also, JL watches do not have great resale value, as I found out firsthand.
I still have the RT diver and really enjoy it.  Timekeeping performance has been superb and I love the look.  Recently, the screwdown crown seemed to be getting a bit balky.  I ran some waxed dental floss over the threads and it seems to have done the trick; the crown seems to screwdown smoother now.  The prices on the RT diver have increased since I purchased it, so I have adjusted the street prices in the review to reflect the increase.
-MCV, 4-15-11

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