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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Advantage: RT by a wide margin
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 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.
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!