This or That:
Grand Seiko SBGW252 vs. Patek Philippe 5227J

Article By: Logan Hannen

WATCH101 | Apr 30, 2019

When it comes to yellow gold dress watches, there’s a lot of competition. You could go with everything from a vintage Omega Seamaster to an F.P. Journe Chronometre Souverain, and just about anything in between. But the undisputed champion of no-nonsense yellow gold dress watches has to be the Patek Philippe Calatrava.

There have been a number of iterations over the years, but it’s the current model 5227J that takes the cake for me. It is, in many ways, the quintessential dress timepiece, but it isn’t alone. A couple thousand miles away, in Japan, another brand has managed to produce a watch that, in many ways, rivals the Calatrava very directly, and, arguably, offers more value. How so? Well, let’s get into it and see which is the more bang-per-buck gold dress watch.

The Basics:

Patek Philippe 5227J and Grand Seiko SBGW252
Sources: Patek Philippe and Exquisite Timepieces (Respectively)

Let’s start with some basic specs on the Calatrava. Its yellow gold case is 39mm in diameter, with a height of just under 10mm. Its dial is a white lacquer finish, with yellow gold baton indices and matching gold dauphine style hands at center. It features a date at 3 o’clock, courtesy of the caliber 324 SC, an automatic winding, in-house Patek caliber featuring a 35-45 hour power reserve and manual winding (but no hacking, for those who are particularly bothered by that).

The Grand Seiko, on the other hand, comes in at 38mm in case diameter, and 10.7mm in thickness, creating a very similar wrist impression to the Patek. Its case is also yellow gold, as are its hands and indices (we’ll get back to these in a minute), and its dial is also white-silver in tone. Powering the SBGW252 is the Grand Seiko caliber 9S64, a manual winding caliber with a whopping 72 hours of power reserve.

The Straps:

Patek Philippe’s Dark Brown Alligator Leather Strap and Grand Seiko’s Honey Brown Alligator Leather Strap
Sources: Patek Philippe and Fratello Magazine (Respectively)

Both watches come on dark brown alligator straps. The Patek Philippe 5227J comes on a darker, almost chocolate brown strap with a solid gold, almost pentagon shaped pin buckle, while the Grand Seiko comes on a richer, more honey brown toned alligator strap with a highly ornate gold pin buckle with “Seiko” engraved into it, along with some intricate design work surrounding the letters.

The really notable difference, though, is the way in which the straps are executed. Both are done in a relatively high gloss finish, but where the Patek strap goes a more traditional, stitched route in its assembly, the Grand Seiko strap opts for a bonded, seamless finish with no stitching whatsoever. This generally allows for a thinner profile, adhering to the vintage styling cues of the original Grand Seiko model that this piece takes its inspiration from.

The Finishing:

Patek Philippe 5227J and Grand Seiko SBGW252 Case Finishing
Sources: WatchUWant on YouTube and HODINKEE (Respectively)

Both pieces are executed in a high polish finish, entirely appropriate for a dress watch, but the Grand Seiko has a bit of a trump card in its deck in the form of what is known as Zaratsu Polishing. This technique, mastered by Grand Seiko and almost exclusively used by them, involves the use of the front of a polishing wheel, rather than its side, to provide a finish that is entirely distortion free and mirror-like in its execution. It takes the craftsmen at Grand Seiko a long time to even be given the ability to learn how to execute this finishing, let alone be allowed to execute it for production models.

The Price:
The Patek Philippe Calatrava 5227J retails for $32,900 USD.
The Grand Seiko SBGW252 retailed for $17,200 USD, and was a limited run of 353 pieces.

Which One?
Ultimately, budget will play a dramatic role in which of these two pieces you opt for, as well as your overall preferences when it comes to brand and style. Though highly similar, each watch offers something very different in their execution of the traditional dress watch ethos, and each also brings their respective brand’s unique identity to the forefront of their design. To my mind, the Grand Seiko offers infinitely more watch for your money, but being highly limited, they aren’t nearly as easy to come by as the Calatrava. Still, at 38mm, the Grand Seiko is also a bit truer of a vintage inspired dress piece, especially with its manually wound caliber (though, props to Patek for producing an automatic winding movement that is thinner than Grand Seiko’s inherently less complicated hand-wound option). As most know and many have experienced, a ‘Patek’ branded watch is more likely to inspire head-turns, and the Seiko may even be passed off as a cheap watch (not the watch’s fault). But we’ve put those status-driven assumptions aside for the purpose of this discussion. All-in-all, the Patek does offer a more classical, Swiss take on the dress watch, but for something with a bit of funk, the Grand Seiko is definitely my pick to help you keep it classy, watchfam.