Sunday Morning Showdown: Grand Seiko SLGW003 “Birch Bark” Vs. Chopard L.U.C XPS Forest Green (2024)

It’s Sunday morning, so it’s time for another Sunday Morning Showdown. After two battles featuring Rolex and Tudor, it’s time to move on to something else. This week, we put two classic dress watches up against each other. Both came out at Watches and Wonders, and both impressed journalists and watch fans alike. Robert-Jan’s pick is the Chopard L.U.C XPS Forest Green, which was much talked-about as one of the most stylish releases of the show. Jorg’s pick is the Grand Seiko SLGW003 “Birch Bark” with a stunning new manual-winding movement. Which watch will triumph in this week’s battle? You get to pick your favorite, so let’s find out.

In the first few weeks after Watches and Wonders, you will find a lot more in-depth stories about the different timepieces that were presented. One of the show’s top releases for many was the new Chopard L.U.C XPS Forest Green. It was no different at the Fratello office. We agreed that Chopard created one of the most stylish watches of this year with one of the brand’s great L.U.C micro-rotor movements. Today, the XPS Forest Green goes up against the new Grand Seiko SLGW003 “Birch Bark.” This new dress watch is part of the brand’s Evolution 9 collection and comes with a gorgeous hand-wound Hi-Beat movement. It’s time for Robert-Jan and Jorg to make their cases, so make sure to stick around to vote for your favorite.

Last week, on Sunday Morning Showdown…

But before both men get into today’s battle, let’s recap last week’s Sunday Morning Showdown. While Robert-Jan and Jorg might be going up against each other today, they firmly agree that the two-tone Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126713GRNR should have won last week’s battle of the black-and-gray-bezel GMT-Masters. Instead, it lost to the stainless steel Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710GRNR, one of The Crown’s new introductions in Geneva. The stainless steel version ended up taking 60% of the votes, leaving the Rolesor version with 40%. A glance at the comments section reveals that many people can’t get used to the combination of gold and steel. We know that Robert-Jan and Jorg will be shaking their heads in disbelief for a while. So let’s give them another task and have them make their respective cases for this week’s contestants.

Jorg: Grand Seiko SLGW003 “Birch Bark”

I love what Grand Seiko has achieved with its Evolution 9 series over the last couple of years. The brand took a step away from its traditional designs and came up with a style that is a clear step into the future. New angular case designs are combined with a new generation of calibers, making the Evolution 9 series the most exciting the brand has to offer. My favorite is the SBGE285 “Mist Flake.” It’s a modern GMT I fell in love with from the moment I saw the press images right before Watches and Wonders two years ago. While the black-dial version is also beautiful, the monochromatic “Mist Flake” is truly magnificent. There is a mysterious quality to that dial that I have hardly ever seen, and it makes the watch so special.

But the base is the angular case design with a modern Spring Drive movement. This represents the modern side of the brand. With that perspective in mind, the new SLGW002 and SLGW003 “Birch Bark” models completely surprised me. I could have never expected to find the 1960s design brilliance that characterizes so many of the vintage Grand Seiko and King Seiko releases in the Evolution 9 series. Usually, we would see that in the Heritage collection. But when I saw the new SLGW003, I was surprised and mesmerized by a watch that flawlessly captures the brand’s spirit.

The specs of the Grand Seiko SLGW003 “Birch Bark”

The new Grand Seiko SLGW003 comes with a Brilliant Hard Titanium case that measures 38.6mm wide and 9.95mm thick with a 20mm lug spacing. As we have come to expect from the Evolution 9 series, the case design is angular but graceful. The different sides and facets are fascinating to see, not least of all thanks to the meticulous finishing that we’ve come to expect from Grand Seiko. The mix of brushed and Zaratsu-polished parts is a joy to witness and gives the case a brilliant presence.

The case is matched with a “Birch” dial that we know from the SLGH005 and SLGA009. These two “White Birch” models battled it out in a previous installment of our Sunday Morning Showdown series. Ultimately, the Spring Drive version won. Some preferred the Spring Drive caliber, while others liked the whiter dial of the SLGA009. For this new SLGW003, that dial returns in its full glory. Combining the unique texture and hue with the Zaratsu-polished hands and applied indices creates a dial that stands out immediately. At the same time, it remains classy enough for a brilliant dress watch.

The brilliance of the new caliber 9SA4

Turning the watch around gives you a glorious view of the new manual-winding caliber 9SA4. It is based on the existing automatic caliber 9SA5 that powers other Evolution 9 models. As Thomas explained in his introduction article, the significant changes are the removal of the rotor and automatic winding system and the addition of a power reserve indicator on the backside of the caliber. But Grand Seiko didn’t just stop there. Its watchmakers also redesigned some of the bridges to make it seem like the movement originated as a hand-winder.

What remains is the twin-barrel setup, providing 80 hours of power reserve. As this is a Hi-Beat movement, the caliber operates at a 36,000vph frequency and is accurate to -3/+5 seconds per day. The result is a stunning-looking movement with much more stylistic appeal than its self-winding counterpart. Add the tremendous finishing and intricate level of detail, and this is a watch that you will turn around regularly.

The Grand Seiko SLGW003 “Birch Bark” is the full package

But part of the magic of the movement is visible on the front. Nothing beats the visual brilliance of a Hi-Beat caliber’s smoothly sweeping seconds hand. The beautifully blued one here glides silently over the “White Birch” texture. It creates a spectacle that is as brilliant as it is serene. The combination of the titanium case and the “Birch Bark” dial also gives you plenty of room to change up the presence of the watch. It comes standard on a black alligator strap with a folding clasp for €11,700.

But I would spend some extra cash on getting a few extra leather straps, only to surely find that this new SLGW003 is a versatile class act that completely surprised me. I did not expect a well-proportioned titanium manual winder in the Grand Seiko Evolution 9 series. Additionally, if you had presented it verbally to me like that, I would not have been impressed. But after witnessing the watch up close, I was mesmerized by its brilliance. The new Grand Seiko SLGW003 perfectly captures the vintage and future spirit of Grand Seiko in one watch.

Robert-Jan: Chopard L.U.C XPS Forest Green

As you probably know, Chopard’s L.U.C collection is named after the company’s founder, Louis-Ulysse Chopard. It’s the Haute Horlogerie department (not a sub-brand) of Chopard, located in Fleurier. I had the pleasure of visiting the manufacture a few weeks ago, and I was surprised at how much work Chopard performs in-house in its manufactures in Geneva and Fleurier. In the latter, the production of the L.U.C movements takes place.

Haute Horlogerie

Chopard might not be a brand name that comes to mind immediately when thinking of high horology. However, the L.U.C collection has garnered more recognition in recent years, and Chopard certainly got my attention with this new XPS Forest Green model in Lucent Steel. At €12,700, it’s a very attractive watch in this high-end watchmaking segment. But besides the price, it’s also a beautiful watch. Our colleague Michael Stockton recently said, “It’s better looking than any Calatrava on the market today,” and I wholeheartedly agree.

The beautiful L.U.C XPS Forest Green measures 40mm in diameter and only 7.2mm slim thanks to its 3.3mm-thick movement

L.U.C 96.12-Lmovement

I have also visited Grand Seiko manufacturing sites in Japan on multiple occasions, and they were as impressive as what I saw at Chopard. In the end, they’re not even that different. With the new Grand Seiko 9SAx movements, the brand upscaled its watchmaking, which is now on par with its attention to case finishing and dial making.

That said, Chopard’s movements are more to my taste. The L.U.C 96.12-L movement uses a 22K gold micro-rotor, and I like its design more than the 9SA4’s. Grand Seiko’s new hand-wound movement has a very “technical” look, but it does show more attention to aesthetics than the 9S8x calibers, for example.

An elegant watch

The Grand Seiko SLGW003 is a great watch and similarly priced to the L.U.C XPS Forest Green, but it is simply less elegant. I prefer the classic sector dial of the Chopard over Grand Seiko’s “Birch” dials. However, it’s mainly the GS’s case material that I don’t like for a semi-dress watch. Although many people seem to like titanium for its lightness, I feel it should be for tool watches or, at least, watches with a specific (sporty) purpose. And yes, I do like some gold dive watches, so my argument is not incredibly strong. Still, titanium for a classic watch with a leather strap feels wrong. Besides, the dial color, hands, and case material make the Grand Seiko “Birch Bark” a very monochromatic watch, which is also not for me. I much prefer the rose gold version (SLGW002), but that’s just shy of €50K, and for that money, I’d be looking at other watches.

The chronometer-certified L.U.C XPS Forest Green is my pick between these two by far, and it even had me looking at some previous L.U.C models on Chrono24. Aside from the 1860 model, which enthusiasts have (re)discovered, you will find dozens of them at insanely low prices for what they have to offer. The new XPS Forest Green is one of my favorites, though, and compared to the competition, including the Grand Seiko SLGW003, the price seems fair to me.

You can’t go wrong with either of these two, but I’d pick the Chopard L.U.C XPS Forest Green

Both watches in this Sunday Morning Showdown are great, and it’s difficult for me to make some nasty comments about Grand Seiko. It’s just a fantastic company making some incredible watches. However, I do feel that Grand Seiko moved outside the price segment where it was considered “a lot of bang for the buck” and offered considerably more quality than some of its Swiss counterparts. With prices surpassing €10,000 for the Evolution 9 models, such as this new SLGW003, Grand Seiko made it much harder to keep that argument valid. Luckily, the brand did not say goodbye to the Heritage and Elegance collections. These still offer watches priced between €5,000 and €8,000 (roughly).


I wouldn’t categorize those in the same segment as Chopard’s L.U.C XPS Forest Green, though, nor Grand Seiko’s Evolution 9 collection. The price difference between the two contestants in this article is €1,000, which doesn’t convince me to choose the GS. The Chopard L.U.C XPS Forest Green is the hingucker (eye-catcher), both on the front and the back.

Cast your vote

There you have it — two classy watches with beautiful movements. Which is your favorite? Cast your vote, and share your motivations in the comments section below.

Grand Seiko SLGW003 vs. Chopard L.U.C XPS Forest Green

Sunday Morning Showdown: Grand Seiko SLGW003 “Birch Bark” Vs. Chopard L.U.C XPS Forest Green (2024)
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