Let me start off by saying that while Croton comes under scrutiny lately for their designs and lack of quality I still believe the brand is capable of making a great product at a great price. I also would like to add the despite the differences between these two watches I feel both were worth the price paid and this is more to help people decide if the Swiss movement version is worth the extra money over the japanese. In this review/comparison Im going to stay away from a long general editorial of both of them and rather break it down and dedicate a paragraph to each of the differences between the two watches. At first glance they may appear to be simply of a different color and movement but I assure you the differences go much deeper. I also have to apologize for some of the pictures. My focus was really not working with me on my camera. Just as a note the japanese version is currently running $90-$189 new and the swiss version is going for $199-$389.DISCLAIMER ON PRICE: Notice that there is a pretty big gap on pricing for both models. Realize that when purchasing on the low side from a place like overstock or warehouse store like sams and costco you risk buying a returned item and or a slightly blemished item. While I had good luck and recieved a watch with only a hairline scratch sometimes you can really get a bunk watch. Most companies dont inspect the returns well and simply put a lower price on it and push it out the door. Some of you might want to consider paying the extra dough and going with a reliable and known dealer like Zulutimezone.com for your watch to ensure you get a top quality piece and service after the sale.
Overall fit and finish :
As said previously while both the japanese and Swiss movement versions of the Croton Vortex appear to be the same watch with just certain key components changed they are in fact quite different. Its in my opinion that the swiss version is superior in every category including this one. When comparing the watches it is evident that more time and care was spent on the the beginning stages of manufacture on the swiss version. Both watches have a two tone bracelet with polished case, brushed 90 click rotating bezel, signed crown and case with acid etched croton logo on the clasp. While they share these features, again the swiss version has much greater attention to detail. When getting into areas not normally seen unless under inspection it seems the japanese version was polished prematurely. The cuts seem rougher, and less accurate. Dull tooling can sometimes be the blame for one metal part not being finished as nicely as another but it is quite evident that these watches are not manufactured by the same company. Here are the differences with these features between the watches.
Apples and oranges. Lets just put it that way. IMO the swiss completely drinks the japanese vortex's milkshake and then some. As I said before It only takes a few looks at each watch to know they are made in completely different factories. The dimensions are different, cuts are different and other tolerances such as case thickness and lug shape are different enough to know that its not just manufacturing variances, especially when considering the quality of the work. I guess in this category we will start with the bracelet. Despite first glances, quite a few differences exist other than fit and finish. Even the screws are different. On the swiss the screws actually thread into the opposite side of the link from where they are inserted. The screws on the japanese version thread on the same side in which they are installed. I dont understand why they did this different. The only thing I can think of is because many were having issues with stripped threads on their links. This is just a guess but I read that D. Mermelstein found that company workers were banging the screws into the bracelets as if they were pins. Its possible that in order to salvage the materials they simply chose a different screw and re tapped the bracelet on the opposite side. This again is just a theory and I dont know for sure. Another difference in this area are the thickness of the actual screws. The screws in the Swiss version are considerably thicker and there is less side to side play of the links. You could go either way on this and say that less play equals better tolerances and therefore a better product or you could say that the extra play will help with comfort allowing the bracelet to conform to the natural shape of the wrist. IMO the swiss had enough play and Im a tolerance guy. BTW its also worth mentioning that while both bracelets appear to have multi piece links the swiss version is bonded much tighter and virtually no play is evident. The links on the japanese version are obviously three pieces as they wiggle quiet a bit.
Naturally when talking about the bracelet I cant pass up the clasp. Again the swiss version is still ahead of the game. The swiss version is completely rectangular and sits flush with the ends of the links in which it is attached. This hides the slight lack of finish detail (while better than the japanese still evident) in that small area. The japanese version however has rounded off ends that while look neat are less effective of covering this rather raw area. It is much more visible when on the wrist due the bracelet creating a gap when in use. I think the japanese version being finished slightly poorer than the swiss would have benefited much more with the original clasp. Also on the japanese version I have rattles in the deployment when not locked into place. This is not the case with the swiss. The general fit and finish of the clasps are like night and day. Even the rough stamping of the metal looks more well done on the swiss version. With all these issues I really do see a strap in this watches future.
notice the rounded edges showing the underlying rough machine work
Another area of the finish that I think needs addressing is the signed crown. I feel the swiss has a much more defined croton logo. You can actually feel it. Its set into the metal deep and seems either that it was stamped or machined that way. The japanese version has what appears to be a lightly acid etched or laser engraved crown that will almost certainly polish out after a year or so of use.
Swiss crown and lug: notice the crown logo is deeply cut and the lug area is thick and rounded
Japanese crown and lug: notice that the lug is thinner and the crown is lightly etched or engraved
2.90 click rotating bezel
While they both have what appears to be the same bezel the japanese version exhibits a noticeable graininess when in between clicks. Its not nearly as smooth and requires considerably less force to operate than the Swiss. My impressions were that the bezel mechanism is of a higher quality on the swiss and operates much smoother. The Swiss bezel itself has a slightly larger font and the divots cut into the bezel are more pronounced.
Swiss bezel: compare the pictures to notice the font differences. Also the hands and date window differences
Japanese bezel: narrower font also date window is smaller. Glossy dial isnt showing up well but trust me its glossy
While many websites claim that the Swiss charcoal dial Vortex has a sapphire coated mineral crystal this is actually a mistake on the part of the website and it is actually completely sapphire. It is the japanese version that has the sapphire coated mineral. I am not sure as to the confusion on this. In the case of these particular watches I dont think having a full sapphire crystal is of paramount importance when considering the design of the watch. The bezel creates a considerable dish that will help deflect many of the the hazards the crystal will (under normal conditions) come into contact with. Of course though there are occasions where the crystal can take a direct hit instead of a scuff or scrape. Even in that event it would be debatable on which would be superior. I think in this case though it is more a prestige factor and some including me just prefer their watches have a full sapphire crystal.
Both the charcoal and green vortex share the same dial texture which to me is very attractive. It is a wave pattern that is somewhat broken up by circles in center for some good contrast. Here though the swiss version wins again. Im not basing this on color as who can argue that grey is better than green. This little caveat may be just as trivial as color but I feel its worth noting the difference in the dials. That little detail is in how they are finished. The green (japanese) vortex has a very shiny dial. It almost appears as if it was coated or polished. Given that the dial is almost certainly plastic I would much have preferred that the dial be a matte finish like its Swiss counterpart. To me the glossy look of the dial enhances the awareness of the material being plastic and cheapens the look. Again a small gripe but some might not be able to get over this little issue if you are particular.
5. Date window
Another difference are the date windows. The japanese version has a smaller date window. I feel it actually is better for aesthetics but might prove harder to read due to its size and the fact of the glossy dial refracting direct light. In a well lit room out of direct sunlight I dont think you will have issues. I do also want to confirm that the date window is actually too small for the font of the date wheels. This makes reading certain dates hard as the edges of the numbers and letters are pushed right up to the edge of the window and requires more than just a glance to check the date.
Ive seen a few reviews comparing the different vortex's and it seems many claim that the lume is superior on the japanese version over the swiss. IMHO this is a subject for debate. It really depends on what is more important to you, nitial brightness or longevity. In my comparisons while the japanese version did prove to have a brighter lume at first, it seemed to fade quicker than on the swiss version. They both seemed to be adequate and I would have no problems seeing either. Still to me having a slightly brighter lume means nothing if you can only see it half as long. I would much rather have a slightly dimmer lume that would last considerably longer.
This is the biggest difference between the two units being compared. Its widely known that the original Swiss vortex aka the infamous "pineapple" had an eta movement (2836). The new version has a variation of the Sellita SW200 actually referenced as a SW220-1. I for the sake of simplicity will refer to it as an SW200 which in most respects it is plus a day complication. I personally feel nothing is lost here. If you know the "verified" history of Sellita you know they have done work for ETA and had been trusted by them to help from time to time with assembly when production schedules were getting tight. I havent owned its comparable ETA movement but I also havent had any problems with my sellitas. And apparently many other swiss companies have no problem using the sellita movements either. Plus considering ETA's reputation and the fact they would trust sellita to do work for them eases my mind. I think the real reason Sellita seemed to come under fire in the beginning was due to some bugs with the first runs of the SW200 which seem to have been corrected. Regardless of whether your not a fan of the SW200 and would prefer the original ETA 2836 I think we can all agree that we would rather see the SW200 in this watch than a CL888. Given ETA's recent push to cut production to 3rd parties Sellita seems to be the lesser of all evils when considering affordable Swiss movements capable of replacing the ETA. Now with the japanese Vortex it is despite what many believe, a big mystery as to what movement is truly in the japanese version. Some say miyota. Others say it cant be because the miyota doesnt hack while this one does. Others thought it was a Seagull ST16 due to its finish and hacking feature. This was also found to not be true as one look in the back you can tell it doesnt have the same structure as the ST16. The only thing we really know for sure is that its a Miyota style movement based on the 8205. Some speculate that it is of chinese origin and to be called japanese has gone through the same techniques the CL888 had to go through to be called swiss. This of course means nothing as we all know this could be as little as flying in an airplane through japanese airspace on its way to your retailer. I cant speculate on its origins. The only thing I will say in this category is that I prefer the swiss movement to this one. Why? I like the slightly smoother sweep and to me with the swiss I know that it is a brand that other high end companies rely on for movements. I dont like when a company wont flat out tell you who produces the movement in their watches. And to me it seems Croton would rather us not know and simply have faith that its good and japanese. One could argue that both the japanese croton movement and the Sellita SW200 have both had their fair share of issues but, its just been my experience that the Sellita movement is of good quality and I havent had any issues with the watches I own with it. And every day Im seeing less and less bad things being said about it and much wider acceptance of it when compared to it initial release.
Swiss: sellita SW220-1
Japanese: Mystery movement
In closing I would like to say I that despite what may look as an endless barrage of bad things to say about the japanese vortex I still think its a decent watch. It simply does not live up to the standard created by the original pineapple and current swiss version. I previously was under the impression that these watches were nearly identical except for the movement and many times questioned the price difference between the two. To be honest the difference is not bad at all considering all the upgrades you get in the charcoal vortex. Ive seen similar price increases for a miyota to eta movement alone, not to mention all the other differences. The more I compare the two the more I feel like I got what I paid for with the japanese and that I flat out stole the charcoal swiss. The only other thing I can say is that Ive always been a fan of this particular offering from croton and still am of both. If I could only have one It would surely be the swiss version for all reasons previously mentioned but the Green Vortex still has its place among watch fans. Hopefully this comparison gave people the information that they needed to know if and which one was right for them.