People buy AE because they are the best shoes you can get at this price point, especially with AE seconds going for $130-200. The comparison shouldn't be between AE and John Lobb/EG/CJ, which one would you buy. It should be between AE and Bostonian/Cole Haan/Florsheim/etc. which one would you buy.
Received my Brown Sanderson today. Just like my RL Illford seconds (purchased at $199, so for those buying at $130, you guys are very fortunate), I can't find the flaws that made them 2nd quality. There are slight scuffs on the sole of one shoe near the toe area but that seems inconsequential, especially when I plan to install toe plates.
Different last as well. You are looking at 5 last for Mccallister v. the RL last, which I believe is the 2. Personally, I agree with the previous posters who said that the AE for RL has better leather and better finish. The RL Illford boots I have are made by AE and the leather feels more supple than my AE shoes.