Manufacturer: San Martin | Price: $258 USD (£189 GBP)
Introducing the San Martin SN020-G Explorer homage then… This is the first time I’ve actually reviewed anything from San Martin. Jia Ming Liao (the owner) contacted me a couple of weeks ago, to enquire if I would like to review one of their watches. I gave them a list of three, that I wouldn’t mind taking a look at and after just a few days, they decided to send me this Explorer style timepiece. If I had to be brutally honest though, I really thought it was going to be just another “Chinese Special“, as I’ve had quite a few other Chinese watches here at Zaltek Reviews and they were just utter shite, so much so, I just didn’t want to waste my time reviewing them. I’m pretty sure I gave them away as stocking fillers or something. However, I did review the Steeldive SD1970 a good wee while ago now and I actually really liked it, but I’ve put that down to probably just a one-off, Obviously, I don’t live in a cave or anything, as of course I’ve heard of San Martin many times before and I’ve seen and read plenty of reviews that have been published, but they haven’t been on my radar to reach out to, mainly down to my aforementioned reasons. How bloody wrong I was though, I should have reached out to San Martin years ago! Let me explain what I’m talking about…
- Dimensions: Case – 38.8mm, Thickness – 12.3mm, Lug to Lug – 47.1mm, Lug Width – 20mm
- Movement: Seiko NH35, 21,600vph, 24 Jewels, Hackable, Self Winding, 41hr Power Reserve
- Case: Brushed & Polished 316L Stainless Steel
- Bezel: Fixed, Polished 316L Stainless Steel
- Dial: Vintage Style, Mercedes Hands, No Date
- Lume: Super-LumiNova® C3
- Bracelet: Brushed 316L Stainless Steel, Solid Links, Screw Pins, Milled & Signed Clasp
- Crystal: Domed Boxed Sapphire, Underside Anti-Reflective Coating
- Water Resistance: 100m / 10ATM / 330ft
- Caseback: 316L Stainless Steel, Screw Down
- Crown: Screw Down, Signed
- Weight: 131g (sized up for my 6¾″ wrist)
- Where to Buy: San Martin Official AliExpress Store
- Warranty: 2 Years International
Case & Crown
The case of the San Martin SN020-G Explorer, according to my calipers has a diameter of 38.8mm. The lug to lug is 47.1mm and the overall thickness, including the domed sapphire crystal, I measured in at a rather tasty 12.3mm, which is bloody impressive for a watch fitted with a Seiko NH35. The mid-case, caseback, fixed bezel, crown and bracelet are all 316L stainless steel. The finish of the case is mostly brushed, but with the addition of a polished chamfered edge that runs along the top edge of the case. Overall, it looks gorgeous and I can easily describe the overall finishing as right up there with the very best of microbrands I’ve reviewed.
The San Martin Explorer has a total water resistance rating of 100m, which is plenty if you ask me, especially when you take into consideration that this is a sports watch and not a diver. The proportions of the SN020-G are absolutely bang on in my opinion, especially for my wrist size, as it wears superbly on wrist and is extremely comfortable, even for long periods of time. The signed crown is nicely sized at 6mm, looks great with it’s embossed ‘S’ logo and is a piece of cake to operate with oodles of grip. There’s also absolutely no wobble either when the crown is in use and you can feel a nice pop as you unscrew it into it’s first position.
Strap / Bracelet
The San Martin Explorer comes fitted as standard with a really nice 20mm, brushed 316L stainless steel, oyster style bracelet, that I would certainly class as premium. It is leagues above above the usual entry-level crap and it has all the bells & whistles that you might expect to find from a bracelet of this quality. Solid links throughout, female end links for instant articulation, screw pins, as well as a custom fully milled & signed clasp. When adjusting or sizing up the bracelet, it’s really simple to do, especially when all the tools required to resize the bracelet are included in the box. Great news if you don’t have the necessary tools to hand.
The links of the bracelet are of a 3-piece, oyster style design and I think they look great, as the finishing really is gorgeous and matches the watch head itself perfectly. The clasp also has polished chamfered edges, that match the overall aesthetics of the watch very well indeed. The micro-adjustment is pretty good too, with 4 holes of adjustability available. Oh, before moving on to the next part of the review, the bracelet also has a lovely taper to it, going from 20mm at the lugs, down to around 16.5mm at the thinnest most point, before heading back up to approximately 19mm at the excellent clasp.
Movement / Accuracy
The chosen movement for the San Martin Explorer is yup, you guessed it, the very reliable Seiko NH35. This Japanese made movement is self winding, has 24 jewels and the oscillating weight spins up giving you up to, a relatively decent 41 hour power reserve. The balance runs at 21,600vph (3Hz) and the movement is also hackable. Checking the accuracy on my trusty old timegrapher, after running the SN020-G for around two weeks, I was rather pleased with the results, with the SN020-G coming in at an average of +8 seconds per day, with minimal beat error. A very respectable result that’s well within the manufacturers tolerances.
Dial, Bezel & Hands
The San Martin SN020-G has a very nicely manufactured fixed bezel with a polished finish, that gives the watch that wee extra bit of blingyness, The printed text on this matte black dial is just the word Automatic, with the depth rating of 100m just below printed in white, The italic style San Martin logo is at the usual spot of just under the triangular marker at 12 o’clock. The hour markers are all printed with arabics at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. There isn’t much else to say about the dial, other than I wish the logo was the same as the hexagonal one that’s on the clasp, it looks so much better and would give the watch a more cohesive look.
Taking everything into account, in my opinion, there are quite a few improvements that could be done to the dial, but I’ll cover those in my conclusion. Next up however, are the Mercedes hour and minute hands that are actually very nicely executed and obviously suit this watch very well, but they’re still not my cup of tea though. The lumed lollipop shaped section of the seconds hand is rather nice though and the actual tip of the hand does reach right out to the very edge of the printed white minute track. It might have been a good idea to finish the tip of the seconds hand in white, so to match the text and minute track of the dial?
The lume on the San Martin SN020-G is actually a lot better than I had expected to be fair. Where the lume has been applied, the execution is outstanding, with no discrepancies to be found anywhere, even under a macro lens! The lume itself is applied to the hour markers & arabics, hour & minute hands, as well as the lollipop section of the seconds hand. The lume is initially relatively bright and even although it does fade quite quickly, it’s still just about legible a couple of hours later, especially the hour & minute hands. The actual formula that’s been used on this San Martin SN020-G Explorer is listed as Super-LumiNova® C3.
There are just a couple of minor negative points I have with the San Martin SN020-G Explorer. That being, I would have much preferred to have seen all the logo’s match. The hexagonal logo on the clasp I feel should have been used on the dial, as well as maybe on the crown too. It would have looked so much better in my opinion. The other negative is the lume and I’m not just talking about the sustainability of it, the way it looks during daylight too, it just looks rather “meh”… A far more modern approach where the printing all looks white on the dial would suit the watch better… BGW9 perhaps? That being said, the watch is still gorgeous as the build quality and meticulous level of finishing on the SN020-G is phenomenal, and it costs how much!? A complete and utter fuckin’ bargain! I often get asked what I would recommend as the best all-rounder for an entry level and affordable watch, and I used to recommend pretty much anything from Long Island Watches. I’ll be recommending San Martin from now on and I really can’t wait to review another San Martin sometime in the very near future.