Sep 27, 2020

The Chinese Watch Brand San Martin is Making the Watches Enthusiasts Really Want

by Zac Vineyard

Generally speaking, I have not been a big fan of watches that are downright copies of notable brands. But I'm beginning to embrace just how good some Chinese manufacturers are getting at making homage watches that carry the set of features watch enthusiasts want.

I was recently shopping online for bronze encased watches. There are plenty examples of microbrands making bronze watches, but I was particularly interested in trying to find a field watch with a bronze case. There weren't many options among the myriad of dive watches. But a bronze Flieger stood out to me on eBay. It arrived at my house a few days ago.

Specifications & Dimensions

  • Water Resistance: 10 ATM, 100 meters
  • Case width: 39mm
  • Case thickness: 12mm
  • Crown: Screw down
  • Case material: Bronze
  • Crystal: Sapphire
  • Movement: Seiko NH35
  • Price: ~$175

The spec sheet on this watch is actually quite impressive. It has a Seiko NH35 movement in a 39mm case, a sterile type B aviators watch face with full lume, a bronze case, screw down crown, 100 meters of water resistance, and a sapphire crystal. I picked it off eBay for about $175 because it has the features of an ideal field watch. Let that sink in for a moment. The specs and price should change your perspective on the watch market.

The specs and price should change your perspective on the watch market.

Overall, this is a good quality watch with a well-known movement. The dead-flat sapphire crystal fits seamlessly into the case. The well-printed, fully lumed dial is easy to read in both low and natural light. In a 24 hour test, the lume glowed well into the night and was still legible just before sunrise. The 39mm case is an excellent universal size. Best of all, the screw-down crown is easy to operate and improves the water resistance. One big plus, too, is if the movement ever breaks down, it will be easy to replace. The only minor feature I think could be improved with this watch is the dial color. A darker shade of black could help improve the contrast between the numerals and the dial.

Beyond all the features in this watch, I'm continually struck by how cost effective it is for Chinese manufacturers to make watches matching specifications for more expensive brands. Jody at Just One More Watch was struck with same question, asking how San Martin, a Chinese company, could produce a Seiko SLA017 clone with better features for just 10 percent of the Seiko MSRP.

I think it is clear that some watch enthusiasts are still dedicated to the brands they love, and they pay a hefty margin to purchase those brand names. Honestly, though, if you're looking for a watch with an amazing set of features that competes (or even beats) the fundamental spec sheet of watches offered by well known brands, you might consider finding your own San Martin on eBay.

Has the watch market reached peak sapphire? Where does it go next?

When I see watches like my San Martin Flieger—and all the value they offer—I'm uncertain how the budget friendly name-brand watch market is going to stay afloat. I mean, has the market reached peak sapphire now that you can find it in almost every watch? How will watch manufactures innovate in the low-end market? Should we just be glad to find value-packed watches for such a low price? I think so.

Get Your Own San Martin


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Zac Vineyard

Zac is a watch enthusiast, writer, and web developer. He's interested in telling the story of watches and the people who wear them, with particular interest in how watches have been part of the adventure in the lives of others.