To homage or not homage
The Seiko SLA017 is one of these unique releases that you see coming, decide it’s too much money and just let go whilst admiring from a distance. That was me, I was so tempted to somehow save up for this release and whilst it would probably have been an investment long term, it was simply too money to spend.
So what to do. Seiko released various other models that were close but not quite close enough to the original 62MAS (re-released as the SLA017) so whilst I hovered around the various models from Seiko, nothing came close to getting my money. Sadly, what is often an issue too is buying a Seiko for premium money and having various mis-alignment issues. We really shouldn’t have to deal with this anymore in my humble opinion.
The Chinese brand San Martin of Ali Express fame turned up on my radar, or should I say, registered larger blips than usual on my radar. What came through loud and clear is that this watch is incredibly well built, not just for the money but full stop. Since this is a pretty close homage of the SLA017 but if anything, even more perfect to me since it’s a 41mm rather than 40mm.
I don’t love homages usually but I decided to hand over some of my hard earned money at a recent AliExpress sale for the version 4 of this watch. This one has a slightly different crystal and a new logo.
So is it any good? Let’s have a look.
My impressions after some time with the watch
Wow, the San Martin SN007-G is indeed incredibly solid and well made. Nobody could unpack this and be disappointed. It has heft on your wrist without being heavy and everything lines up perfectly. Not usually something to call out as an abnormality but we’re talking about a Seiko homage here and in this case 10% of the cost of the SLA017’s retail price.
The case has the excellent shape from the original 62MAS and it wears perfectly on my 19cm wrist. It’s a mix of brushed and polished surfaces all around the case and the large crown is signed with the same shark motif as we can find on the screw in case back.
The shark is more on the “Jaws here to eat you” side than “curious reef shark keeping an eye on your reef dive”. This is the only part I don’t love, we don’t need more people expecting every shark to hunt you down and eat you but that is fairly nitpicky of me.
The sunburst grey dial is quite simply, outstanding. How great could a grey dial be one could ask, I certainly did ask that question when reading and watching reviews. And yet, here’s another one mentioning how beautiful it is. If this was on a Rolex dial, it’d be just as home. Even from a distance, it’s quite noticeable how well made it is with subtle light patterns catching your eye throughout the day.
Perhaps the star of the dial is these applied indices though.
The polished metal frames and the fat, FAT C3 Super lume is a sight to behold. This is one of these watches that will have an otherworldly glow visible just from returning inside after a brief visit to the mailbox in the sun. It absolutely holds its own compared to my Tudor Pelagos which is probably my best in class lume.
The 6 and 9 indices are slightly larger and 12 is extra large. The 3 position has the date window which suits the layout well. If this was placed elsewhere, it may have, ahem, complicated things.
The dial has the words Automatic and 200M printed on the dial and nothing else apart from the logo. So on this note, the earlier models had the San Martin printed fairly large on the dial leaving very little to the imagination as to what you were wearing on the wrist. The new applied logo is hexagonal and is small enough to not scream “UNHEARD OF BRAND” but rather offer a little mystique. It is unobtrusive and on closer inspect, quite nice looking.
Ensuring all this goodness is not exposed to the elements is a box sapphire crystal. This updated version does not have the slight curved edges that offered that lovely distortion from certain angles, but the quality is excellent with a purple-ish blue anti reflective coating that does the job.
The bezel is ceramic with a lume pip at 12 o’clock. San Martin can’t take credit for the design at all here (pure Seiko 62MAX) but they certainly can take credit for the absolutely excellent construction. It’s so solid and beautiful and it really makes the watch. The 120 click bezel feels ok,not amazing, to me. There is absolutely no backplay and I think that with a little bit of usage over time, it’ll ease up and be more pleasant to operate.
I ordered the version with no bracelet but rather the even more homage-y rubber black strap. This is actually way better than I expected, and I highly recommend it.
I was planning to remove it immediately but I kept it on for some time and had I not planned to attach my beautiful Bas and Lokes strap (full review of that here if you’re interested), it would have stayed on.
Yes, leather on a dive watch is as heinous crime to us watch nerds and I am a dirty criminal that not only break this rule, I am flaunting it right here since just look at how well if fits the watch. Just beautiful to my eyes at least.
You can order the watch with a bracelet as well which by all reports is very well made and worth the money. So if you are not a dirty rebel such as myself, you can keep your watch within the rules on a nice bracelet, or a very well made and comfortable rubber strap. Jody at Just One More Watch reviewed the model with a strap.
Strap & Bracelet
Metal bracelet, rubber strap options
This is not your average Chinese AliExpress number. San Martin are well known for being a step above the rest and to say I’m impressed by my first experience is a huge understatement. The build quality, look and feel on my wrist, and dare I say wife approval is far above expectations.
Perhaps the very fact that this homage is of a rather rare and unknown watch, outside of the community at least, is perhaps another reason why I feel so comfortable wearing this every day since I received it. I don’t own any other outright homages, not even any of the ubiquitous submariner copies even since outside of the “just gonna buy this to see if I’d like the real thing” I can not see myself ever being comfortable wearing something that is just a straight up copy for copying’s sake.
This however is offering a slightly larger version of a watch that few even know existed, whether we talk about the original or the limited edition from Seiko, so I think it makes more sense.
I picked this up for the ridiculously good value of AUD$290 and I really think you should too.
Did you enjoy this review? Coffee fuels my night time ponderings.