Disclaimer: this article/video was not sponsored by San Martin, or any other entity.

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In the realm of affordable watch collecting, San Martin has consistently garnered attention for its remarkable build quality and competitive pricing, a reputation bolstered by influential watch reviewers like Jody from Just One More Watch and Gary from I Like Watches. These figures are instrumental in navigating the often overwhelming and disappointing budget-friendly watch market, highlighting pieces that stand out for their quality and value.

Understandably and despite its accolades for quality and value, San Martin often faces criticism for its tendency to produce “homage” watches. [I use quotes for the term homage because this word appears to have entirely lost its meaning in the watch world, often referring to watches that are almost entirely copies but with a different brand’s name and logo on it. But that is a more philosophical debate for another time] While these pieces are well-crafted and mirror the designs of iconic watches at a fraction of the cost, they also spark debates among watch enthusiasts, especially purists who prefer originality. This strategy has proven commercially successful, though it has somewhat limited the brand’s creative expression. However, this began to change with the introduction of original designs like the SN0116-G-V5 “Year of the Dragon” model, which sold out quickly thanks to its unique design and vibrant colors. The success of this model paved the way for other original designs, including the “Loong Year Collector Edition” SN0129G-4.

jianghun war drum jh0101 san martin original design watch review

I have ambivalent feelings about the homage watch culture. On one side, it democratizes access to luxury-like designs, allowing more people to enjoy high-quality watches without the hefty price tags associated with luxury brands. On the other, I value creative design highly and feel that originality often does not receive the respect it deserves in the luxury and affordable watch markets alike, where design is frequently seen merely as a specification with no value. My experiences with affordable watch customers suggest that a bulk of this demographic are aggressively trying to optimize their purchase for the best specifications possible, and ignore the beauty of design and originality.

Returning to the SN0129G-4, this model is priced around $320, (though it is now listed at $458 with its price slashed to $320), which is curious since I acquired it for $320 a few months ago.

Let’s check it out!


I measured the case to be 39.5mm in diameter (4 o’clock to 10 o’clock), 37.25mm across just the bezel, 45.75mm from lug tip to lug tip, 13mm in thickness with a 20mm lug width. Constructed from 316L stainless steel, the case combines satin brushed finishing with polished accents. While the design echoes influences from notable models like the Grand Seiko Evolution 9 series, and the crown guard section which is reminiscent of the Breitling Superocean and Christopher Ward Lightcatcher cases, it stands out as distinct rather than a direct imitation.

The detailing on the case is impressive, particularly at its price point, featuring a beautifully polished bezel along the sides and internal polished bevels leading to the end links. The craftsmanship of the brushing and polishing could easily rival more expensive watches like the Breitling and Christopher Ward I mentioned earlier.

The bezel itself is notably tall, all-steel, and sports a brushed finish on the top and sides with a polished chamfer. The vertically brushed top surface of the bezel is engraved and filled with black paint forming a 回纹 (huí wén) pattern, adding a unique cultural element that enhances the watch’s aesthetic, similar to the minute ring on the Atelier Wen Perception Piao I reviewed recently.

Additionally, the crown guards are polished and tapered, facilitating easy operation of the 5.80mm screw-down crown, which is finely detailed with both media blasted and polished finishes and adorned with the brand’s logo. The crown operates smoothly with minimal wobble, ensuring durability and precision, and screws into the crown tube smoothly like a much more expensive watch.

The case back is a solid, screw-down type featuring a subtly etched Fu pattern, contributing to the watch’s cultural homage and providing water resistance up to 100 meters. Overall, the case is fantastic. The quality of brushing and polishing is exquisite, and not just for this price. The details are objectively excellent, and the attention to detail is astounding.


The dial of the watch is striking, featuring a vivid red base with an oil-pressed cloud motif that aims to capture the essence of its Chinese design theme. This dial is rendered in a fumé style, fading to black at the edges, which adds a sense of depth to the overall appearance. The bright red outer chapter ring doubles as a 24-hour GMT indicator, punctuated by a golden Chinese character at the 8 o’clock position, symbolizing the dragon zodiac sign to celebrate the year of the dragon.

The minute track is crisply printed in white, complementing the gold-colored applied hour markers that are generously filled with lume. These markers are sharply designed, with a mirrored effect on the lacquer-esque dial coating as seen in brands like Grand Seiko. However, some markers exhibit minor scratches and particles, which, while not unexpected at this price point, indicate a slight inconsistency in quality control compared to a lot other San Martin watches I’ve seen reviewed on YouTube.

Beneath the 12 o’clock position sits the applied San Martin hexagonal logo, and at 3 o’clock, there is a framed date window with a color-matched date wheel. The attention to detail here surpasses that of most higher-priced Seiko watches. The gold-finished hands, including the hour, minute, and GMT, are also lumed and well-executed, though some stray particles are noticeable around the pinion stack. The seconds hand is not lumed but has a painted red section at the tip.

A 3D textured gold dragon sits above the 6 o’clock mark, also lumed, reinforcing the ‘Year of the Dragon’ theme. While the dragon motif might seem excessive to some, it adds a unique element that could appeal to an international audience interested in Chinese cultural themes.

Overall, the dial design of this San Martin watch is commendable, offering a vibrant exploration of cultural motifs with generally good finishing. Despite some issues with particle accumulation and minor scratches on the hour markers, the dial’s visual impact and thematic coherence make it a compelling feature of the watch. Quality control is on par with entry-level Swiss and Seiko standards, and while I’ve observed better from San Martin, the overall execution is acceptable for its price.


This watch is equipped with BGW-X1 Blue lume on its hour markers and hands, offering strong and sustained glow that ensures legibility throughout the night. While the lumed sections on the indices and hands are relatively narrow, limiting the total surface area for luminescence, the brightness and visibility are more than adequate for most needs. The seconds hand does not feature any lume, which is a design choice that perhaps aligns more with the watch’s somewhat dressy DNA.

At the 6 o’clock position, the watch showcases a gold-colored dragon motif, which is highlighted with C3 Green lume. This detail, though a thinner layer of printed or painted lume, tends to fade faster than the other lumed elements but adds a visually appealing touch to the watch’s design.

San Martin has built a reputation for excellent lume performance, and this watch aligns well with those expectations. It would have been cool for the date wheel to have also been lumed, but I may be pushing my lack with that demand. Overall, the lume execution on this watch is effective and aligns with what one would hope to see in a watch that has built a strong following among collectors that tend to overly indulge themselves with glowing objects.


This watch is equipped with the Seiko NH34 GMT movement, marking my second review of this caller/office style GMT caliber, following my experience with the Revelot R10 Admiral. In both instances, the performance has been satisfactory, with the watches maintaining commendable accuracy. Seiko’s official tolerance for this movement stands at +40 spd to -20 spd – a range that feels ridiculously lenient for 2024. However, San Martin appears to have more finely regulated this model to achieve better precision, demonstrating single-digit daily deviations during my testing.

While I have previously noted in my reviews of the Seiko NH35 that the beat rate and tolerances could use refinement, the NH34 remains a solid choice for a watch at this price point. San Martin’s decision to use this movement is understandable given its cost-effectiveness and the overall reliable performance I’ve observed. Additionally, the general robustness of Seiko movements, along with their ease of service and replacement, offers further value and peace of mind.

On The Wrist

This watch presents a commendable blend of wrist presence and versatility, making it suitable for a broad spectrum of wrist sizes. With a 39.5mm diameter paired with a 45.75mm lug-to-lug measurement, this watch offers a balanced profile that comfortably accommodates both smaller and larger wrists. Despite its 13mm thickness, the watch maintains a relatively sleek appearance. This is achieved by strategically distributing much of its height across the bezel, case-back, and crystal, allowing it to slide under most shirt cuffs with ease.

The bracelet enhances the overall wear-ability, featuring female end links that fully articulate, conforming neatly to various wrist contours. The build quality and finishing of this bracelet is remarkably high considering the watch’s price point under $350. The links are well-finished, matching the case seamlessly, and the polished center links are crafted with notable precision. And the end link fitment is shockingly good!

The bracelet tapers from 20mm at the lugs to 16mm at the clasp. Although the clasp is somewhat lengthy at 41mm, its curved design and the inclusion of a tool-free micro-adjustment feature, providing about 8mm of adjust-ability, ensure a perfect fit at all times.

Overall, the bracelet and it’s integration into the case impresses with its solid construction and refined finish, rivaling that of high-end micro-brands like Christopher Ward, Formex, and Monta. And the wear-ability and wrist presence of the watch is excellent.

Wrapping Up

To conclude this review, it’s clear that the San Martin watch offers a level of build quality, finishing, and attention to detail that surpasses what you might find from competitors like Seiko or Timex in the same price bracket. San Martin seems to deliver a standard of quality that aligns more closely with high-end $1000 micro-brands, positioning itself exceptionally well within its market segment.

When directly comparing the build quality, finishing, and quality control of this watch to those from established “Swiss Made” [Swiss Made in quotes because the Swiss Made label carries about as much validity as the word homage being used to discuss watches that are more fake than homage] brands such as Hamilton, San Martin impressively holds its own, often exceeding these competitors in direct comparisons. However, it’s worth noting that while San Martin excels in these areas, its design ethos has traditionally been less original, frequently producing homage watches. This may change with the introduction of their new brand, Jianghun, aimed at fostering more unique and creative designs, as evidenced by the success of models like the SN0116-G-V5 “Year of the Dragon”.

I am happy to finally feature a San Martin watch on my website, especially one that represents a shift toward more original designs. This review marks the beginning of what I hope will be an ongoing exploration of San Martin’s evolving catalog, and I look forward to discovering and sharing more of their creations in the coming months!