Sea-Gull M222s Review
Summary: The Sea-Gull M222s has outstanding quality in this price range and many surprising features. It features an easy-to-read, no-nonsense dial that is a perfect blend of modern and retro styling.
A "Watch Idiot Savant" (aka "WIS") is someone who knows and cares way more about wristwatches than any human should. The other 99.9999% of the population on the planet (or more) know only two things about a wristwatch. First, it's something cheap and reliable that hangs on a wrist and second, they know the word "Rolex".
A curiosity is that the unwashed masses don't realize that a Rolex doesn't need a battery -- but that's another story.
Ask a non-WIS about wristwatches made in China and the first thing that will come to mind is a Timex or Fossil or the like. Cheap, reliable and with a semblance of style.
If you're reading this page, there's no doubt about it -- you're a certified WIS. You're probably already familiar with the Sea-Gull brand. Too bad the rest of our non-WIS friends don't know what we do; that the Sea-Gull M222s is a gem of a watch and that Sea-Gull is part of long and storied Chinese watchmaking tradition.
Sea-Gull is probably the best-known Chinese watch brand, a result of their extensive worldwide marketing efforts. But marketing only goes so far; product is what counts, and the watches coming out of the Sea-Gull factory today have excellent quality and they're both accepted and desired by the WIS community.
The Sea-Gull M222s here is a perfect example of a modern Sea-Gull timepiece. It possesses outstanding quality. It is very nicely finished, especially it's combination polished and brushed case. It has touches and flourishes definitely not expected on a watch at this price range and, of course, it's sturdy and reliable. It even comes with a very nice strap that is better than many very expensive after-market watch straps that can be found.
The Sea-Gull M222s
Sea-Gull exports a limited but varied line of watches, from the rather large (44 mm) M222s to other, more classic-looking designs like the beautiful M185 automatic. It is said that the company produces something like 25% of all the mechanical watch movements sold in the entire world; for example, a Sea-Gull movement is used in the Timex Sport Luxury Automatic reviewed on webWatchWorld not long ago.
Sea-Gull may indeed be best known for their chronographs that are powered by the manual-wind Sea-Gull ST19 movement. But the M222s is quite different from the classic Sea-Gull designs; it is a relatively new model and it certainly has the most modern-looking design in their current portfolio.
I think the M222s has a unique blend of modern and retro styling that is combined in a way that brings the best of both worlds without being duplicative or repetitive. It has a touch of classic pilot watch design with its big, bold face and easy-to-read numbers and it is reminiscent of a pocket watch with its large case and 6497-derived movement (and display back). But the very modern-looking font used for the numbers and the vaguely Bauhaus-look hands, along with the polished case edges and shortened lugs definitely bring it into the future.
It is very rare indeed when a watch design -- or any other -- can so artfully blend the old and new without looking like it's trying too hard to be old or new or retro. Too often, a combination like this ends up looking like it belongs on the wrist of Frankenstein (the monster, not the Doctor!).
But the more one studies the M222s, the more one comes to appreciate the way in which the designers have combined these subtle effects. Well, maybe not so subtle, because those bold numbers really do shout at you, especially in the orange against black background!
Sea-Gull M222s Features
The M222s features a sapphire crystal front and rear, which is a definite plus and somewhat unexpected in this price range. Only the white hands and numerals have lume; the orange version does not.
The view of the ST3600 movement is excellent, and the movement is very nicely finished. It features many blued screws, which contrast nicely with the ruby-colored jewels that can also be viewed on the movement. It's too bad the watch couldn't be flipped over so the owner could admire the movement while reading the time! The newer M222sk version does have a partial skeleton look, with the face cut out between the 8 and 10 o'clock section.
The nice watch strap is made from a pebbled leather and it's fully lined on the back. The white stitching has been applied very accurately and the beefy stainless steel buckle is also nicely designed and not just the cheap stamping found on many watches -- some of which cost much, much more than the Sea-Gull.
The watch case is made from 316L stainless steel, claimed to be water resistant to 50 m. The edges of the case are highly polished at the thin margin around the top of the bezel and on the bottom part of the case, which holds the sapphire crystal display back and is attached with four stainless steel screws. The edges of the case have a brushed finish that is a perfect offset to the polished bits.
It's difficult to choose a color combination from the three that are available; I chose the brown face with white hands and numerals because brown is such a rare color for a watch. I'm glad I did, because this is a nice mocha-colored face and, as you can see in the photos, the brown color catches the light with a nice reflection.
The crown is unsinged, and the laser-etched "Sea-Gull" logo on the buckle seems a bit thin and, I think, detracts slightly from the overall impression. But these are minor points which do not detract from the appeal of the M222s.
I'm not sure if the M222s was developed as an export-only design, but it is available from the U.S. Sea-Gull distributor, who has a good reputation with the cognescenti.
The price has crept up a bit over the last year, and now that the U.S. Sea-Gull presence is established, the initial discounts that were once offered don't seem to be as common. Nevertheless, when compared to similar watches from Europe or elsewhere, the M222s is still a bargain at a list price of $240.00, which includes free Priority Mail shipping in the U.S.A.
The M222s can be found in the "New Products" section of the somewhat-confusing Sea-Gull U.S. website. You must first select a watch category, then click on "Models", then a box appears with the selections. The system doesn't always seem to work correctly and doesn't work well in all web browsers, but with some patience (and luck), the information will appear.
Watch Size and Weight
The Sea-Gull M222s is a large watch yet it does not wear all that big. The 44 mm case has a minimal width bezel, so there's a lot of face to be seen when it's on the wrist.
The watch is 12.23 mm thick and weighs only 85 grams with the strap. The lugs are proportionally short, which makes the large-sized case easier to wear, especially for smaller wrist sizes.
The wide and flat bottom of the watch also allows the case to sit closer to the wrist, which helps it to wear more comfortably.
At first, I thought the strap width might be a touch on the thin side at 20 mm.
But the strap probably does help make the watch look even larger, and since the overall weight is minimal, a wider strap really wouldn't help much to distribute the weight and might even make the watch look too heavy.
The actual width of this example, measured with a Vernier caliper, is 44.3 mm and the crown adds nearly another 4 mm for a total width of 47.9 mm.
The lug tip-to-tip distance is 52.0 mm, which demonstrates that they are rather short, compared to the overal case width of 44 mm.
The M222s fits under a dress shirt sleeve cuff, although on some wrists, the width may be slightly problematic. But the watch does have a thinner profile than most dive watches, which means it's easier to wear with a variety of clothing.
The fit and the light weight make the watch "disappear" on the wrist, as long as the sleeve cuff isn't an interference. So overall, the M222s is probably one of the easier large watches to wear and the comments it gets are well worth the effort!
Lug Width and Watch Strap
The M222s has a lug with of 20 mm, which means that there is a large potential for aftermarket straps. However, as mentioned above, the thick and heavily grained leather strap that comes with the watch is a real beauty and I have felt no need to change it.
It also perfectly matches the persona of the M222s, and I have heard from other owners who agree. Sea-Gull does not offer a bracelet for this watch, although I'm sure an aftermarket bracelet could be easily fitted (see the webWatchWorld Watch Straps page for sources).
The original equipment strap tapers to 18 mm at the buckle, and the buckle is 3 mm thick. It has a nice shape and design that compliments the styling of the watch.
The strap is relatively soft and it quickly became broken in to my preferences. The vague pilot watch look of the M222s could mean that the watch would also look good on a rubber or silicon strap; plainer would be better I think. By the way, the lugs are not drilled but strap changes should be relatively easy.
Movement, Setting and Accuracy
The ST3600 movement is, like the classic Unitas 6497 on which it is based, a manual-wind only. It takes about 35 half-turns to fully wind the watch and although I haven't timed the power reserve, I'd estimate it at around 32 to 36 hours.
When I wear a manual watch, I set it and wind it up, then fully wind it again each morning around the same time. The crown used on the M222s has a solid feel and it snaps smartly in and out. Winding feels confident with a minimum of slack and a solid sound.
The ST3600 movement does not hack, so the "poor man's hacking" method must be employed. With the watch at a dead stop, I will wind it only one or two turns to give it a slight power reserve. Then when the hands are moved in a clockwise fashion, the seconds hand will start moving. If a slight back pressure is placed on the crown -- in this case, anti-clockwise -- the seconds hand (and the movement) will stop.
I then wait for the "atomic" time on my Casio Waveceptor, and when the seconds hand on the Casio matches the stalled seconds hand on the M222s, I release the pressure on the crown and turn the hands in the clockwise direction and the seconds hand is now synchronized with the correct time.
I then rotate the hands around the dial again in a clockwise fashion, so as not to stop the seconds hand again. As the seconds hand is approaching the 12, I'll line up the hour and minute hand and as the seconds hand hits the 12 mark, I'll get the minute hand also lined up to the correct minute and I'm done. Press in the crown and give it a full wind and it's ready to go.
The M222s gives a short warning as it approaches full wind; I usually count the turns and as I reach 30 or so, I'll turn more slowly to make sure I have a good feel for when the crown starts to get tight, signalling full power.
This M222s ran very accurately right out of the box at about a +4 seconds per day. It's about one year old now but worn only occasionally, and it runs anywhere from 4 to 10 seconds per day, plus or minus, which is also very good.
Readability and Face
The wide, flat sapphire crystal on the M222s does not have an anti-reflective coating and, as you can see in the video, it does reflect light. But overall, the watch is easy to read because of its big numbers and hands against the high-contrast background. The simplicity of the design surely helps with readability also.
I have not seen the black face with white numbers or black face with orange numbers versions, but surely they will be just as readable, if not more so, than this version.
The lume on the M222s is, unfortunately, rather weak. It's not due to surface area, because the large numbers and wide hands must have the potential for excellent luminosity, had they been coated with Superluminova or something like Seiko's excellent product.
But, I guess we can chalk this up to a concession to price and the addition of a better performing lume coating would probably increase costs.
The Sea-Gull M222s has a lot going for it, with its combination of modern and retro styling, easy-to-read face and beautiful display back. That it keeps excellent time and is very nicely made for the price is a bonus.
This watch will leave the owner with a very good impression of Sea-Gull products and I, for one, will certainly be buying more!
Published: March 2010