S.U.F Helsinki is a small, independent watch brand that produces approximately 100 timepieces each year. S.U.F actually stands for ‘Sarpaneva Uhren Fabrik’, and if you know your independent watch brands and/or watchmakers, that first word should immediately grab your attention. You see, S.U.F is actually the second watch brand of well-respected Finnish watchmaker Stepan Sarpaneva, and, with the launch of Vetehinen, the brand now has its first divewatch.
S.U.F’s current collection consist of three different watches (at the time of publishing this review); Myrsky, Vetehinen and Paroni. The Myrsky pays tribute to a famous Finnish warplane, while the Paroni is a nod to Finnish motorcycling legend Jarno ‘Paroni’ Saarinen.
Vetehinen is the newest timepiece that the brand offers, and like its counterparts, the name ties into Finnish history; Vetehinen refers to Finland’s mythological water spirit but it is also the name of a 500-ton WWII submarine. For reference, this timepiece is rated to 30ATM or 300M, which means you can swim and do basic diving with it.
On the wrist, the Vetehinen is handsome and has plenty of presence thanks to a combination of beautiful details, the most eye-catching of which is that sunburst, galvanic colored dial. Vetehinen was released with four different dial colors – blue, silver, grey and copper, and each is limited to just 26-pieces. How’s that for exclusivity?
This reviewer reckons that all four dial colors look fantastic, however the copper dial (which we have for review) has one significant trump card – there just aren’t very many other watches with dials of this color. Salmon colored dials come close but ultimately this is still a fairly unique dial color. The dial has a knack for attracting attention, and this is something we noticed consistently over our test period – it provoked stares and people were always keen to find out exactly what was on our wrist.
Light is Vetehinen’s best friend and this becomes obvious when you move your wrist around under any light source. As light catches the dial from different angles, the sunburst – which erupts outwards from the centre – dial changes color slightly, and it even looks as though light is skipping across the dial in a circular fashion. It’s beautiful to watch and the faster you move your wrist, the faster the light seems to respond. The effect is mesmerising, and enough to steal your attention for an extra few seconds, each time you look down at the watch. We feel confident in saying that the Vetehinen is easily one of the most attractive diving watches in the sub 5,000 Euro segment.
What’s interesting to note here is that the dial isn’t produced by S.U.F, rather it comes from another Finnish company called Comblémine cadrans soignés. That name may not ring familiar with even those well versed in the world of watches, however that company belongs to another world renowned Finnish watchmaker, Kari Voutilainen. Voutilainen has his own brand of watches and – like Stepan Sarpaneva – he has worked with other brands (such as MB&F) on special projects.
One of the reasons the Vetehinen’s dial works as well as it does is because it is extremely clean. Looking at the dial from any angle, you immediately notice how open it is, which means your eyes can then quickly focus on the few key elements on display; there are large hour indexes filled with SuperLuminova, you have a running seconds sub-dial at nine o’clock, and there are easily distinguishable hour and minute hands.
At a quick glance, the watch may appear to be lacking, however this really is a watch that rewards a keen eye. Lets start with the hour and minute hands – they’re made of steel, they cut to look like harpoons (known as harpoon hands or devil-tail hands), and they’re finished to perfection. In fact, both hands have two types of finishing – high polished and sand blasted. Under the bright Dubai sunlight or even indoors in dull light, you can easily distinguish between the two types of finish.
Reading the time is very easy as the minute hand is noticeably longer than the hour hand, and there’s a minute track on the periphery of the dial. Both hands have lume at their tips (as does the running seconds counter), so if you need to read the time in low light conditions and the SuperLuminova has been sufficiently charged, you’ve nothing to worry about. Considering that this is a divewatch, legibility is important and S.U.F has delivered in this regard.
Moving to the running seconds sub-dial at nine o’clock, again, you’ll find some beautiful details to take in. The sub-dial has circular graining which is easily visible, however the sandblasting on the seconds hand only becomes apparent if you take a slightly closer look. Staring at it with a loupe, the shimmer that you see on the hand is brilliant, and it contrasts nicely against the circular graining below it. The sub-dial also has indexes at five second intervals, so you can get a reasonably precise seconds reading.
Apart from the dial and overall presentation of the watch’s face, this watch also scores points with its well-finished stainless steel case. It’s a three part design, and the proportions are spot on. The bezel, main case and caseback are mainly satin polished but there’s also a bit of high polish on the recessed side portions of the bezel.
In hand, the watch feels very solid and screams quality. It’s worth noting that the 316L/4435 steel comes from well-known Finnish steel giant Outokumpu, and it is impregnated with anti-corrosive nickel that’s also from Finland. Sarpaneva is serious about these watches having real Finnish DNA.
As it’s a dive watch, the Vetehinen’s bezel is unidirectional and has a lume dot at 12 o’clock. The lume dot is reasonably bright when charged, while the bezel itself is easy to grip, and very satisfying to manipulate. There’s little to no play in its movement, and each click advances the lume dot forward by half a second.
Measuring 42mm in diameter, Vetehinen has contemporary proportions, and sat very comfortably on our wrist with either strap option (the watch ships with leather and rubber straps). It presents well when worn with a polo shirt or even under a shirt cuff.
Another diving-friendly element on this S.U.F timepiece is its screw down crown. The crown is very easy to lock and unlock, it is beautifully designed, and matches the design of the case perfectly. There is one issue that we noticed however; the crown has six well defined edges, and since we wear our watches very close to our wrist, we noticed the crown dug into our skin, each time we moved our wrist upwards. It’s not painful at all but it may take some getting used to, if you wear your watches as we do.
Turning the watch over, you have an uninhibited view of the movement, thanks to a screw-in, exhibition caseback. Sarpaneva chose to use an Eterna 3901A automatic calibre that beats at 4Hz for this watch, and even here, there’s a bit of a Finnish back story; although it is a Swiss movement, the Finn says that Eterna was one of the first Swiss companies to recruit Finnish watchmakers back in the 1960s.
Visually speaking, the movement isn’t going to blow you away, but this is to be expected given that this is a sub 5,000 Euro everyday tool watch. That said, the automatic calibre does pack a punch in terms of what it offers; you get a reasonably long 65-hour power reserve (most watches in this price bracket offer 42-hours), and it has a hacking system, which means the running seconds hand will stop when you pull out the crown. If you like to precisely set your watch to the second, this is a useful feature to have.
Taking everything into consideration, the Vetehinen is an immensely likable timepiece that we’d love to have in our collection. It’s rare, it’s a great everyday piece (you can wash your hands, shower and hit the pool without worry), it’s from a well regarded independent watchmaker, it’s well made, it has a dial to die for, and you get a robust movement. If you consider all those elements and throw in a price tag of 4,650 Euro (including 20% VAT), it’s a bargain that puts more expensive divewatches to shame.
If you’re unfamiliar with Stepan Sarpaneva, and his career in the watch industry, we highly recommend reading this article to get up to speed with his experience and accomplishments.
To learn more about S.U.F, click here.
(This review first appeared in Arabic in the well respected Alam Assaat wal Moujawharat magazine.)