Review – Sarpaneva Korona K1

ic_query_builder_black_24px | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Frank Geelen | 8 minute read
Sarpaneva Korona K1

It’s been roughly 9 months since I bought my ‘grail-watch’, the Korona K1 from the Finnish watchmaker Stepan Sarpaneva. So enough experience to sit down and write about this watch that’s been on my wrist almost permanently for almost 9 months. My Sarpaneva Korona K1 was my first watch from an independent watchmaker and also my most luxurious/expensive watch ever. When Stepan Sarpaneva told me the watch that I ordered was ready, I booked a ticket to Helsinki to pick it up myself. Here you can read the report of my trip to Helsinki. Now it’s time for a review to share my experiences of owning and wearing a Sarpaneva Korona K1.

In May of last year it was finally time. The months before had been an intense period. Of course a decision like this was not made overnight, so long lists of potential watches had to be narrowed down. Or maybe the decision was not so difficult, it was just me having difficulty with spending so much money on a watch. When my decision was final, the deal was made and upon Stepan Sarpaneva’s phone call that my Korona K1 was ready, a ticket to Helsinki was booked. There’s nothing like buying your watch from the watchmaker who made it with his own hands and who designed it! It’s his creation that touched me in such way that I desperately wanted this watch. Wanted it so bad that I sold quite a few other watches to raise the funds.

The bare facts….

  • Maker: Sarpaneva
  • Model: Korona K1
  • Limited: number 10 of 10 in total of the first generation K1
  • Introduction: 2008
  • Age: 9 months

Sarpaneva Korona collection

Sarpaneva released the Korona collection during Baselworld 2008. The initial collection existed from the K1, K2 and K3. Later the K3 Black Moon was added. The Korona collection is, like all Sarpneva Watches, made in Sarpaneva’s atelier in Helsinki, Finland.

First impressions

The Sarpaneva Korona is a very elegant watch that wears very comfortable. I was amazed by the comments people made. Of all watches I’ve owned, and believe me I used to be quite a ‘flipper’, the Korona K1 received the most spontaneous reactions, positive of course! Even people, who usually never noticed a different watch around my wrist, asked me about it or simply complimented me on my watch. Of course this is not the reason to buy a watch and I never even thought about it, but this pleasantly surprised me.

Experience – wearing

Before I tried a Sarpaneva Korona on my wrist I was afraid it would be slightly too big, due to it’s diameter of 44mm. This is mainly because most of my watches with a diameter of 44mm had to ‘leave the building’ because they where just not comfortable on the wrist. At Baselworld 2009 I met Stepan Sarpaneva and he let me try a Korona K2 (same size as the K1). By trying it, I discovered that the diameter of his watch was no problem at all. To be honest it felt great and really suited my wrist perfectly.

Although the diameter is the same as that of my old Panerai, the Korona wears completely different. The big difference between my old Panerai PAM00001 and the Sarpaneva Korona is its thickness. The Panerai is 15mm thick and the Sarpaneva Korona is only 9.6mm thick. That’s 1/3 less!

Besides that the Korona is also quite light when compared to my other (large) watches. With only 83 grams, including the alligator strap and tang buckle, it feels quite light around my wrist.

In the past 9 months my Korona K1 has been on my wrist at least 95% of the time. The only moments I took it off, was when I had to use hammer or drill around the house, when under the shower and during my recent vacation in India. After all this time I can say with confidence that the Korona K1 is the most comfortable watch I’ve ever owned. The pure pleasure of wearing this watch and looking at it… it’s just superb.

Experience – reading time

Another thing that slightly worried me was it’s legibility. Why? Well, before coming a decision I read everything I could find online. A few remarks where made by forum members, who actually had never seen a Sarpaneva Korona in the metal. The concern was that the partially polished hands would negatively influence it’s legibility. However other forum members owning a Sarpaneva Korona always refuted this concern.

Now I’ve worn my Korona K1 almost daily i can assure everyone who worried about this, reading time on a Korona K1 is absolutely no problem.
Even in a movie theatre during the movie, it’s possible to read the time by looking in the right angle. OK, I must admit that usually I need to look at several times before I know the time. This has nothing to do with legibility … it’s just me looking at the watch and enjoying it’s beauty while I totally forgot to look for the time. Sounds familiar, or am I the only idiot.

Case

  • Case: Sarpaneva 3 piece case
  • Diameter: 44mm
  • Thickness: 9.6mm
  • Waterproof: 50 meters
  • Crown: Sarpaneva crown
  • Crystal: sapphire with anti reflective coating and SARPANEVA printing

The Sarpaneva Korona models K1, K2, K3 and K3 Black Moon use the same case. It has a diameter of 44mm and is only 9.6mm thick. The new Korona K1, released in September 2009, has a slightly smaller case with a diameter of 42mm.

The sapphire crystal has a multi layer anti reflective coating, applied only on the inside. This is to prevent the AR coating from getting scratched when time passes by. The name SARPANEVA is also printed on the inside of the crystal.

Movement and modifications

Base movement: Soprod A10

  • Jewels: 25
  • Power reserve: 42 hours
  • Shock protection: Incabloc
  • Vibrations: 28,800 p/h
  • Date adjustment: quick set

Modifications:

  • Sarpaneva Rotor
  • Customized mainplate
  • Sarpaneva date disc

For the entire Korona collection, Sarpaneva uses the Soprod A10 as base movement. This movement is designed as competitor to the ETA 2892 and 2824 and virtually all dimensions are the same. One big difference is that a basic Soprod A10 has a factory finish of a higher standard than ETA and like the ETA calibers, it is available in ebouche.

Sarpaneva modifies the Soprod A10 to his own demands. Besides the polishing and finishing that Stepan Sarpaneva does, there are some modifications that are necessary for the design. For instance, a hole is laser-cut in the main plate. The position of this opening is exactly behind date window and date wheel, to make it possible to look through the date window, date wheel and mainplate and see the oscilation of the balance spring.

The movement ring is attached to the mainplate and both parts are fully DLC treated. In the case, the movement is fixed with movement holders designed by Sarpaneva. The photos above show a movement without DLC treatment and with the DLC coating. In one of the photos you can see the Sarpaneva movement holders. The skeletonized date disc is typical for Sarpaneva. The date numbers are laser-cut in a stainless steel disc of only 0.15 mm thin. The photo shows a generic Soprod date wheel next to his date wheel.

Parts

  • Hands: Sarpaneva Korona hands
  • Dial: Sarpaneva Korona K1 dial
  • Rotor: Sarpaneva Korona K1 rotor

Making and finishing the hands, dial and rotor is very time consuming. The hands are first laser cut and than black polished by hand. The black polishing of the hands is something that takes approx. half a day per hand. After the hands are black polished, the part closest to the middle is sand blasted. The end-parts of the hands remain black polished.

The layers of the dial and rotor are laser cut, at least that’s the start… The rest of the work is done by hand again. First step for the watchmaker is to file the small ‘carrots’ and sharp edges away. Than all edges, and there are many, will be polished to ensure all edges have the same angle to ensure a nice reflections. Again time consuming handwork.

The dial of my K1 has 188 ‘holes’ – 164 ‘holes’ in the dial and 24 in the index ring. Can you imagine this takes a little while? Oh… and this is just the dial, there’s also a rotor. The rotor undergoes the same procedure and is equipped with 2 white gold masses. The dial layers and rotor are only 0.4mm thick.

Strap

The strap is a hand made alligator strap with some light padding. The ends are rounded to match the shape of the case and are 22mm wide. It comes with a tang buckle with SARPANEVA engraved in it. It looks like the buckle Swatch uses, however it’s feels much more solid. Usually I choose deployant clasps over tang buckles. This buckle however is something else. It’s very easy to use and you can tuck in the strap easily.

Cufflinks

The best addition to a watch….

More info on the Sarpaneva Watches website.

8 responses

  1. I just read your review, very interesting. Some of those pictures look like they may have been taken in Stepan’s workshop, is that the case? I guess you were able to have a look round during your visit? How long did you spend there?

    Owning one of only 10 pieces is pretty special.

    It is quite unlike any other watch I have seen very elegant, complex but not fussy, very nice indeed. I see you do not mention the price anywhere but I have found references to the price starting around $9000, is that correct? I would have expected it to be so much more than that, I wondered if this is a mistake?

    You say this was your “Grail Watch”, so where do you go from here? Is there anything else you have seen in the past year that you think would surpass this for you?

  2. Hi Jez,
    Indeed, some photos are taken in Sarpaneva’s workshop. I picked up the watch in Helsinki myself, which was an experience never to forget! The price range you found is correct, however it’s best to mail Sarpaneva for the latest price.
    And what to do after you own your grail-watch… this is indeed a very difficult thing. I did buy several cheaper watches and a MIH Watch afterwards and only the MIH Watch gets sufficient wrist time.
    Now i’m looking for a nice rugged dive watch, i’m finding it very difficult to choose a watch. I don’t find it difficult to appreciate other watches, however only a few watches get real wrist time… this really changed after i bought the Sarpaneva Korona K1. It’s such a beautiful watch, the finish is so incredible and the watch stays interesting to look at with it’s many details.

  3. Thats a really interestingtale, must have been great collecting your own watch from the designer like that. How long did you spend there?

    Although expensive (beyond my price range) I think it represents quite good value for money considering the level of individuality, exclusivity, level of detail and quality present in your watch.

    So will you also be looking at an independant manufacturer for your dive watch, or looking at some of the better known brands?

    Do you actually plan to use it for diving, I read another post of yours, about your Tag Heuer I think where you said you wore a less expensive watch for diving (a good idea in my opinion).

  4. @Jez… I spent a weekend in Helsinki, which was long enough for my liver 😉

    The dive watch i’m looking for does not have to be from an independent watchmaker. This is never a ‘must’, however always an option 🙂
    Unfortunately there are almost no dive watches from independent watchmakers, i only know the Pita Oceana and Sarpaneva’s prototype K0. But a banged up Rolex Sea-Dweller, Submariner are good options. Or maybe one i regret selling, a Doxa 600T Sharkhunter. Who knows…
    My old Heuer is just too rare and vulnerable.

  5. The Doxa 600T is a nice watch, also the Rolex dive watches, but I have always like Omega dive watches. I know they are a bit \”over worn\” these days, but if I were to get a dive watch I would still go for Omega myself.

  6. @Jez… i have had and sold several Seamasters. They never stayed longer than 6 months, however i never tried the Planet Ocean. Thanx for the tip.

  7. The planet ocean is a very nice watch in my opinion. Out of interest, why did none of them last longer than 6 months? You are obviously not that taken with them?

  8. @Jez… the Seamaster was a watch i dreamt of for a long time and when it was on my wrist it just did not do much to me. The Sarpaneva Korona on the other hand… i’m still loving that watch like the first time i strapped it on my wrist 🙂

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