Ron, what model are you referring to? I have to agree that the satin finish isn't as attractive as the gloss, but when I'm playing my D15, it sounds great, and I can't hear the price tag.
The guitar was a 000-18. Cost was close to $2000 and the bridge and fretboard had no finish on it. Wood in the raw. Not matte, not tung oil, not linseed oil. Nothing. I was pretty surprised. Maybe it slipped through the final QA. Dunno.
Strange story indeed ... Here are 000-18 specs per Martin web site. Was this a new guitar you're talking about? From all I've heard and read, there are no factory seconds ever allowed out of the plant.
It was a new guitar. I am sort of getting used to seeing simpler appointments, figured veneer/plywood sides and backs and other cost cutting done to guitars in the $500-1500 range. I was surprised that with a list of $2500 and a street price of $1900 it would look this way. My objection may have been petty, but I believe that adding finish, even a modest amount of mineral oil, slows moisture absorption and even though I've never left a guitar in a car in the sun, maintaining a stable moisture content can only help for keeping the instrument healthy.
Well, that's the curious part of the story. Theoretically, no Martin would ever leave the plant in the condition you describe. According to the official Martin website (linked above), The Martin 000-18 has a highly polished gloss top, back, and sides ... with satin finished neck. If, in fact, a specimen such as you saw actually got out, then somebody is probably about to lose their job.
Isn't it normal for the bridge and board to be left unfinished? Except for maple boards on Fender Strats and Teles, I don't recall ever seeing a finished fretboard. I have a '62 Martin, a '58 Goya and a '50 Gibson, non of which have a finish on the board or bridge. I have rubbed a very light oil on the board after cleaning the grunge off, but wiped it off right away so it didn't get a chance to soak in too much.
That's what I was thinking, as well. All mine ever gets is a wipe down with a very slightly damp soft cloth. I'm really reluctant to put any sort of "treatment" on my guitar.
I guess there are finishes that seal like a shell and those that embed and protect. I've never left wood in the rough since I've lived in environments that were dry heat in the winter, tropical in the summer (New England's climate) or desert dry year round. I also like to leave my guitars out and about so I can enjoy looking at them and they are at hand for playing. That means that they never in a humidity controlled case. I have a Meade humidity meter staring me in the face telling me that the room is at 51%, perfect for instruments (probably humans too). Raw wood reacts quicker to moisture and it can have an effect causing wood to crack or more commonly in going out of tune more often. It's a woodworking thing. Exotic woods are usually denser and don't absorb moisture as quickly as softer more open grained woods do. It used to bother me that most guitar makers leave the inside of the box unfinished. Even matte finishes have something to seal the wood. Wood finishes for instruments is a hot topic among guitar makers and particularly among violin makers where the holy grail, the Stradivarius finish and what it is made of has bedeviled makers for centuries.