A few days ago, I attended a private event that WatchBuys was holding in a NYC hotel. WatchBuys is the authorized US retailer for several German watch brands, principal among them is Sinn.
The first nice watch I ever bought, around four years ago, was a special edition Sinn 358 Jubilaum, a limited edition timepiece created for their 45th anniversary [pictured above]. To me, Sinn was the single best choice of a quality mechanical watch in the $1-3k range. The dial and function was stunning, and I really enjoyed looking at the decorated Valjoux 7750 through the sapphire caseback. I still regret having sold it.
One of the most interesting features available on most modern Sinn watches is that they are filled with an inert gas mixture. You can tell the ones that have this as most have a small 'Ar' in a circle on the dial, and a cylinder in the case which changes color as the gasses escape. According to Sinn, this helps to keep dust and moisture out of the case which means the oils in the movement last much longer.
Here are my top picks, now having played with all of them:
A watch I had seen online before, and always caught my eye, was the Sinn 356 Flieger II with a unique copper dial. The dial catches great light in real life and the watch is both highly legible and functional, with a chronograph, day and date. I also appreciate the retro acrylic crystal on it, and for a shade over $2,000 I nearly pulled the trigger right there and then. Additionally the lume on this watch is fantastic and bright. It would be a terrific watch for a man, but even more so for a woman. The only downside, and I feel this way about most of Sinn's watches, is that the bracelet feels a little bit cheap. For a watch that is priced this well, its a small sacrifice to make and it would look nice on a leather strap.
The next watch that piqued my interest was the Sinn 140 SZ-01 Movement. While at the higher end of the Sinn prices ($4,890) it also has some real history. When I played with it I was reminded of the Omega Speedmaster Mark II, and upon researching it after the event, it too has some space history. In 1985, German Physicist and Astronaut Reinhard Furrer used the original Sinn 140 to prove mechanical watches can operate in a weightless environment. In 1992 German Astronaut Klaus-Dietrich Flade took the Sinn 140 with him on the Mir 92 mission to the Russian Space Station.
This re-issue is a remix of the original with some cool updates like the black PVD coating and inert gas filled case. I'm also a big fan of the inner rotating bezel and the splashes of orange on the hands. With a chronograph and date, you are definitely getting a hefty amount of watch for that price tag. This is a large watch, and at 44mm wears more like 46mm, dwarfing my small 6.5" wrist, especially with the help of the chunky leather strap.
If dive watches are more your style, Sinn has a nice selection of those as well. I had seen pictures online but they never really did anything for me. However in the elevator up to the event, I started chatting with a fellow invitee who was wearing the classic Sinn U1 [below left], and it looked great on his wrist. Understated but clearly tough as nails. The Sinn 'U' range is made of the same steel as Submarine hulls and is highly resistant to salt water and corrosion. German submarines were known during WWII as U-Boats, which is likely where the name for the collection came from. Nearly all their U divers are tested to 1000m, which is over 3x deeper than a Rolex Submariner.
The newest pieces include divers made with black PVD coating, as well as some made of titanium and with extra complications. The rubber strap feels high quality and the titanium models are shockingly light on the wrist. With SuperLuminova on the hands and markers, these glow like a christmas tree after exposure to light.
One section of the event was for new releases from Basel 2014. Of the dozen new releases, my favorite by far was the Sinn 857 UTC TESTAF Lufthansa Cargo. Having previously released a limited edition watch with Lufthansa, which was extremely popular, Sinn has done it again. This watch is geared at pilots, and carries a TESTAF certification. TESTAF is a relatively new standard to define a watch that is developed to be worn in an airplane cabin's atmosphere. You know how serious diving watches have an ISO certification? It's like that, but for pilots.
At 43mm it is not a small watch, nor is it huge. The narrow bezel helps the illusion that it is small while the face is big, balanced and super legible. But I'd be lying if I didn't say that my favorite part is the awesome little airplane hand that keeps track of a second time zone. Orange is a great color to add to black and white and putting the 24-hour track on the inner part of the dial makes it far less distracting than most watches. The date complication and rotating bezel round out the watch as highly functional, and the two planes printed on the dial in light grey add visual interest without being distracting. Add to this the wide serrated bezel and SuperLuminova hands and markers, and its a fantastic watch.
This watch is a limited edition of 777 pieces and comes in a cool Lufthansa cargo like display box with a collectible miniature Boeing 777F model.
If you are looking for your first nice mechanical watch, or just want to dip a toe into the German offerings, I can think of no better place to start than with a Sinn. They are very much tool watches, built for a purpose with reliable movements and great little details. These are watches made for watch nerds in the truest sense, the engineering sense. Although they are very modern in terms of technology and materials, I feel that they are the embodiment of the pre-jewelry professional watches of the first half of the 20th century.