Limited Edition Sinning

Following the post on the Sinn 356, here’s another Sinn watch – a pretty chunky dive style watch that was released at the Swiss watch industry nerdfest, Baselworld, in 2017. I got this watch on a whim because you don’t see them often.

The Sinn 103 has been around for a while – and this limited edition Sinn 103 St Sa E (presumaly Steel, Sapphire and Errr…) essentially uses standard case, dial and the staple ETA 7750 movement, but with a couple of differences in finish – the hands and markers on the dial have been coloured ivory rather than white, to give them a vintage look. And it’s limited to only 300 units, so the rotor is inscribed “EINE VON 300”, visible through the sapphire case back.

20190501_130327 (2)The strap is a vintage-look leather job with a Sinn branded buckle, but unfortunately there’s a small tear in the leather on the inside right by where the buckle joins, so it has a habit of rubbing uncomfortably on the wrist.

I tried it on a blue/white leather Toshi strap I’ve had for a few years and I think it looks pretty good, but I wanted to restore it to a tan leather one.

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So I got a Steveo Straps vintage style one made – both of these strap companies are guys who are artisans, making beautiful and not massively expensive straps by hand. Check out their stuff – it comes highly recommended.

So here it is, wearing the Steveo – the strap’s a bit lighter in colour than the OEM, and it is slightly thicker nearer the buckle (20/18mm) so the original Sinn buckle is a shade too small to fit on this strap. No matter, it’s a really nice addition to the watch.

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The thing is, I bought it not knowing if it would be for me. I absolutely love the look of it, but it is a big watch for my puny wrists.

I happened to show it to a friend, who was so taken with it he said, “Can you get me one?”

Given the rarity, I doubt it – and in a moment of clarity, I told him he could take this off me for what it cost me…

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So we did the deal, went out for breakfast the following morning and it occurred to me that I didn’t have any pics of the watch with the new strap, or in fact, photos of its case back… so borrowed my friends watch to get the last few snaps…

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Bless me father, I have Sinned

When most people (who care about such things) think of relatively high-end, mechanical watches, they think of Switzerland. The clock and watch industry revolved around Geneva and various surrounding towns, and Switzerland did a good job of marketing the fact that if a watch was “Swiss Made” that meant it was of high quality and accuracy.

Other countries produced great watchmakers too – Englishman George Daniels, reckoned by some to be the greatest watchmaker since the 18th century, invented a whole new mechanism in the mid 1970s that is used by Omega today, their “Co-Axial escapement”. At a similar time of innovation, Seiko’s Yoshikazu Akahane spent 20 years perfecting the “Spring Drive” mechanism, unique to Seiko and one of the most accurate mechanical watch movements available.

But Germany has a rich history of watchmaking, too – centred around Glashütte, where several well-known brands still base themselves. Read more about the history of German horology, here.

One relatively modern German watchmaker of note was Helmut Sinn; he founded his eponymous company in Frankfurt in 1961, making clocks and watches aimed at pilots. Various moves in and out of Switzerland saw the Helmut Sinn Spezialuhren company assemble watches with off-the-shelf Swiss movements inside custom made cases.

For a while, it was thought that German astronaut Reinhard Furrer was the first to wear an automatic chronograph in space, aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger for the Spacelab D1 mission. The Sinn 140 and 142 watches were also worn on Mir and in other NASA-operated missions. 20+ years later, however, the story of Bill Pogue came to light and burst the “Sinn: first in space” balloon.

Sinn was known for collaborating with then-new brand Bell & Ross, and for continuing to produce “tool” watches that would appeal to pilots and divers, while developing various technologies to make their watches more hard-wearing, and modifying the standard Swiss movements to add other features and finishes.

The “FLIEGER” Sinn 356 Pilot II

The hunt for this particular watch came about partly because of a post on OmegaForums when one user asked if Sinn were any good; a very respected watchmaker gave his opinion (yes, he had owned one and would happily have another), but the photo in that thread was what sold it to me.

The 356 line from Sinn is a classic military-inspired watch, easy to read and hard-wearing. It’s well-finished and looks good on a strap or a couple of bracelet options. But the Sa Pilot II has a mesmerising copper “guilloché” finish dial. Some people say it’s salmon pink in colour, but the dial is copper-plated, so I say it’s copper coloured…

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This particular watch is from 2007, so it has an ETA 7750 movement and an acrylic crystal; watches were offered with a sapphire crystal as an option (in general, sapphire is harder wearing though if you do scratch or chip it, there’s no alternative but to replace… whereas you can polish away scratches on acrylic crystals).

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Later, Sinn was forced to switch to using an equivalent Sellita SW500 movement since ETA – part of the Swatch group that owns Omega and many other brands – decided to restrict supply of its movements to any of its competition. Sellita makes movements that are basically copies of the ETA offerings that have been around for decades; they’re more-or-less parts compatible so we’ve seen major watch manufacturers that previously relied on ETA movements – including the likes of TAG Heuer – switch to Sellita.

If you bought a new copper-dial 356, it would be the 356 Sa Pilot II – with Sapphire crystal. Or there’s the Sa Pilot III with silver plated guilloché dial. For me, the classic black-dial 356 with acrylic crystal is just about ideal, but I can’t help but be struck by that copper dial…

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