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10/10/2023
 5 minutes

Sinn: The Engineer’s Brand From Frankfurt

By Donato Emilio Andrioli
Sinn-2-1

Since their founding in 1961, Sinn have become synonymous with highly functional watches capable of meeting special demands. And, thanks to a direct sales business model, the manufacturer’s sophisticated timepieces remain affordable, so it’s no wonder that the German brand is so popular with watch enthusiasts. In this article, I’ll be telling you more about their history and showing you three of their most popular models.

The Birth of Sinn

Sinn was founded in 1961 under the name “Helmut Sinn Spezialuhren” by German pilot and flight instructor Helmut Sinn. The company quickly concentrated on the production of pilot’s watches, chronographs, and diving watches, and sold them exclusively through direct sales. When Breitling were forced to cease production in 1979 due to the quartz crisis, Helmut Sinn took advantage of the opportunity to purchase all the parts and movements of the Breitling Navitimer and repackage them as the Sinn 903 St, thereby scoring a major coup. Curiously, Breitling’s lettering and logos could still be seen on many components of these watches. Once the Navitimer parts and cases he’d acquired were used up, Helmut Sinn began making his own cases, modeled on the old watch. The Sinn 903 was recently discontinued – despite its decades-long popularity – but we probably won’t need to wait long for a successor. After all, the watch was one of the German manufacturer’s most important models.

Sieht aus wie eine Breitling Navitimer, ist aber eine Sinn 903.
It may look like a Breitling Navitimer, but it’s actually a Sinn 903.

Helmut Sinn sold the company to former IWC executive Lothar Schmidt in 1994. It’s hardly surprising that the brand is often referred to by fans as an engineer’s watch brand. Both the Tegiment technology that makes their cases extra scratch-resistant and the Hydro technology that renders their timepieces fog-proof and water-resistant at any depth are an impressive demonstration of how important technical innovation is at Sinn. The fact that the Frankfurt-based company produces watches for law enforcement agencies like the GSG 9 (a tactical unit of the German Federal Police) and firefighters is further proof of Sinn’s quality and reliability.

Who wears Sinn watches?

Don’t worry: you don’t need to be a member of the German Federal Police, an extreme athlete, or a pilot to wear a Sinn. Sinn watches may well be useful tool watches, but they also make perfect daily wearers. Three of the most popular Sinn watches look great at the office, at home, or on the go.

The Most Popular Sinn Models

Fan Favorite: The Sinn 104

Introduced in 2013, the Sinn 104 is a true classic, and is considered a fan favorite a decade later. The fact that the pilot’s watch is so popular is probably due in part to its successful, timeless design, but also its dimensions. With a diameter of 41 mm, a thickness of 11.9 mm, and a lug-to-lug of 47 mm, the timepiece looks fantastic on just about any wrist. The dial offers perfect readability, and the bidirectional pilot’s bezel is made of lightweight aluminum. The watch is equipped with the Sellita caliber SW 220-1, which offers a power reserve of 41 hours and a practical date and day display. The watch is water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft), and the sapphire crystal case back enables you to observe the beautifully staged movement at work inside. When it comes to securing the timepiece to your wrist, Sinn offer two different steel bracelets and multiple leather or silicone strap options. I’m particularly smitten with the white-dial variant, which looks stunning in combination with the black bezel. Black tool watches are a dime a dozen, so the white-dial version of the Sinn 104 comes at just the right time. Priced under $2,000 USD, the Sinn 104 is not only a good option for connoisseurs, it’s also an attractive option for beginners looking to kick off their collection with a high-quality, beautifully designed watch.

Die Sinn 104 ist ein Fan-Liebling und mit blauem Zifferblatt ein echter Hingucker.
The Sinn 104 is a fan favorite that looks great with a blue dial.

All-Rounder: The Sinn 556

Are you looking for an all-rounder suited to the adventures of quotidian life? If so, the Sinn 556 may be the watch for you. The timepiece measures 38.5 mm in diameter, the perfect size for this type of watch. And even though it’s a pilot’s watch, I can’t help but think of the Rolex Explorer when I see it – but an Explorer with a pilot’s genes. Don’t get me wrong: the Sinn 556 is a thoroughly unique watch, but the timepiece, especially on a steel bracelet, reminds me of the iconic Rolex. The robust Sinn 556 features a sapphire crystal and is water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft). The watch is powered by the Sellita caliber SW 200-1, which, like the Sinn 104, can be viewed through the model’s sapphire crystal case back. The timepiece changes hands for around the $1,500 mark, which makes the Sinn 556 a very affordable alternative to the Rolex Explorer. If the black dial is too subtle for you, take a look at the color dial models released in 2023. You’ll have to shell out a little more for one of these, however, since the color dial variants are limited to 400 pieces each and thus somewhat more expensive than the black-dial model.

Die Sinn 556 ist der sportlich elegante Allrounder bei Sinn.
The Sinn 556 is the brand’s sporty but elegant all-rounder.

Sinn Can Swim, Too: The Sinn U1

The Sinn U1 is proof that the German manufacturer isn’t a one-trick pony with their excellent pilot’s watches: They also produce superb divers. This massive diving watch is made of extremely durable submarine steel, and the optional Tegiment finish adds an extra level of scratch-resistance. The Sinn U1 is designed for functionality: with a diameter of 44 mm, it makes a massive, almost brutish impression. The dial, indices, and hands ensure perfect readability, even underwater. The diving bezel can be easily operated while wearing gloves, and the crown is positioned at 4 o’clock, which prevents it from pressing into the back of your hand. The watch is also water-resistant up to an impressive 1,000 m (100 bar, 3,281 ft). Like the Sinn 556, this uncompromising diving watch is powered by the Sellita caliber 200-1 – but without the see-through case back (which would be out of place on a functional diving watch like this one anyway). If the Sinn U1 is a bit too bulky for your taste, the Sinn U50 might make a suitable alternative. At just 41 mm across, this model is slightly more wearable than the U1. The Sinn U1 changes hands on Chrono24 from roughly $2,000 in new condition.

Die U1 ist die Taucheruhr-Ikone von Sinn.
The U1 is Sinn’s iconic diving watch.

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About the Author

Donato Emilio Andrioli

With the purchase of my Tudor Black Bay 41, I discovered a passion for mechanical watches. I am particularly drawn to iconic watches with long and exciting histories.

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