Helmut Sinn, a pilot and flight instructor, founded his eponymous watch brand in the 1960s. His strategy was to offer cockpit instruments and wristwatches at lower prices by selling direct to the buyer, bypassing retailers and distributors. The results? Distinct German aesthetics, outstanding build quality and honest pricing. Although the brand is no longer run by its original founder, those are the same three defining characteristics of Sinn that justifies its cult following.
Classically designed, high contrast and legible, the dial is pretty much what a pilot’s chronograph should be. A couple of things I appreciate here are the distinct styling of each of the subdials and the black backgrounds of the day and date wheels. And the overall execution is reminiscent of one we’ve seen before, as it’s a take on the Breguet Type XX, a chronograph Breguet manufactured in the 1950s for the French military. Covering the dial is a proud, superdomed acrylic lens that is somewhat of a hallmark of this watch, lending it a vintage appeal that you won’t find in many contemporary watches. Sure, it’s a scratch magnet, but you just buff those out using Polywatch. While I used to abhor scratches on the crystal and would’ve avoided acrylic, there’s charm in the regular maintenance of restoring the lens, not unlike cleaning a watch, changing its strap or winding it by hand. It’s another way to interact with the piece other than wearing it and setting the time.
Inside the 103 is a Valjoux 7750, a proven and reliable automatic chronograph caliber that enables that reasonable pricing I talked about earlier. While the movement may be an off-the-shelf one, it’s cased inside of a fine piece of steel made by renowned case manufacturer, SUG in Germany. Measuring 41mm wide and 15mm thick, it fits a variety of wrists and wardrobes and can be had on a black leather strap or stainless steel bracelet.
This is a watch I’d love to spend more time with, but the specs and its look and feel in-person add up to a watch that ends up on my short list of must-have chronographs. Its vintage looks seduce you while the entry-level pricing seals the deal.
The Sinn 103 is available for purchase in several variations. First, the watch comes with your choice of an acrylic or sapphire crystal, each accompanied by a different style of bezel and, should you go sapphire, the lens is less dramatically domed in favor of scratch resistance. Second, you can pick up a 103 on stainless steel bracelet as seen in the photos here or on a thick, soft calf leather strap with contrast stitching. Sapphire retails for $2,620 on the bracelet and $2,380 on leather. The acrylic version comes in substantially cheaper at $1,990 and $1,750 on the bracelet and leather respectively.
All four versions are available at WatchBuys.com, Sinn’s official North American distributor.