Hands-On: Sinn 356 Pilot Chronograph “The Hour Glass”

Aged, gunmetal dial.

Continuing with its series of limited editions to mark its 40th anniversary, retailer The Hour Glass has just announced a special variant of the Sinn 356 Pilot Chronograph. A no-frills aviator’s watch, the 100-piece edition is the retailer’s most affordable commemorative model to date, priced at 3,850 Singapore dollars, or about US$2,800.

In keeping with the series’ recurring theme of dial colours inspired by vintage watches – ranging from salmon on a Nomos to champagne on a Ulysse Nardin, the dial of the Sinn has a variegated, aged finish.

Ideal dimensions

The Sinn 356 is a simpler version of the Sinn 256 made for the Japanese market – itself the smaller version of the Sinn 156 conceived as a military chronograph for the German military. It’s a no-nonsense fliegerchronograph, or aviator’s chronograph, with just the essentials – a fixed bezel, large hour numerals, and syringe hands.

It does also have the somewhat pointless date and day, but a consequence of the fact that the original 356 used the Valjoux 7750. It has the calendar as a standard feature, and was the de facto movement for most chronographs at the time.

The stock 356

Dial aside, the commemorative edition is identical to the standard model. The stainless-steel case measures 38.5mm, making it one of the smallest pilot’s chronographs on the market.

However, it is still considerably thick, a little bit too thick at 15.5mm, due to the height of the movement inside. As a result it sits high on the wrist, though that is quite common for chronographs designed in the 1990s, which mostly had smaller diameters.

Sinn now also offers the 358 that is almost identical to the 356, except the case has been enlarged to 42mm. Though the increase in size is not substantial, at least by the numbers, the 358 feels a lot larger, and probably too big.

The case is bead-blasted to a smooth, matte finish, fitting for a tool watch. However, it is an ordinary steel case. Because the 356 is an entry level model, the case is not treated with Tegiment, Sinn’s proprietary surface hardening process.

Though simple, the case has a fairly distinct style, with a stepped bezel and angular crown guards. It’s topped by a domed acrylic crystal, which further contributes to its vintage look. For the standard 356, a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal is offered on the 356 Sa Pilot, but that was left out to keep the price of the anniversary edition as affordable as possible.

And thanks to a screw-down case back and crown, the watch has a depth rating of 100m.

Each of the 100 watches is numbered on the back

The aged dial

Sitting in between the technical-looking, conventional black dial of the basic 356 and the guilloche salmon dial of the fancier 356 Pilot II, the dial finish is the only unusual feature of the watch. It’s similar to the finish found on aged “gunmetal” watch cases, and was achieved by simply brushing the dial in random, multiple directions, creating a very convincing antique look.

Because the chronograph sub-dials are recessed, and finished with concentric guilloche, or azurage, they are visibly distinct. And the registers are further highlighted by the fact that they are a shade darker than the rest of the dial, since their sunken position means the dark finish was not brushed off during the ageing process.

A slightly odd detail is the running seconds hand at nine o’clock – it is painted red while all the other hands are white.

In a pilot’s chronograph, it should be the opposite, with the central seconds hand being in red – since elapsed or recorded time is the most important – with the constant seconds being a neutral colour (maybe even grey to blend into the dial) since the only purpose of that is to know that the watch is running.

No-nonsense movement

While Sinn has gradually upgraded its movements over the years, equipping its higher-end chronographs with a variant of the Valjoux 7750 modified in-house as found in the EZM 1.1, the 356 is still an eminently affordable base model, so it is powered by the Sellita SW-500.

It’s a clone of the Valjoux 7750, so essentially identical. The chronograph relies on a cam and oscillating pinion, both more economical and simpler in construction as opposed to the the column wheel and clutch respectively. And it has the same 44 hour power reserve as the 7750, which is a bit short by modern standards. That being said, it is known that Sellita is progressively upgrading its movements with longer power reserves, so the short power reserve should change in the near future.

Concluding thoughts

The Sinn 356 Pilot Chronograph is attractive, with the aged dial making it distinct from Sinn’s usual fare of stark, functional designs, and also affordable as well as strong value.

That also means the 356 is basic, but in a focused, fuss-free way. The 356 does lack the signature technical innovations like Tegiment found in Sinn’s (substantially) pricier offerings, most notably its magnificently engineered dive watches, but it does not aim to be anything more than the watch it is. In short, it sticks to its specialty and does it well.

Key facts and price

Sinn 356 Pilot Chronograph “The Hour Glass”

Diameter: 38.5mm
Height: 15.5mm
Material: Stainless steel
Water resistance: 100m

Movement: Sellita SW500
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds; chronograph; date and day
Frequency: 28,800bph, or 4Hz
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 44 hours

Strap: Suede calf strap with cotton braided knots

Limited edition: 100 pieces
 Only at The Hour Glass and Watches of Switzerland stores in Singapore
Price: 3,580 Singapore dollars

For more, visit Thehourglass.com.


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Seiko Marks 50 Years of the Watch that Started the Quartz Crisis

The 18k gold Quartz Astron SBXD002.

Seiko changed watchmaking when it introduced the Quartz Astron in December 1969. Though it cost as much as a small car, it was the first commercially available quartz watch. Technology and economies of scale would rapidly reduce the cost of the quartz watch, enough that by the late 1970s the Swiss watch industry was in full blown meltdown – the Quartz Crisis.

To mark the 50th anniversary of that landmark watch, Seiko has just introduced the 1969 Quartz Astron 50th Anniversary Limited Edition. Though powered by a latest generation, solar-powered and GPS-enabled quartz movement, the Astron anniversary edition is visually a remake of the original – and it still costs as much as a small car, or about US$35,000.

Notably, the Astron anniversary comes a couple months after Citizen introduced its own an ultra-high end quartz watch, also with a solid gold case, but with a different approach to technology.

The case of the Astron anniversary is 18k yellow gold and cushion-shaped like the original, but slightly larger at 40.9mm in diameter. The top surface of the case is “hand carved” with a fine, grain-like motif echoing the textured finish of the vintage Quartz Astron. And the pattern on the remake is a reference to itself: the carved grain motif is executed in a circular manner around the bezel, a nod to the fact that Seiko has come full circle in reproducing the 1969 design.

Similarly, the dial on the new watch has a vertical, linear graining, also inspired by the finish on the original.

Detail of the anniversary Astron

The original Quartz Astron of 1969

But the movement is completely 21st century. It’s the calibre 3X22, the “world’s thinnest GPS solar” movement, according to Seiko.

The movement automatically syncs with a GPS satellite up to twice daily, allowing it to keep time to within one second in 100,000 years. And even when it is unable to sync with a GPS satellite, the 3X22 keeps time like a conventional quartz movement, to within 15 seconds a month.

And it also accounts for changing time zones – a recessed button in the case activates the time zone correction function that swiftly moves the hour hand to the new time zone.

The date window at three is actually a perpetual calendar that is programmed till the year 2100.

Once fully charged, the watch will run for six months on standard mode. But in power-save mode, which means no GPS sync, it’ll run for two years. According to Seiko, it takes about 75 hours to fully charge in conditions similar to a cloudy day with sunshine.

Key facts and price

1969 Quartz Astron 50th Anniversary Limited Edition
Ref. SBXD002

Diameter: 40.9mm
Height: 12.8mm
Material: 18k yellow gold
Water resistance: 100m

Movement: 3X22
Functions: Time, perpetual calendar correct to 2100, GPS sync and time zone adjustment
Frequency: 32,768 Hz
Winding: Solar-powered
Power reserve: 6 months

Strap: Crocodile skin with folding clasp

Limited edition: 50 pieces
Availability: Starting December 2019 at selected Seiko boutiques worldwide
Price: 3.8m Japanese yen, or €38,000


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