Around the first week of July last year, I found an opportunity to trade for an early model 656. Sub-500 serial number, 10 Bar water resistance and folded end pieces for the bracelet. The watch was in excellent condition for its age, with only a few superficial scuffs, and was running within 3 seconds a day. It had all the boxes and papers, but the bracelet tool was missing.
The only negative was an odd-feeling crown action. It screwed down smoothly, but only with about ¾’s of a rotation and wouldn’t stay tight. I posted on the Sinn page seeking experience from other owners, but disappointingly, got zero responses. However, I found plenty of references on the Web to the early 656’s and the vulnerable internally threaded crown tubes.
I wrote to RGM enquiring about buying a bracelet tool and a crown/tube. My plan was to send the watch and parts to a US based Watchmaker of my choice for repair. After waiting for a few days with no response I called RGM and left a voice message. Again, no response, so I wrote to Sinn with a similar request and asked for any history for my watch’s serial number.
Sinn responded the same day telling me that my watch had first been sold in 2001 and that I should contact RGM for service and parts. I explained that I had done so but had had no reply. Soon afterwards, I got an email from RGM saying they would not sell parts and offered an estimate of $135 to replace the crown and tube. They also told me that the Sinn tool wasn’t available for sale.
I went back to Sinn with an inquiry to buy the tool and the crown parts from them instead. They very kindly offered to send me a Sinn tool free of charge, but they would not sell me the other parts. They included a price list for their services and said that I could send the watch to them, with a warning that turnaround times were running at approximately 15 weeks. Based on Web opinions of the quality of work, lead-time and cost from Sinn and RGM respectively, I decided to send my watch to Sinn.
I sent the watch to Sinn in Frankfurt on the 25th of July with USPS for a cost of $53.20. The tracker showed it arriving in Germany on July 31st, but it didn’t move for the next 5 days, so I called Sinn to enquire. The agent who helped me spoke perfect English and told me that DHL or FedEx handle Customs clearing and deliver direct to Sinn. If one uses USPS/EMS, Sinn must collect the watch from Customs once it has been cleared, which they only do every 2nd week or so. I estimate that using USPS added two weeks to the lead-time.
I heard no more until the 8th of October, when I received a letter in the mail listing the work that would be done (full service and crown/tube replacement) and cost thereof. I noticed that my email address was incorrectly reflected, so I emailed to approve the work. I called about 12 hours after sending the email to be sure they had received it. The staff were friendly and again spoke excellent English. In addition to the service and crown replacement, I asked about buying solid end-links for my bracelet.
I followed up by email on the 5th and 7th of November but received no response. I eventually called on the 9th and was given an ETA for the week of the 19th of November. I finally received an email notification on the 23rd of November with an email invoice for €246.25. €151.25 for service and shipping to the US at €95. At an exchange rate of $1.15 the cost to me was $285.65 plus the original cost of $53.20 to ship the watch to Germany for a total of $338.85 and 19 weeks in lead-time. The completed work was listed as follows:
Factory overhaul (disassembling, cleaning, lubricating, assembling and adjusting the movement)
Replaced crown and tube
Renewal of the seal system (all seal and gaskets including the crown)
Cleaning of the case
Cleaning and checking of the metal bracelet
Final inspection including water resistance
I received the watch on the 5th of December, 19 weeks after sending it away. She’s running about 5 seconds slow in 24 hours, the crown feels great and the case and bracelet look fantastic. The bracelet has been put away with the box, tool and papers. I’m wearing it on a strap from ManCaveLeather. Nothing fancy, just a discretely padded dark brown leather with contrast stitching and a brushed deployent clasp to match the watch case.
My opinion of the service experience is mixed. On one hand, I’m very happy with Sinn’s quality of work, for including the crown replacement as part of the service and for giving me the solid end links and a strap tool. On the other hand, I think the lead-time was too long and overall communication wasn’t great. Finally, the added cost of shipping to and from Europe is a bit of a downer, even though the overall cost ended up being reasonable.
I can’t comment about RGM’s technical capability, but I can say their communication was poor, they were unwilling to help me with the bracelet tool, they wouldn’t sell parts and they were expensive compared to Sinn.
I would encourage Sinn to sell parts to private customers. The argument that they’re the same as other watch companies in that regard is a cop-out with no logical basis. They could open a new revenue stream for themselves with the added potential to pick up work repairing botched jobs. Based on the many threads asking about Sinn service options, I have no doubt that they would attract more US buyers if the prospective customer knew that parts were easy to get if they wanted to use a repairer of their choice. Of course, this excludes watches with unique requirements, E.G. Oil-filled or humidity capsules.
Top picture shows her as I received it from Sinn with the bag of replaced parts and fresh on the new strap. Then one of the questionable crown and finally as received in trade.