I visited the Sinn headquarters in Frankfurt on 28 April 2006 and met with Lothar Schmidt, the owner and CEO, and Simone Leseberg, in charge of marketing and communication, to discuss forum-related issues. (See my post on that in the other thread).
Lothar Schmidt was kind enough to offer me a personally guided tour through the Sinn facilities, answered all questions that I had and I was permitted to take photos of all areas. I was impressed by the openness. The friendly, relaxed yet focused attitude of all employees was very much in evidence. Not being much of a photographer (you can tell by the picture quality), I was definitely talking more than I was taking photographs, but here are a few impressions.
About 60 Sinn employees put out ca. 14,000 watches per year. This is the man at the heart of the Sinn empire:
From the customer point of view, the Sinn Showroom is the heart of the world of Sinn. Here all models (as well as straps and bracelets) can be viewed, handled and compared. For those of us lucky enough to visit Sinn on a business trip to Frankfurt or in a dedicated Sinn visit, being able to compare all variants of the collection is a huge advantage over the limited selection of other brands that is usually available in high-street jeweler's shops. Another advantage is that one gets to talk to knowledgeable Sinn employees in the showroom, not sales personnel ignorant of the minute differences between models, or the technology involved. Add to that the value-for-money advantage for the consumer in direct marketing, and it is obvious why I am quite a fan of being able to deal with manufacturers like Sinn (or Stowa, or others) directly. About 75% of the models are in stock (no, not the U-series, and – perhaps surprisingly for us toolwatch addicts – the new Régulateurs both of which are apparently selling like hotcakes).
(The guy who is not Mr. Schmidt in the picture is your moderator.)
These are workplaces in the service/repair department on the ground floor where repairs take place. My 656 underwent a spontaneous test on the timing machine, and after four years it is still at an average of +3 seconds per day.
The accuracy test of my 656 was followed by a pressure test which you can see in the next picture. Importantly for me, the watch was first tested to -0.8 bars, and then to +5 bars, and passed both tests with flying colors. (The 656 case is a solid thing, and can easily handle pressures of multiples of the 10 bar/100 meters indicated, but pressure tests take time, and rating an aviation watch to the depths of a dive watch would necessarily drive up the price). All watches are individually pressure tested non-invasively, but there is also an in-house machine for a wet pressure test. This is Lothar Schmidt strapping my 656 in for the low-pressure test:
On to the production hall where all of the new and many of the complicated movements/watches are assembled. The movements are supplied by ETA only in chronometer-grade quality (though without COSC certificate) and to Sinn specifications, e.g. using their special oil which is very pure and works in a greater temperature range than conventional oils. Mr. Schmidt pointed out that COSC-certification relates only to the movement, not the watch, and that the forces involved in fitting hands and mounting a COSC-certified movement into a case can easily negate the accuracy achieved during the COSC procedure. He prefers to have the watch regulated as precisely as possible after the assembly. If the watches are not assembled by Sinn personnel, the production facility is where a rigorous final check is performed and any faults rectified before the watches are being released to the sales department.
The lady was assembling on one of the Finanzplatz watches as we passed through:
Part of the production facilities is what I like to think of as the "torture chamber" (my words, not theirs) where some of the things are done to watches that are unique to Sinn and which you cannot find in other brands:
This is the Argon filling machine. The watches are inserted into the white plastic carrier, and then a vacuum is created and the watches filled with Argon – the whole procedure is then repeated for good measure. The dry capsule is inserted at this time as well (it is re-usable once dried, by the way).
This piece of machinery is used to chill those watches to be certified to 45° C below freezing. While many more watches use the special Sinn oil, not all watches undergo the test in the cold chamber, again a time-consuming affair and hence immediately related to the product price. Besides running accurately, the cold test makes sure that no elements are deformed as a result of the extreme cold – you can easily imagine that the cold could deform a minute or second hand so that it might block other hands, or touch the crystal. Hence the cold certification of watches extends far beyond the accuracy test.
Back to the showroom and what I like to call "The Hoard": This is the vault where the ready-for-sale watches are kept after having gone through a rigorous and well-documented quality management procedure. (A file is kept on the performance of every individual watch during the production tests like accuracy, pressure-resistance etc.). Here is a shot of the 356 drawer, another one of the best-selling models:
Wouldn't we all like to have some of this hoard at home?
Sinn quality control efforts are rigorous … the accuracy of all movements is documented, and here is one aspect that I found particularly effective and illustrative of the care taken in the Sinn production. When the watches are transited from production to sales, they receive a date stamp ("136" translates to a production date of week 13 in 2006, e.g.). If the watches are in "The Hoard" for more than one year, they will be re-oiled. Compare that to not knowing how long a watch has been at a jeweler's before purchase and you can see why I think that Sinn is going the extra mile in quality control. B-)
I must say that I was greatly impressed by the personality and dedication of Mr. Schmidt, and of the Sinn employees.
Not documented are the administrative offices and the meeting room as these facilities are in a substantial remodeling phase.
… and saving the best for last:
The Sinn management was very amenable to the idea that another guided tour for interested members of WatchUseek will be arranged later this year (dependent on the progress of the remodeling of the facilities), and of course I shall keep you posted about this project. Watch this space!