I ran a search on the web and was surprised to find that this watch had never been properly reviewed so I figured I’d have a stab at writing one myself.
But first, a little background info. I have been selling watches at an AD for almost ten years and in that time, I have handled a lot of watches. Over the last decade, I have managed to amass a collection of twenty watches, both vintage and new. Almost half of this collection consists of Omega watches, from Seamaster dress models of the ‘50s and ‘60s to the Speedmaster Professional ‘Moonwatch’ and the recent Co-Axial enhanced Planet Ocean series. I tend to choose watches based on looks, reliability and value-for-money (don’t we all?).
Within my collection, there are five dive watches, three of them Omega, two of them Seiko. I also have one TAG Heuer Aquaracer quartz chronograph as well as the above-mentioned Speedmaster, which, as many of you would know, is a hand-wound chrono.
I used to have a Breitling Shark Chronograph, but I sold it some years ago. Since then, I have always wanted to get another Valjoux 7750-powered chrono. However, with so many dive-style watches in my collection, I decided that my next chrono would have to look more ‘pilot’ or military in its design. And while part of me wanted to hunt for a Heuer or Sinn Bundeswehre Chronograph from the 1970s or ‘80s, a larger part of me wanted to purchase something brand new instead. I had seriously considered a Breitling ChronoAvenger, but when I tried one on, I realised that a 44mm Chrono was just a little too large for my wrist.
As for the Valjoux 7750 calibre, I have to say that in all the years of selling watches, it has proven itself to be a reliable and robust stopwatch movement, with very few of them developing any notable issues. One idiosyncrasy with this movement is that the chrono hands can be prone to resetting slightly off-centre, but this is an easy fix and I have only seen it happen a few times over the years.
Which brings me to the Sinn 103 ST SA. I have been after one of these for over five years, but could never seem to get the finances together to purchase one. Also, these were not available here in Australia until recent months when a store in my city began carrying the brand. I had dealt with this store on numerous occasions and had developed a good rapport with the staff so in I went and tried on a 103 series “panda dial” model. I was wearing my 42mm Omega Planet Ocean. I should point out that I have 6.5 inch wrists and a 42mm watch tends to occupy a lot of real estate on my wrists. The 103 that I tried on had a diameter (according to the Sinn catalogue) of 41.75mm. Ahh, what’s .25mm between friends? It was a perfect fit. And to me, this has always been a classic size for a chrono of this style. While I didn’t mind the panda dial, my Breitling Shark Chrono had a similar colour combination where the dial was blue, but the chronograph sub-dials were silver. For those who may not know, the Sinn 103 with a black dial and white sub-dials has sometimes been referred to as the “panda dial” version. If you’re still confused, head for the nearest zoo…in China.
Anyway, my main problem with these contrasting sub-dials is that when the hands are positioned in front of them, at say, 6:28, for example, they can become ‘lost’ against the sub-dials. Now, I’m not a Special Forces guy, so it’s not really life-or-death for me, and while the contrasting dials do give the watch a certain mid-sixties military look (in my mind, anyway), I prefer legibility. Especially these days, as I rush towards my mid-forties.
So, after trying this watch on, I placed an order for the all-black dial. I gave the store the exact model number as I knew it- 103.061. But I had one more stipulation for the watch. Since it was German-made, I wanted it to have a German Day-wheel. This meant that I would have to wait longer than the standard two weeks for delivery, but them’s the breaks. I’d waited more than five years to buy this watch. An extra few weeks wasn’t gonna kill me.
Six weeks later, it arrived. Meanwhile, I was trying to memorise the days of the week in German. By the way, today is Mittwoch!
I have seen some fancy watch packaging in my time. Highly polished or laquered wooden boxes with leather-wrapped cushions inside them with the watch clamped nice and snug around it.
Well, the Sinn didn’t come packaged like that. Good! This is not a watch that should concern itself with over-done packaging. After all, you wear the watch, not the box it comes in. Having said that, the packaging is better than some other watches in the same price-range, and perfectly suited to the watch inside. If I had bought a Sinn Regulateur model instead, it would have arrived in a polished wooden box, but this watch is another story altogether. This is a tool watch. This one is all about the watch and doesn’t need a glitzy box.
All paperwork was nice and clear. The Warranty Card was a plastic credit-card style one instead of a cardboard type. Always a sign of quality and a little more effort, IMHO. There was a fold-out instruction pamphlet in German…
…as well as a little dvd with English operating instructions. I have yet to play it. I figure that I know how to operate a chronograph wristwatch without my house burning down.
THE BITS AND PIECES
Also included was a pair of very small Allen-Keys and a small bottle of Loctite glue, which had me a little worried. Loctite is sometimes used as an added measure for keeping screws…uh, screwed tight. The Allen-Keys are used for adjusting the bracelet, which doesn’t use screws or pins, but instead has double-sided hexagonal bolts holding the links together.
You are required to hold one bolt still while you turn the other one on the opposite side of the link. Very easy to do…if you’re an octopus OR you have a bracelet stand handy. I have adjusted these types of bracelets before. Cartier use double-sided screws in many of their watches, so I just took my time and unscrewed the bolts. I noticed that the threaded ends of the bolts had Loctite on them, but I didn’t put any glue on the screws before putting the bracelet back together. In my experience, it’s not entirely necessary. If, however, I notice any screws coming undone, then I will use the Loctite that came with the watch. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll need it.
There was also a little screwdriver supplied. One end has a very small screwdriver blade attached (possibly for removal/replacement of the bezel screws) and the other end has a thin pin for the fine adjustment of the clasp.
THE WATCH ITSELF
Firstly, let me just say that I posted a few photos of this watch on the Omega Forum here on WatchUSeek and one member commented on how the Sinn 103 was “a lot of watch for the money”. I have to agree.
Notice the scuff on the bezel at the 53 minute marker? I was reaching for a Chanel J12 watch at work and the bezel grazed the display cabinet a little too hard. Ahh, the hazards of working in a watch store. Oh well, they ARE meant to be worn. And now that it has a scuff on it, it is truly mine.
The attention to detail on the Sinn was indeed impressive. I had specifically wanted the 103 ST SA because, among its many features, it also had a countdown bezel. This has already proven itself useful to me for timing my lunch breaks, since, when set for a half-hour break, a quick glance at the bezel will tell me that I have 10 minutes left, for instance, rather than showing the twenty minutes have elapsed.
As for its other features, there are many. For example;
*Screw-down chrono pushers.
This is a feature that you won’t find on a TAG Aquaracer Auto Chronograph which sells for a couple hundred dollars more here in Australia (at the time of writing). Nor will you find it on the Omega Seamaster Chronograph, (RRP $4800.ooAUD @ Dec '09) which has similar looking collars around the pushers, but they do not unscrew. The Breitling SuperOcean Chronograph, for example, does have screw-down pushers on it, but it also has a much steeper price tag. In Breitling's defence, the SuperOcean Chrono is COSC-rated, so that would have something to do with it's pricing. Same thing goes for the Omega Seamaster Chrono mentioned above. But if the 103's time-keeping is anything to go b- I'm getting ahead of myself. More about that below.
*The bracelet features solid end-links, as opposed to folded metal ones, thus making for a sturdier construction.
*It has a convex sapphire crystal case-back, showing the nicely decorated Valjoux 7750 movement. As soon as I took delivery of this watch, I brought it ‘round to my watch-maker to check the time keeping. On his Witschi timing machine, the watch showed a gain of 1.6 seconds per day. This test was done in all five main testing positions. Fantastic!
I took the watch back to the store I work for and tested it on our machine, which measures timekeeping in the dial-up position only. The result was +0.00 s/d (seconds per day). I don’t know if the watch will always keep this kind of time or whether it will settle down into something faster or slower, but I’m very happy with it’s timekeeping. The real test, of course, is how the watch behaves out in the real world strapped to my wrist. I have set the time exactly down to the second about three hours ago and I’ll check it in approx 21 hours to see what kind of deviation I get.
*The watch itself is 200m water resistant, provided, of course, that the crowns are all screwed down.
*The dial is a great example of clarity and function. For a chronograph, especially a 42mm one with a lot of white on a very black dial, I find it highly legible. The hour and minute hands stand out above all others which, let’s face it, telling the time is what a watch is supposed to do. Everything else should be secondary. The layout of this dial exemplifies the brand’s pilot’s watch heritage.
*Anti-reflective coating on the front sapphire crystal. This is a feature found on more expensive watches and there are some mid-to-high-end brands that don’t offer this. Notice the German day-wheel. Just in case you thought the watch was trying to tell me something. Tuesday in German is Dienstag. The day-date Valjoux 7750 movement is normally referred to as Version B, due to the addition of the day wheel.
I love the number font on the dial. That 4 is great! I’m easily impressed, aren’t I ?
*Dehumidifying Technology Capsule Recess. This watch doesn’t have it, but the case is designed to accommodate a small capsule filled with a highly water-absorbent powder which is designed to alert the wearer of any water entry or moisture inside the watch. The powder starts off whitish and if it comes into contact with water, it begins to turn blue. This is found on other Sinn dive models, but it’s available as an option on this model.
What else can I tell you?
The all-polished stainless-steel case is approximately 16mm thick. It’s one of the things about chronographs. I get a lot of customers who like the look of a chrono, but don’t like the thickness. That’s the trade-off. However, I have to say that after wearing this watch for the last two weeks or so, I have gotten used to the thickness and it really doesn’t bother me at all.
The lugs have a nice downward curve which helps achieve a better fit on a smaller wrist and allows the bracelet to ‘flow’ from the edge of the case.
The clasp is a standard fold-over arrangement with holes for fine adjustment and a fold-over lock. The Sinn name is deeply engraved across it. I have yet to remove the protective blue plastic from the clasp since, from my experience, 30 seconds later I tend to find a few scratches and scuffs on the clasp. I should just bite the bullet and remove the plastic.
The bracelet is a combination of brushed links with polished segments in the middle. Nicely done and reminiscent of watch bracelet designs of the 1970s.
I realise that there are other Sinn models that have been getting all the glory in recent years. The U1 and U2 dive models have been very well-received by many Sinn collectors and dive watch fans alike. The Sinn 103 ST SA chronograph represents an outstanding value for the money and while it doesn't have some of Sinn's technology in it, such as Diapal oil or tegimented submarine steel, it does have numerous features usually found on much more expensive watches from some of Switzerland’s finest watch-making houses.
Its design and execution showcases many aspects that make German design and engineering philosophies one of the best in the world.
As I stated earlier, I have wanted this watch for a long time and I’m very happy to report that it has not disappointed me in the slightest. If anything, it has surprised me with just how well-made it is. I had looked at the Bell & Ross Pilot Sapphire chronograph a couple of years ago and I found it slightly insulting that it was selling for twice the price of the 103 and was, except for some minor dial layout differences, essentially the same watch. Not forgetting that B & R used to have dials that read “Bell & Ross by SINN” ten years ago. That alone reminded me of just how well-made the 103 really is.
And as I sit here writing this review with the 103 ST SA clamped around my wrist, I know that this is one watch that I’ll keep for the rest of my life.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you found this review informative and/or enjoyable. Any errors contained herein are my own as are any opinions. I am in no way affiliated with Sinn watches. I just think this is one of the best watches I own.
All photos by teeritz. Shot on location at the dining table on the pages of National Geographic Magazine, Vol. 161, No.1, January 1982 issue.
Teeritz is dressed by, oh, I dunno, around one in the afternoon on his days off.
Special thanks to Columbia pencils and Pelikan fountain pens.