Sinn 556i – Full Review

556i on stand

The Sinn 556i isn’t the blackest watch money can buy. That would be the H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Perpetual Moon Concept and MCT’s Sequential One S110 Evo. Both timepieces incorporate vantablack, a man-made substance that’s almost as black as Satan’s heart. While the Sinn 556i’s dial doesn’t absorb 99.96 percent of visible light or condemn its wearer to the fiery pits of hell, the watch is very, very black . . .

German pilot’s watches are famous for their black-and-white dials (e.g., the IWC Mark XVIII and Stowa Flieger). Watches that make a quick time check as easy as it is accurate. The Sinn’s something different.

Sinn 556 on wrist

You glance down at the 556i to check the time and the next thing you know you’re staring at the second hand circumnavigating the cold blackness of space. The ever-so-slightly glossy black dial draws you in like – you guessed it – a black hole. And then you notice the time.

Credit to the anti-reflective coating on both sides of the 556i’s sapphire crystal. I don’t know what formulation Sinn uses, but the treatment disappears the glass. The magic trick has a downside: the dial’s easier to smear than the current president. To the point where the 556i should come with a mini spray bottle of WristClean.

Sinn 556i hands

Set within the Sinn 556i’s Darth Vader dial, the indices and hands pop like a can of violently shaken soda.

Blackened at its base, the stubby, disembodied hour hand floats through the void. The sword-shaped minute hand connects with the hour indices, then exits, leaving a fraction of of a gap between its tip and the identically colored minute markers. There’s just the right amount of negative space to gauge the minute hand’s exact position. The resulting legibility is astounding.

But the German timepiece is more than a faithful timekeeper. Like a Rolex Submariner, a Sinn 556i on the wrist calls attention to itself. Unlike the Swiss Sub, the German watch doesn’t proclaim its owner’s financial status or their unfulfilled desire to be Indiana Jones.

Sinn lume

The Sinn is a sleek, seamless and yes cold piece of modern art. I reckon the design is a slightly spooky expression of the age old, inarguable assertion that time waits for no man. But then I would think that – I’m an old guy coming down the home stretch.

When [the non-metaphorical] night falls, the Sinn 556i’s nighttime glow is equally if even more mesmerizing than its daytime display. I’ve never see a more low-light legible dial. Mega-props to Sinn for not illuminating the sweep second hand.

Sinn 556i on a leather strap

Sinn sells the 556i with a blue dial on a blue strap or a “rice” bracelet, or a black dial on a leather strap. Although the black dial Sinn on leather is a cohesively compelling proposition, the stainless steel H-bracelet slots the 556i into the increasingly fashionable luxury sports watch category.

The bracelet isn’t perfectly integrated – there’s a distinct dip where the case ends and the bracelet begins. But you can’t fault the comfort or the silky smoothness of its sanitized stainless steel.

Sinn 556i diver's clasp

You can fault the diver’s clasp. To wear the bracelet, you first fold the extension in on itself, then fold the rest of the clasp, then pop on the safety.

Huh? You can round down to zero the number of 556i buyers who need a bezel-less dive watch on a steel bracelet that goes over a wetsuit cuff. Meanwhile, thousands of 556i buyers struggle to perform one-handed origami.

The Sinn 556i’s stamped steel clasp is equally disappointing. Once again, a high quality watch is dragged down by cheap-feeling metal. While the Sinn shares this sin with the Yema Navygraf Heritage, the German watchmaker eschews the in-house movement thing for a Top Grade ETA 2824. It’s a humble but incredibly robust machine that maintains Sinn’s tough-as-nails-tool watch rep.

Sinn 556i Mac

Our review model ran just under two seconds slow per day. And will continue to do so 200m beneath the waves.

Unlike pricier luxury sports watches, the Sinn 556i combines elegant design with brick shit house construction. You can wear it swimming, playing laser tag or chopping wood for the winter without fear of harming its mechanism. Just remember to wipe it down afterwards.

The Sinn 556i is an extraordinary achievement at a bargain price: $1380. Aesthetically and practically, it punches well above its weight. Its sole U.S. retailer has a well-deserved reputation for excellent customer service. In fact, I can’t think of a single reason to be afraid of the dark.

Model: Sinn 556i
Price: $1380 (through watchbuys.com)

SPECIFICATIONS:

Case diameter: 38.5mm
Case thickness: 11mm
Case lug width: 20mm
Case back: Transparent
Case finish: Satinized stainless steel
Front crystal: Sapphire
Weight: 4.6 ounces
Movement: Top Grade ETA 2824
Water resistance: 200m

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Design * * * * *
With an espresso black dial and stark white indices messing around under an invisible sapphire crystal, the 556i has a unique, compelling presence.

Legibility * * * * *
Swiss Railways Watch readability.

Comfort * * * 
Solid as a rock, but the cheap stamped metal diver’s clasp is both repugnant and a major PITA

Overall * * * * *
A minimalist masterpiece that’s built like a brick shit house. Superb value-for-money.

[TTAW does not receive a commission on any links.]

16 comments

  1. I thought hard about a Sinn 856 UTC, but ended up buying something from Sinn’s child, Damasko. One of the main decision factors was Damasko’s in-house and absurdly overbuilt bracelet. Everything about the watch itself indicates Damasko pulled out all the stops in machining and assembling the watch case and bracelet.

    Like the Sinn, the black and white dial is extremely legible, and the bead-blast case hides whatever minimal scratching ice-hardened steel collects. Damasko’s new line of chronos also look quite appealing, but I think a Sinn of some sort will be the next watch I add to the collection.

  2. Purchased one of these for my wife, jealous every time I see her put it on…

    ‘vagen

  3. Nice review and looks like a great piece. Can you confirm that an ETA top-grade movement is used? Sinn’s website indicates that they use a SW200-1, with no mention of grade. Thanks.

  4. Absolutely love this watch and greatly enjoyed your review. One thing really puzzles me though. You applaud Sinn for not applying lume to the second hand. I’ve only found one other reviewer who mentions this lack of lume and he was disappointed about this. Can you help enlighten us why Sinn would not illuminate the seconds hand on such a pricey timepiece?

    1. It doesn’t need a second hand to tell the time in the dark. An illuminated second hand would destroy the purity of the design. IMHO.

      1. Okay, now I get it. To me, the white seconds hand is the star of the show on this watch (along with that inky black dial) so when it goes missing in action in the lume shot, it’s a little perplexing. But not luming it is more in keeping with the minimalist theme of the watch.
        Thanks for the extra input on this. All the best. RA

      2. “It doesn’t need a second hand to tell the time in the dark”. You could say the same thing about the light though, no? To me, either it makes sense to have three hands visible both light and dark, or only two. I don’t understand the benefit of one which is only visible sometimes. But I’m genuinely curious, would be interested if you could expand on your (and Sinn’s!) reasoning here 🙂

        1. It’s much harder to identify time in the dark if there’s a sweep second hand. Especially at a glance. [Scientific study to follow.]

          For one thing, the relative size and position of the hands are harder to discern – it takes more time and mental effort than it does in the light. For another (or equally), the second hand’s movement becomes more prominent, more distracting.

          While there are some that want to know the EXACT time (to the second) in the dark, most of us are looking for a relatively less precise notion. The Sinn is easier to read and, IMHO, far more elegant in the dark. And ever-so-gorgeous in the light.

          1. Makes sense! I suppose if you really care, you can see the seconds hand passing by the lumed indices. So you can still time something to the nearest 5 seconds or so 🙂

  5. Good point about the shadow of the seconds hand crossing the indices. Aside from the 5-second shadow, the seconds hand does not completely disappear until things are pitch black. In early evening or twilight situations, however, you can still see the seconds hand moving because it is so white in color, even without lume. Since I’m in bed by eight o’clock, I’m thinking I can live with that!

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