The Sinn 556i isn’t the blackest watch money can buy. That honor belongs to 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). The Sinn’s something different. You glance down at your wrist to check the time. The next thing you know you’re staring at the second hand circumnavigating the cold blackness of space. And then you notice the time. The ever-so-slightly glossy black dial draws you in like – you guessed it – a black hole.
Sinn achieved this effect by applying anti-reflective coating on both sides of the 556i’s sapphire crystal. I don’t know what formulation they use, but the treatment disappears the glass. The magic trick has a downside: the dial’s surface is easier to smear than the current president. To the point where the 556i should come with a bottle WristClean Watch Cleaner Spray.
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. The Sinn is a sleek, seamless and yes cold piece of modern art. It says less about you than its own raison d’etre: embody the age old, inarguable assertion that time waits for no man.
When the earth makes its inevitable rotation, when night falls, the Sinn 556i continues to enchant. The 556i’s nighttime glow is equally if not more mesmerizing than its daytime display. I’ve never see a more low-light legible dial. And mega-props to Sinn for not illuminating the sweep second hand.
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.
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. Cough Yema Navygraf Heritage cough. Where Yema proudly touts its in-house movement, Sinn simply says “automatic mechanical.” That would be the Top Grade ETA 2824, a humble but incredibly robust machine that maintains Sinn’s tough-as-nails-tool watch rep.
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)
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.