A Study of Form: how the new Sinn 356 Chronograph Bucks Every Trend Going and still Works
 

A Study of Form: how the new Sinn 356 Chronograph Bucks Every Trend Going and still Works

5 min read
Rob Nudds

Brands

Sinn

Categories

Reviews

Rob Nudds

Brands

Sinn

Categories

Reviews

Every so often, the watch community is treated to a moment of magic. Very occasionally, we witness a watch release that is infinitely more than the sum of its parts. When this kind of inspiration strikes, there can be no rhyme or reason to it. These are special times. Logic is abandoned. Sense is suspended. All that remains is a product that should never have made it off the drawing board. And yet, it has.

It doesn’t matter how many rules, design principles, or case studies you can point to that might suggest it shouldn’t work.

Because it does.

It doesn’t matter how no one outside of the industry will understand why you’re so obsessed with it.

But you are.

And it really doesn’t matter whether your watch buddies agree with you that your latest timepiece is a tick above everything they have in their watch boxes.

Because this is personal. This is a love story about you and a watch. This is a love story about the Sinn 356 Chronograph…

Sinn 356 Sa Pilot II Automatic Chronograph WatchSinn 356 Sa Pilot II Automatic Chronograph Watch

Sinn 356 Sa Pilot II Automatic Chronograph WatchSinn 356 Sa Pilot II Automatic Chronograph Watch

 
Regular price
£2,205.00
Regular price
Sale price
£2,205.00
Sinn 356 Pilot Watch Automatic Chronograph - Acrylic / Black Dial - Solid Bracelet
Sold out
Regular price
£2,800.00
Regular price
Sale price
£2,800.00
Sinn 356 Sa Pilot Watch Automatic Chronograph - Black Dial - Solid Bracelet
Regular price
£2,850.00
Regular price
Sale price
£2,850.00
Sinn 356 Sa Pilot II Automatic Chronograph Watch - Salmon Dial - Solid Bracelet

Dramatic opening aside, the Sinn 356 is a nonsense. It shouldn’t exist. It’s a stubby, drab, anachronistic Pilot’s chronograph. Its diameter and thickness are so unrelated they might as well come from different continents. Its dial design is nothing new. It is ground so retrodden it has become a muddy swamp. It’s so out of touch you even have the option of buying it on a bund strap, for goodness’ sake.

My advice?

Get it on the bund.

Why, you may ask, am I so perplexed by this release? The source of my consternation begins and ends with the watch’s proportions. Aesthetically, the two standard models (references 356.0202 with the black degradé dial, cream lume, and black sub-dials, and reference 356.0201 with a white dial, black numerals, white lume, and black sub-dials) are very handsome head-on. The layout is the classic “compur” layout, which has sub-registers at 3 and 9 o’clock. 

These days, the compur layout is often referred to as bi-compax, which is a modern term for a compur or, if you prefer, uni-compax layout and can have the sub-dials positioned either at 3 and 9 or even 6 and 12.

The problem with the usage of bi-compax is that it doesn’t follow the logic of the original designation. For the pedantic amongst us, only chronograph sub-dials are counted when it comes to the “compax” appellation. A compur/uni-compax dial typically has one sub-dial dedicated to the going seconds (which is connected to the hour and minute hands), and one sub-dial committed to the chronograph minute counter. It is possible (however unusual) to have a bi-compax layout with just two sub-dials, but this would technically require the going seconds to be dropped entirely.

 
Regular price
£2,205.00
Regular price
Sale price
£2,205.00
Sinn 356 Pilot Watch Automatic Chronograph - Acrylic / Black Dial - Solid Bracelet
Sold out
Regular price
£2,800.00
Regular price
Sale price
£2,800.00
Sinn 356 Sa Pilot Watch Automatic Chronograph - Black Dial - Solid Bracelet
Regular price
£2,850.00
Regular price
Sale price
£2,850.00
Sinn 356 Sa Pilot II Automatic Chronograph Watch - Salmon Dial - Solid Bracelet

Theoretically, therefore, you don’t actually know what a watch looks like just by hearing the compax designation. You need to see the watch to be sure. This is likely why, over time, the terminology has shifted to refer more commonly to the number of sub-registers regardless of the information they’re displaying.

For academic purposes, it’s worth mentioning that, traditionally, a true bi-compax would have three sub-dials, one for the going seconds, one for the chronograph minute counter, and one for the chronograph hour counter (almost always arranged at the 3, 6, and 9 positions), but, to add a further wrinkle to the mix, this layout was seldom referred to as bi-compax and, as the most standard chronograph layout, was simply termed “compax”.

A tri-compax would therefore have four sub-dials, with the fourth often showing the date, which is admittedly quite rare.

Finally, just to through a spanner in the works, the “Valjoux” layout, which is so named because of the mass movement producer that made it famous, features three sub-dials but arranged at the 6, 9, and 12 positions.

Yes, it’s a bit confusing and, honestly, quite weird, but welcome to watchmaking…

If you want to read up a bit more on the layout of chronograph dials, you can do so on watch-wiki.net (something I wholeheartedly recommend any watch aficionado to do).

Sinn356

But back to the Sinn 356 and its mind-bogglingly bizarre proportions. This is a 38.5 mm chronograph. That’s a wonderful thing. Smaller chronographs for men are a rarity these days and the kind of watches that send true watch nuts weak at the knees. However, this dinky little timer is a stunning 15.6 mm thick.

To put that into context, I devised a very long, exceedingly tedious equation to estimate the “ideal” thickness of a watch versus its diameter in order to achieve a product that “appears” true to size. 

You can read about this equation in depth on Fratello.com here

To cut a long story short, you can ascertain the theoretically ideal thickness of a watch by dividing its radius (half its diameter) by 1.6 (a rounded representation of the golden ratio). That means that a watch with a 38.5 mm diameter should be a shade over 12 mm (12.03125 mm to be precise). 

That means this tiny but mighty tank is a whopping 3.5 mm and change thicker than it should be. Throw into the mix the information-heavy dial (which also plays a role in making the watch appear smaller than it is) and you have the most muscular 38.5 mm chronograph I’ve ever seen.

Sinn356

It is, in short, watchmaking’s equivalent of corned beef.

Despite all this, however, it looks absolutely heavenly. When I first encountered it in a boutique window in Frankfurt my heart skipped a beat. It is the most “Sinn” watch Sinn has ever produced, and by that I mean it is a tool before all else. This is not a watch designed to be elegant. It is not a watch designed to impress anybody. This is a watch designed to work and to run and run and run no matter what life throws at it.

At just €2,390 on the leather band (and you can choose from several if the bund I recommended turns your stomach) it’s an incredible value proposition from one of the finest watch-as-products-makers in the world. If a bracelet is more your thing, you need only pay €225 more (€2,615), and if you prefer silicon, that option can be had for a touch less at just €2,600. 

If it had a personality, it would be brimming with self-confidence. It would be totally oblivious to its theoretical flaws and wholly convinced by its own abilities. It would be a charming companion as a result. I could well imagine this little brute going nary a day with anything but a big, satisfied smile on its face. 

And that’s exactly what it puts on mine whenever I look at it on the wrist. It’s a watch lover’s watch. And the world can always do with more of those.

Latest News

Rob Nudds

About the Author: Rob Nudds

Rob started working in the watch industry for the Signet Group, aged 17. Following university, he undertook the WOSTEP course at the British School of Watchmaking, developing a keen interest in watchmaking theory. After graduating, he worked primarily for Omega and Bremont before leaving the bench in 2015 to become Head of Sales for NOMOS Glashütte in the UK. After three years of managing an international retail network that grew to encompass 17 countries, he began writing full-time.

Since then, he has written for aBlogtoWatch, Fratello, Time & Tide, Grail Watch, SJX, Get Bezel, Borro Blog, Jomashop, Bob's Watches, Skolorr, Oracle Time, and Revolution USA.

He currently co-hosts The Real Time Show Podcast (www.therealtime.show) with his friend and long-time collaborator, Alon Ben Joseph of Ace Jewelers, Amsterdam, as well as working with several brands as a consultant in the fields of brand building, product development, global retail strategy, and communications. Follow him on Instagram @robnudds.

More Articles from Rob Nudds