How Sinn came to designing one of the best navigation chronographs out there

“Is the Sinn 903 actually a Navitimer?” I hear you cry. In short, sort of. The answer involves a bit of a history lesson, about the original Breitling Navitimer and what happened to the company in the 1970’s.

Brushing up on our Navitimer history

In 1952 Breitling birthed its legendary Navitimer into the world, becoming a company famously associated with aviation. Shortly after, the Navitimer was being produced for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) which made the Navitimer one of the most iconic watch models created by Breitling.

Breitling 806 Navitimer

The Breitling 806 Navitimer - Image credit WatchGecko.

It seemed like the Breitling Navitimer became the company’s cash cow, but the good times weren’t going to last. In the 1970’s, the quartz crisis was being felt in full force by the Swiss watch industry and Breitling was hit hard. Staff were laid off, and the decline in mechanical watch sales meant parts of the company were liquidated, closing its doors in 1979.

How did Sinn come into the equation?

The rights to the Navitimer were sold onto Sicura and Sinn, while the remaining Breitling stock (mostly cases and dials) were bought by Sinn, Ollech and Wajs and another company. Sinn bought the rights to the Breitling 806 and 809 Navitimer models as well as 500 cases and dials, keen to produce a pilot’s watch with a logarithmic scale and slide rule function that made the Breitling Navitimer so recognizable.

Sicura on the other hand continued to produce watches under the Breitling name, owning the rights to the names Breitling and Navitimer. Sinn focused on developing the Navitimer model with innovative technology, which accelerated when Lothar Schmidt took over Sinn in 1993.

Since the founding of Sinn in 1961, the company built a reputation in horology for creating some of the best tool watches in the industry based on cutting-edge technologies, from Ar-Dehumidifying and antimagnetic construction to Tegiment steel hardening and temperature stabilized movements. Sinn were also favoured for their tool watches by the German police and fire service, astronauts, and pilots with their range of TESTAF-certified pilot watches.

The Sinn 903 ST B E up close

Which brings me to the Sinn 903 itself, more specifically the Sinn 903 ST B E Navigational Chronograph. Since the rights to the 806 and 809 Navitimer’s were sold to Sinn, the watch makers continued improving on its series every few years to eventually bring us the modern 903 ST as we know it today. It’s quite something to behold, in a 41mm stainless steel case the 903 ST B E holds the famous slide rule and logarithmic scale with a host of functions made possible thanks to Sinn’s years of technological innovation.

 

Sinn 903 St B E

The Sinn 903 ST B E - Image credit Sinn.

The case has a highly polished and satinized finish, sitting tall at 14.5mm to accommodate the slide rule scale, housed within a domed sapphire anti-reflective crystal. The bezel is grooved, which made me think it was unidirectional, though all calculations and internal rotating scale are operated by the smoothly rotating crown at 10 o’clock. I learnt this thanks to the lengthy manual, which devotes a large section to all the slide rule functions.

The main selling point of the Sinn 903 is of course the dial. With an incredibly intricate layout that screams ‘tool watch’, the 903 comprises of the slide rule with logarithmic scale and three sub dials – packed with functions for performing mathematical conversions, and calculate fuel consumption, speed and distance.  An additional chronograph function can also record and measure periods of time.

903 St B E

The Sinn 903 ST B E - Image credit Sinn.

The face of the watch is incredibly satisfying to look at, with a deep blue dial face and electroplated silver markers and counters. The result gives the dial a crisp and clear finish with blue portions that faintly resemble a velvety texture. The hands and raised indices are given a luminous ivory coating that make legibility easy and compliments the blue face. A date window sits at 4:30 with a matching colour scheme to not disrupt the overall look of the dial, only the seconds hand is giving a contrasting colour of white and red, which really helps with legibility when performing your calculations.

Turning the watch over you’ll see the LJP 8000 self-winding movement on full display behind a sapphire crystal caseback, featuring 28,8000 semi-oscillations per hour and a seconds stop function. The 903 ST B E also benefits from anti-magnetic construction as per DIN 8309 and is waterproof and low-pressure resistant to 100 metres as per DIN 8310.

So, it isn’t just a Navitimer homage?

To put it plainly, it ticks the Navitimer boxes in every category and at half the price of the Breitling Navitimer. It by no means feels like a Breitling knock-off and it’s clear Sinn have honoured the design elements that made the Navitimer popular in the first place and expanded on this to suit their modern buyers. I believe the most common hesitation against the 903, is that some people just want ‘the original Breitling Navitimer’ - which unless you get lucky in your E-Bay bids you won’t find, as any Breitling Navitimers made after 1979 are rebranded by Sicura. In some ways, the Sinn 903 feels like a truer embodiment of the original Navitimer than those produced today under the Breitling name.

Want to know more about Sinn? Find everything you need to know about Sinn watches here , and be sure to check out our full collection of Sinn watches at WatchGecko.