When it comes to German-made tool watches, two brand names come to mind: Sinn and Damasko. Each brand has their own unique history that has put them at the forefront of modern tool watch design. They design their watches to look good and to be built stronger than steel (and that’s not a euphemism).
Sinn and Damasko take different approaches to their respective tool watches in terms of their design language and technology. However, when it comes to their entry-level tool watches they share quite a bit. The Sinn 556 and the Damasko DS30 are two watches that can truly compete head-to-head. They have a similar case design, dial and handset design, and technology. There are differences across the watches of course, but I wanted to look at these watches objectively and see which watch comes out on top in my mind. I don’t have both in my hands at the same time, but I’ve spent a lot of time with each watch. Let’s get into it.
On the Wrist
The DS30 is, for lack of a better phrase, amazing on the wrist. The dimensions are exactly what you want in a tool watch that flies under the radar and is unobtrusive. It is thin and despite having a lot of dial, it doesn’t command too much wrist presence. Coming in at 39mm wide, 47.7mm lug-to-lug and only 9.95mm thick, it is perfect for any wrist size. If you think 39mm is too small for your wrist, the lug-to-lug will help it take up a little more room, but those dimensions don’t make it too large for smaller wrists.
The dial of the DS30 is built for legibility. Black and white is about as perfect as you can get for favorable contrast to make a dial readable. There are no other colors on the dial, and it leaves no confusion as to what you’re looking at. Even with the crosshair on the dial, which some say makes it busier, I always found the dial to be legible. The handset and long hashmarks leave no question as to what time it is.
One of the complaints I’ve seen leveled at the Damasko DS30 is the fact that it doesn’t offer a bracelet. The Sinn 556 has always offered one and while it keeps the cost of the DS30 down, bracelet lovers were left out in the ice-hardened cold. Damasko has sought to change that with the release of a bead-blasted bracelet for the DS30 this fall. I was fortunate enough to check this bracelet out with the DS30 before it was released, and it gave me a better idea of how these two watches compete. I’ll go into further detail a little bit later.
DS30 or 556?
If you’ve got about a $1,500 USD budget and want a solid tool watch, the DS30 and the 556 are undoubtably going to cross your mind and show up in your research. Putting the two watches next to each other would make you think that it comes down to which dial you like more. The cases and dials are so similar that it can come down to personal taste. However, there is a little more going on underneath the surface of each watch that makes each a compelling buy.
The Sinn 556 has been a fan-favorite of watch enthusiasts for years and while it isn’t quite as good of a budget buy as it was in years past, it is still offering a good value proposition. The 556 used to come with the ETA 2824 élaboré but due to the restrictions on ETA movements it is now reportedly coming with the Sellita SW200.
The 556 has the cleaner dial of the two watches. The lumed sword hands float above a glossy black dial with markers for every minute. Two lines of text are present with a date window at 3 o’clock. This is the main difference in my mind between the 556 and the DS30. The DS30’s hands are also sword hands but they are longer and lumed all the way to the movement’s post. There is also a crosshair on the dial as I mentioned before, a date window at 3 o’clock, and Damasko’s branding at 12 o’clock. The DS30’s dial is matte black and combined with the insane AR coatings, never reflects anything that would impact readability. Which dial speaks to the potential buyer is truly personal taste. I didn’t find any major differences in quality or lume between the two.
While the cases of the two watches look the same, there are a few subtle differences. The 556 is smaller in all but case thickness. It comes in at 38.5mm wide, 45.5mm lug-to-lug and 11mm thick. It sits a little stouter on the wrist because of the slightly thicker case, but the two watches wear nearly identically in the real world. The 556’s case is “satinized.” It isn’t matte or glossy, but somewhere in between. I prefer this look to the bead-blasted case of the DS30. The 556’s case has that little extra bit of flash which helps dress it up if necessary.
Damasko is unique in the respect that they offer their cutting-edge technology on the entry-level DS30. The DS30’s case is edge-hardened submarine steel with magnetic resistance. Damasko’s proprietary crown system is also present on the DS30. The technology behind the crown essentially ensures the crown will be one of the last things to fail on the watch. While the Sinn 556 packs 200 meters of water resistance, they don’t offer any other technologies on the 556 that they offer in higher-tier models.
Damasko has launched a bracelet for the DS30 after many calls from fans. It was previously only offered on a leather strap and the bracelet offers a nice upgrade for those who prefer it. The bracelet will cost about $550 USD, which brings it almost in line with the $1,500 that the Sinn 556 on a bracelet costs.
The bracelet is engineered wonderfully with Torx screws on every link and fully articulating solid links. Even with the male end links (a personal disappointment for me), the bracelet falls off the watch and conforms to the wrist. Because of the male end links, it does make the DS30 wear a touch larger but not enough to throw off the overall proportions.
A curious choice on the bracelet is the butterfly clasp. I don’t often see butterfly clasps on tool watch bracelets and I’m surprised Damasko opted for it over a clasp with micro adjustments. While you will lose the ability to quickly adjust the bracelet’s size on the fly, the links are small enough that a perfect fit should be able to be dialed in. With that said, I would have liked to see Damasko offer a clasp with micro adjustments, like the 556.
I would have a hard time trying to decide which of these two watches to purchase. They’re both so good at what they do that it is difficult to declare a clear winner. I’m usually able to pick out one thing about a watch that helps me elevate it over the competition. I didn’t have that here. There are tradeoffs with each watch and some of those things may not matter to every buyer.
The DS30 has a stronger value proposition to me, especially when you take the bracelets off each watch. The DS30 is nearly $300 cheaper on a strap and offers technology in the entry-level model that Sinn doesn’t offer until you reach their mid-range watches.
If you’re contemplating these two watches, I believe the one you will want comes down to a couple things. If you want a clean dial and a watch that can adapt to any situation including wearing a suit and tie, the Sinn 556 is the way to go. If you are the person who doesn’t want to worry about your watch getting banged around in tough situations, the DS30 is the way to go. This isn’t to say the other watch can’t do the other things, but one excels over the other in those specific situations. Regardless of which watch you choose, you’re getting a watch that is over-engineered and is going to last you love it on your wrist. This is a toss-up where you truly can’t go wrong.
Check out the Sinn 556 review here
Check out the Damasko website
Damasko DS30 Specs
Bracelet or strap