Sinn has a long pedigree of producing high-quality, legible pilot’s watches and clocks. The Sinn 556 is one of the modern interpretations of their historical cockpit clocks. While Sinn’s more expensive models have some incredible tech built into them, the 556 is considered the “entry level” model sans the Sinn technology. However, that doesn’t make it any less of an incredible watch. The 556 is built to take a beating, be easily readable and still look at home in almost any situation.
If you’re reading this review, chances are you have heard of the Sinn 556. If you haven’t, the 556 comes in two forms, a and i. The 556a has numerals at 12, 3, 6, and 9. The version here, the 556i, presents only indices on the dial. The only other difference between the two is the date position. The 556i has a date window at 3 o’clock while the 556a has the date positioned at 4:30.
The 556 is a popular watch among enthusiasts for a multitude of reasons, it contains a lot of specs that many find appealing. A 38.5mm case with drilled lug holes, a signed screw down crown, a simple dial layout and a top-grade ETA 2824 movement. I’ve read this movement is chronometer level but does not come with a certification. However, it will yield you excellent performance in terms of accuracy and reliability. The version I have here, on the strap, can be had for a hair over $1,000 and significantly less on the used market. There are many watch buyers who, after reading this paragraph alone, might consider this review done and purchase the 556. There is much more here than what is on paper.
A Pleasant Surprise Out of the Box
One of the first things I do when I get a new watch that comes on a leather strap is take that strap off. Stock leather straps are generally stiff and don’t conform well to my wrist. I often put them on a different watch and tighten it up around a watch pillow to help mold it. That is not the case with the strap that comes on the 556. Similar to the way I felt about the strap on the Sinn 104, the strap is flexible and soft. My only complaint is that I have to use the very last hole to tighten it up on my 6.75” wrist. This seems to be how Sinn sizes their straps as I had the same issue with the strap on the 104. With that said, I did wear the 556 on a single pass leather strap most of the time. I felt the single pass leather kept the toolish feel while still giving it some sophistication in my daily office life.
The dial on the 556 is what makes you fall in love. A simple glossy black dial with only white markers, hands and writing is the essence of watch simplicity. “Sinn” – “Made in Germany” and Sinn’s calling card “Automatik” are the only words present on the dial. 60 hash marks, including the longer hour markers provide readability matched by no other. The white sword hands and baton seconds hand are all the perfect length. Nothing quite touches the minute track hash marks; the seconds hand is a fraction of a hair away. This attention to detail and precision is what makes Sinn such an interesting brand. The anti-reflective coatings on both sides of the sapphire crystal eliminate almost all glare. This is even more incredible with the glossy dial. Bottom line, this is one of the easiest watches to read.
Sophistication Hidden Underneath
Flipping the watch over, you will be greeted with a sapphire exhibition caseback, the Sinn modified ETA 2824. I’ve read conflicting reports on whether Sinn still uses elabore grade ETA movements in the 556. While I am unable to confirm if that is the case with my watch, they are still advertised as “top-grade.” The movement itself is nicely decorated with blued screws as well as a signed and decorated gold rotor. This type of decoration on a tool watch is nice to see. It reminds the wearer that you can still dress this watch up and wear at your dinner party after crawling in the mud all day. My only complaint is that I found the watch rough to wind. It has a lot of tension, which gives it a well-built feel, but I’d rather the winding be less tight. With that said, screwing and unscrewing the crown was not met with any tension.
Rounding out the case are a few more details worth mentioning. The 20mm lugs have drilled lug holes, a trademark of a solid tool watch. A screw down crown gives the 556 an impressive 200m of water resistance, allowing the 556 to delve into dive watch territory. This added safety feature gives the wearer an added sense of security if they like to swim with their watch. Perhaps the best part of the case is the way it is finished. Most tool watches are either bead-blasted or brushed. The 556 is technically neither. It lacks the complete matte finish of a bead-blasted case and doesn’t quite carry the same gloss as a brushed case. Sinn calls this a “satinized” case. I haven’t seen this type of finish on other tool watches and can say that it adds unique personality to the 556.
On the Wrist
Wearing the Sinn 556 is an absolute pleasure. The 38.5mm case width coupled with a modest 46mm lug-to-lug length makes the 556 a crowd-pleaser, especially for those with smaller wrists. With many pilot watches coming in 44mm plus, it’s great to see a watch in a contemporary size like this. At only 11mm thick, it will slide under your shirt cuff easily and still be relatively thin for the NATO lovers out there.
Because of the simplistic dial layout and monochromatic color scheme, the Sinn 556 is going to look great with just about any strap you can throw on it. I found darker brown leathers to be my favorite. This is a watch that can easily dress up or down. It would look just as much at home on a dirty canvas strap as a dressy two-piece leather strap. This type of versatility makes the 556 a great candidate for a “one watch” selection.
When I first ordered the Sinn 556, I wasn’t sure if it was going to live up to the hype. I honestly thought, “how great can a simple black dial tool watch be?” Within minutes of putting it on my wrist I got it. The Sinn 556 manages to take single elements that make other watches great and combine them all into a single package that is simply outstanding. I really had to grasp at straws to find something to complain about with the 556. The attention to detail, immaculate finishing and the overall dimensions are what is going to wow anyone who buys this watch. Sinn makes various limited edition versions of the 556 and because of the level of execution with the standard 556i, I want to explore them all.
|Lug-to-lug Height||46mm||Lug Width||20mm|
|Crystal||Flat Sapphire||Strap||Leather Strap|
|Water Resistance||200 meters||Lume||Unknown Lume Type|
More Images of the Sinn 556i
Check out the Sinn website
Is the Sinn 556i out of your budget? Consider the Seiko SNK809.