The Sinn Flieger 103 line is a staple of the brand’s collection, and features a number of models with broad variation in design, complication and finishing. The 103 St we’re reviewing is arguably the most simple and classically designed of them all, with base Valjoux 7750 movement, polished case and acrylic crystal. Other 103 models expand on the line’s core design to include titanium cases, GMT functionality, sapphire crystal and, of course, Sinn’s signature technologies such as DIAPAL (lubricant free escapement) and Ar-Dehumidifying which prevents moisture from building within the watch case as it ages. Even the 103 Classic, modeled after the original 103 A of the 1960’s now features proprietary technology. These more sophisticated enhancements have become a calling card for Sinn since the brand was sold in 1994 from Helmut Sinn, its founder, to Lothar Schmidt. For a complete list of in-house technologies, please see Sinn’s website.
The 103 reviewed here has strong roots to the vintage pilot chronographs of the 1960’s, and to the early days of Sinn manufacture. Its is immediately clear that the 103 draws strong inspiration from the Breguet Type XX, with which it shares many design elements from the case, bezel and dial. Around the same time that the Type XX was being manufactured, as was the iconic Heuer Bundeswehr chronograph, which Sinn collaborated with Heuer on at the time. This piece, while lacking the elegance of the Type XX, shares a similar design language.
The 103 St has further been in Sinn’s lineup of watches since at least the 1980’s, if not longer. Frankly, record of Sinn’s activity and collection is sparse from its founding in 1961 until 1994 when ownership changed hands. This may a result of the companies philosophy of strictly producing high-quality timepieces at affordable prices, spending little time or money on advertising and other “superfluous” marketing. This also meant only selling watches directly to customers. Unlike today, when you can hop on watchbuys.com or, in certain areas of the world, head to your local jeweler to pick up a Sinn, under Helmut Sinn’s leadership, you had to deal directly with the company to purchase a timepiece.
Now that we have a bit of the 103’s history down, lets take a closer look at the watch itself.
Case: Stainless Steel
Movement: Valjoux 7750 25 jewels 28,800
Strap: Stainless bracelet with polished and matte finish
Water Res.: 20 atm
Dimensions: 41 x 47mm
Thickness: 15 mm
Lug Width: 20 mm
Crown: 6 x 4.75 mm screw down
Warranty: 2 year
Measuring 41 mm in diameter and 47 mm lug to lug, the 103’s case features distinctively aggressive lines, similar to those found on vintage pilot chronographs, specifically the Breguet Type XX available throughout the 60’s and 70’s. But the cases most outstanding feature has to be the black alloy bidirectional pilots bezel, also common on vintage models. Matte black, the bezel shows silver numerals at five minute/second intervals and hash markers in between. Along its side is subtle, toothed edging, appearing only above the numerical indicators. This provides a nice tactile feel when rotating the bezel, and also contributes to the overall sense of refined masculinity that defines the watch.
When viewed from above, the 103’s lugs emerge from below the black bezel, polished and aggressively angled, and beveled edging along the lugs’ sides highlights their geometry. At the two three and four o’clock positions are the polished chrono pushers and screw down crown. Prominent guards surround the screw down crown, but unlike other models of the 103, the pushers of the St do not feature screw down guards.
Viewing the 103 St from the side, its angular design is even more apparent, with the lugs sloping sharply downward, reminiscent of the wings of a fighter jet. The case also appears rather tall, and it is at 15.5 mm, aided by the beautiful domed acrylic crystal. Viewing the 103 St from the side, you also gain a full appreciation the various colors and textures it incorporates, from the bubble of the crystal, to the tactical black bezel, to the polish of the mid case and brushed finish of the screw down case back. The blend of these dynamic features is key to the heart and soul of the 103 St as a tool pilot chronograph with polish and class of of a vintage luxury timepiece.
On the dial, the 103 St has a lot going on. Powered by a Valjoux 7750, it of course has a number of functions on display at all times (three sub dials, three large hands, day/date window). But all of this detail is orchestrated and arranged with clean, classic styling, making for a legible and quite attractive package. The base of the dial is a deep matte black, and all markings are printed in white. Thin hash markings at each minute/second line the outer rim of the dial with fat hash markings at each hour. One step toward the inner dial, you’ll find lumed numerical hour markers.
In place of the six, nine and twelve hour numerals are sub dials, and at three o’clock is the day date window with white text on black background, white outlining and the Sinn logo above. Each of the sub dials has a unique design. At nine o’clock, the active second sub dial features small tick markers for each second, with numerals at 20, 40 and 60. At twelve o’clock, the chrono minute counter shows long needle markers at each minute and numerals at 10, 20 and 30. Lastly, the chrono hour sub dial has numerals at each hour and has markers at each hour and half hour.
The hands of the 103 St provide a touch of elegance throughout the dial. With the exception of the small seconds hand, which is a thin needle, all hands incorporate a sweeping shape. The small chrono hands have curved arrowhead tips, and the large chrono second hand features a lume filled diamond shape at its tip and a slightly broader base. While reading up on the 103, I’ve seen its hour and minute hands described as syringe shapes, which seems quite apt. A wide, straight lume filled center sweeps to a needle point at the end.
In addition to being found throughout the dial, lume is also present on the 103 bezel with a dot in the large triangle indicator. It should also be noted that the lume of the 103 is quite good, glowing a bright green.
Straps and Wearability
The 103 St reviewed here came with a very attractive two link bracelet with brushed large links and polished small inner links. Adjusting the sizing is quite easy, as the links are held in palce with two sided hex screw bars, and two L shaped hex screwdrivers are included with the watch. The bracelet also features a signed deployant clasp. Within the clasp are multiple positions for smaller adjustments of the bracelet length, making it easy to find the perfect fit.
On the bracelet, the 103 St looks great with formal and more casual attire. The polished case and classic dial design pair well with a suit or button down in the office, while the 103’s military roots make it right at home on the weekend with jeans.
The 103 also looks great on a variety of straps. Sinn makes the 103 available with a black leather pilot strap with white stitching, and we tested it on a range of NATO’s and two piece straps of various materials. The simplicity of the watch design allow it to pair with different colors and textures quite well. Check out the gallery below and out video review to see the 103 on several strap alternatives.
The 103 St is a special watch. It’s distinctively Sinn, with roots dating back to the brand’s early history making pilot chronographs. It stands as a shining example of the brands commitment to beautiful, purposeful timepieces at reasonable prices. Nevertheless, I’m sure that at $1,880, the cynic may (probably will) call the 103 St overpriced. There are certainly other watches on the market with a Valjoux 7750 for well below this price point, and most come with sapphire crystal. But, as I hope I’ve made clear in my review, the 103 offers a level of quality, design and provenance often reserved for watches of considerably greater value. To purchase a 103 St in the US, check out watchbuys.com.
By Blake Malin
Breguet Image via www.watchalyzer.com