Affordable “Vintage”: Sinn 809 Aut

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The Sinn 809 Aut has developed a bit of a cult following and generates plenty of interest when spotted on Instagram or various watch forums. Although the exact production dates for this Sinn model may have been lost in the annals of history, it likely dates back to the early 1990s with a lot of influence from 1980s sport watches and even the Heuer 980.004 from the late 1970s.

Sinn produced a Feuerwehr (fire department) version of this watch with the accompanying logo on the dial and a quartz day/date variant known as the 809q, and though these are equally rare it is the regular automatic version (Aut) that has the most clean, balanced dial and looks the most appealing. From watching the used market over the last few years it’s safe to say two things: it doesn’t come up for sale too often, and the prices are on the up (you can currently get them for around $1,000). So what makes it so desirable?

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One of the first things to notice is the strong design connection between case and bracelet, typical of sport watches of the 1980s and often inspired by the works of Gerald Genta. The bead-blasted case follows one shallow curve from the bottom lug to the top with a straight edge across the lug ends. As a result, the lug-to-lug length is only 39mm—the same as the case diameter—so it will be wearable on small wrists, but the flow from the case to the bracelet reduces the distinction of having such a short case and avoids it looking too diminutive compared to modern sport watches.

The case itself has a very simple structure with the top and sides at right angles and only a chamfered edge between them to round it off slightly. The case is of similar height to the bezel and the whole watch comes in at only 9.5mm thick, which is very good for a 200m water-resistant diver. The lack of any polished case surfaces or a glossy bezel mean it’s not trying to be a dress diver, but it wears under a shirt cuff just as well as any. The only break from the very simple case is delivered by the crown and guards. The crown is signed with the Sinn ‘S’ and the crown guards are established from the same three case surfaces. This creates a slightly abrupt protrusion from the slim case, so being positioned at four o’clock is definitely a benefit. The screw-down case back is solid and stamped with the older style Sinn “S” and the chronometer reference.Sinn’s classic H-link style has the same bead-blasted finish as the case.  The lugs are 21mm wide, but the bracelet starts at 24mm at its widest to continue the curved outline of the case. The lug holes are drilled through making any potential strap changes quick and easy, though I have found the style and comfort delivered by the bracelet difficult to beat and  21mm is a slightly awkward size for fitting aftermarket straps anyway. The flip lock clasp is signed with the Sinn logo, and if you fancied testing the water resistance it also features a diver’s extension. Sinn still uses this style of bracelet today and it is generally regarded as being very comfortable and well-constructed.

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Note the slim profile of the 809.
The old-style Sinn case back.

The bezel is the 60-click unidirectional sort with an aluminum insert that has slightly more of a sheen to it than the case. The narrowness of the bezel takes minimal real estate away from the dial and when coupled with the silver/grey coloring it really give it that ’80s feel. The bezel is also relatively thin in profile which looks great but it’s not always easy to get a great grip on the teeth to turn.  The bezel has a lume pip in the triangle at 12, but no other lume is present. It is functional and easy to use on land and in daylight, but iy wouldn’t be the most practical diving bezel.

The case and bracelet set the tone for a fairly well done, sports watch that really exemplifies ‘80s and ‘90s design, but the dial and indices form the highlight of the watch. Unusually, the lumed indices are painted on the underside of the sapphire crystal. Each lume plot has a gilt surround which has aged very gracefully, but the tritium lume paint is long past its best. Tritium has a half-life of around 12-and-a-half years so the luminescence is probably only a quarter of what it once was. Getting the crystal relumed would at best detract from the retro appeal of the watch and at worst ruin the dial completely. As the indices are painted on the crystal itself, the hands pass beneath 12, six, and nine indices instead of above. In all honestly, it does feels a little gimmicky, but the watch is very legible and the approach here does make what would otherwise be a simple design a bit more interesting.

The seconds hand being shrouded by the marker at 12.

The dial itself has a matte black finish which isn’t particularly special, but the crystal also has a black ring painted around the outer edge which obscures the rehaut and disguises any depth between the crystal and dial. The result is a very black dial that at times looks impossibly shallow. In direct sunlight, the black ring takes on a purple hue and the painted indices cast a shadow on the dial below—like a magician revealing how the trick is done. The lume plot at three o’clock is sacrificed in favor of a date display. The date wheel is printed in white on black and the date wheel is nicely framed in the same gilding as the hour indices, minute markings and Sinn logo. The whole of the dial design creates a highly legible and visually appealing watch.The hands are filled with tritium paint and are also now starting to showing cracks after several decades. One criticism leveled at the watch is that the hands look slightly too short. I agree in part, but due to the printing on the crystal mentioned above, if the second hand was more than another millimeter longer, then the tip would be underneath the outer black ring. Similarly, if the hour and minute hands were slightly longer then they would at times both disappear underneath one of the indices and become much more difficult to tell apart.  As it is, the hour hand will only ever pass beneath the large triangle at 12 o’clock so all hands remain easily distinguishable.

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The 809 is really comfortable on the wrist.

Inside beats a COSC-certified ETA 2892-A2, which, being 1mm thinner than the more common 2824-2, was likely chosen to keep the slim profile and also offers better shock protection. The watch was advertised as conforming to DIN standards 8308 (shock protection), 8309 (anti-magnetism) and 8310 (water resistance). This example is no longer running within chronometer specs, but it is just another feather in its cap and shows what a well-kitted out watch it was when new.

I find that most modern divers fall into one of two categories: tool-divers or dress-divers. This is a watch that takes features from each category and marries them together with some finesse. If you’re looking for a genuine retro diver in a modest size and under 10mm thickness, and also packed with a COSC movement, sapphire crystal, 200 meters of water resistance and unique styling, you could do a lot worse than go hunting for one of these “vintage” beauties.

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Brad stumbled into the watch world in 2011 and has been falling down the rabbit hole ever since. Based in London, Brad's interests lie in anything that ticks, sweeps or hums and is slightly off the beaten track.
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