Sinn 556i Review

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Sinn watches hardly need an introduction here on w&w. Generally a favorite amongst tool watch fans, military watch fans and affordable watch enthusiasts; Sinn’s pack incredible craftsmanship, over-engineered tech and restrained style all into generally accessibly priced packages. From their newest offerings every year at Basel, to reviewing some of their classics, to an exclusive interview with brand founder, Helmut Sinn, we’ve got the brand pretty well covered. If you need a refresher, or this is your first time encountering them, check out our Sinn archive.

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Today, I’ll be taking a look at the entry-level Sinn, the 556i. Along with its fraternal twin, the 556a, these two watches represent the least expensive new watches available from the brand, coming in at $1090 on leather*. Since the review will talk about everything the watch has going in its favor, here I will talk about what it doesn’t have: Sinn tech. Sinn is known for it’s various technologies, most notably Tegimented cases (hardened to 1200 vickers surface), copper sulphate capsules (de-humidifying), anti-magnetic shrouds and others you can read about here. The 556’s lack any of that, as do other models, such as the 356 and 103. So, the 556i is less about engineering and more about aesthetics and execution. Essentially, it’s just a very straightforward, well-made German sport watch featuring an ETA 2824-2 and sapphire crystals front and back.

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$1090

Sinn 556i Review

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
ETA 2824-2
Dial
Gloss Black
Lume
Yes
Lens
Sapphire w/AR
Strap
Leather
Water Resistance
200m
Dimensions
38.5 x 45.7mm
Thickness
11mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
6 x 5.5
Warranty
2 Years
Price
$1090

Case

Sinn is well known for their exacting case execution. As one of the only brands to have their own case making facilities, under the name SUG in Glashütte, they have remarkable capabilities. Sharp lines and perfect finishing are the least you can expect, and are present on the 556i. The 556i is one of the more perfectly sized sport watches out there. Coming in at 38.5 x 45.7 x 11mm with 20mm lugs, it’s compact and well-proportioned. Throw in the 200m water resistance, and you have a discreet and versatile design.

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The design is simple and classic, drawing on the brand’s pilot watch heritage, while still looking and feeling very modern. From overhead, you have a cylindrical center case with slab sides, and elegantly tapered lugs that come to a flat end. The chamfered bezel that sits on top is broad, adding mass to the case that belies its size. Off of the right side is a 6 x 5.5mm screw-down crown, flanked by blocky guards, which add an undeniable sportiness to the watch. The crown is quite long, with coin edging and a round tip with a Sinn “S” logo. The length is balanced out by the crown guards.

Flipping the watch over, you have a sapphire display case back that shows off the ETA 2824-2 movement inside. The 2824 is at least elaboré grade and features a Sinn gold-toned rotor, for a bit of flash. Otherwise, the case back is pretty a straight forward screw-down design, with various details etched in between the tool grips.

The 556i case features a “satinized” finish, which is an even treatment that is between brushed and polished. It’s a very attractive, albeit simple, finish that is more subtle than polishing (which wouldn’t have been appropriate on this watch) and more gloss than brushing or matte, making it a touch less military/tool looking. In comparison to their tegimented watches, which take on a darker, matte grey tone, this is more elegant. The execution all around is phenomenal. Every edge is sharp and clean, giving the watch very pronounced geometry and machine-like exactness.

One detail I really enjoy, that is purely functional, are the drilled lugs. Once a staple of sport watches, this little detail makes strap removal much easier, especially if dealing with a bracelet. Brands perhaps avoid this to have a cleaner, un-interrupted case side, but I happen to like the way it looks.

Dial

The 556i and 556a differ only in their dials. The 556i features a non-numerical dial with a gloss surface, while the 556a has an aviator design (large 12, 3, 6 and 9) on a matte surface. Both are handsome, but there is something particularly intriguing about the 556i’s limited vocabulary of forms. It at once speaks to military watches and something more technical and design focused. As such, it’s very versatile and appealing to a wide range of tastes.

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The first thing to note on the 556i is the gloss surface. It’s quite unusual to find a gloss black dial, as they tend to increase glare/reflections. The upside is that the black itself appears much deeper and darker. When you put this next to a matte black dial that you normally perceive as black, you will see that this is many shades deeper. This makes the markers contrast even more, and I believe all edges of print appear sharper.

The super-reductive main index consists of solely of large white rectangles for the hour/5-minute increment and small white markers for the individual minutes, all of which are lumed. That’s it. No double line at twelve, no longer lines here and there, just two sizes. Only the marker at 3 is truncated to make room for a date window. Despite the fact that they are identical, the watch is easy to read at a glance, since everything is clear and well spaced.

The elegance of this dial comes from the precise proportions of every element. The markers are just wide enough and just long enough, as are the spaces in between. Everything just feels so balanced and in its right place. The Sinn logo below 12 and the “AUTOMATIK” above 6 are also well sized for their surroundings, activating the negative space just enough.

The date at 3 is white text on a black disk that appears to be a custom font. It works well with the dial, though I’d be curious to see a date free version. The 556a happens to have a cooler date execution, where the date is between 4 and 5, but the numbers have been corrected for the angle, appearing vertical. By being between 4 and 5, the window does not interfere with any of the markers. Clearly, they opted for that solution on the 556a as to not have the date window in the middle of the “3” mark, but I’m not sure why they didn’t use it on the 556i.

The 556i roman sword hands with restrained proportions. They are large enough to be bold, but not so large as to overtake the dial. They are both coated edge to edge with white lume, ending about 2/3s of the way to the center, where they become matte black. The second hand is a thin tapering stick that is similarly broken up into white and black, though it does not feature lume. Overall, the lume on the 556i is a bit disappointing. It’s functional, but a bit spotty and not nearly as bright as what we’ve seen on some far less expensive dive watches.

SINN_556i_LUME1

Just to be picky, while I like the hands, I wonder if something straighter might have worked better with the minimal markers. The roman hands make perfect sense on the 556a, playing off of the large numerals, but here they are a touch out of place. I would love to see something more akin to the hands on the 144, or even like a reduced version of the “lego” hands on the U1.

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Straps and Wearability

For those of us buying stateside, the strap options for the 556i are either on a leather for $1,090 or on a bracelet for $1,330. The 20mm black leather strap the 556i comes mounted on is beautifully made. It has a tapering design, with heavy padding by the lugs, and a heavy contrast stitch in off-white. It’s soft, supple and luxurious feeling. I know Sinn uses Di-Modell as a supplier for some of their straps, so this might very well be form them too.

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Given the stark black and white dial, this strap is an obvious compliment that rides the line between sport and dress, making it a good go-to option. I was glad to see that the stitching was off white, rather than stark white like on the dial, as it’s more subtle and less modern. On this strap, the watch is undeniably masculine and handsome, but restrained enough to not feel too aggressive. The great thing with the 556’s is that they can easily be dressed up or down very different effect.

The H-bracelet, which I didn’t have, would be a great dressier option. I happen to have the exact opposite of that around, however, in the form of a Gas Gas Bones, Zero Zero strap in green Nylon and black leather. These extra-wide military style straps are unrepentantly aggressive and sporty, as anything with so much material and velcro closure tends to be. As such, they can overtake some watches you put them on, but despite the fairly restrained aesthetic of the 556i, it looks great (if you don’t mind a bit of velcro popping out). This not-so-subtle approach is perfect in the colder weather or if you are using the watch in a sport setting.

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Compared to the GGB, a nylon NATO is actually reserved. I put the 556i on a steel grey Crown&Buckle which looked great. The cool tone sits between black and white, and is different than the steel color itself, so all together, you have a nice monochromatic harmony, something that would look great with blues, grays and tans. It’s less aggressive and mil looking than a green or khaki nato would be, and could actually be pulled off well with business-casual attire.

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Like I said in the case section, the 556i is one of the best sized sport watches out there, and that is made very clear when on the wrist. It just fits so well. It’s comfortable, sits properly on top of the wrist without over-spanning and is thin and light enough to be comfortable all day. Despite it’s small size, it doesn’t look petite at all, in fact, it looks strong and masculine at all times.

The starkness of the dial is both restrained, and bold as it has a lot of contrast. It’s not a watch that shouts “look at me” in anyway, but when noticed will draw people in. It’s a design that appeals to those of us who like military watches and tool watches as well as people who just want something simple. If you don’t see it as part of a pilot watch lineage, it’s just a very graphic watch with strong lines. The case then becomes architectural, rather than sporty.

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Conclusion

The Sinn 556i is simply a great watch by a great brand that is executed with German precision. It looks good, feels good and is built to last. The only quality issue I have with the watch is the less-than-stellar lume, though what’s there isn’t a deal breaker either. In the end, what you have a is a very easy to wear, very attractive watch that can be dressed up or down as needed, thus making it a great day-to-day watch. That said, since it is not tegimented, I think you need to decide when you get if you’re going to wear it as a beater, playing up the sporty-side of the watch, or as a something more delicate, preserving the satinized finished.

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I wanted to get this review in while there was still time to purchase the 556i for $1090 if you wanted it new. At that price, it’s a very compelling watch that easily stands up to, if not over, comparably priced Swiss watches, but as the price goes up, it will lose its edge.  At a certain point, for me personally, I would prefer to keep saving to get a Sinn chronograph, or a Sinn with at least a Tegimented case (though those prices climb as well). Unfortunately, they don’t make a watch with this case size that is also tegimented. The closest model is the 856, which comes in at $1,680 and is larger, at 40mm. While the 856 wears very nicely too, it definitely looks and feels much sportier, plus doesn’t have a non-numerical dial option.

Of course, the second hand market for Sinns is good, and you can typically find 556’s in the 800-1000 range, depending on age, wear and strap. So, once the price goes up again, that might be the best way to get one. Either way, if and when you get one, this is a watch you’ll be very happy with.

For more Sinn in the US, check out WatchBuys

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Zach is the co-founder and Executive Editor of worn&wound. Before diving head first into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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  • Phb

    Your earlier reviews, especially a picture of the 103 on a black leather nato, made me buy this watch with the acrylic crystal and it has been a great love affair since then: great classic looks, day, date, chronograph, great time keeping and 20atm WR with classic style pump pushers, what else to ask!

  • theversatilegent

    This review is so good. I admire the detail and dedication you’ve gone to. Keep up the great work.

    • wornandwound

      Thanks!

  • ZL

    Good review. I love my 556a and ultimately chose it over the 556i because the 556a was more tool watch oriented. I also got the bracelet and purchasing in Germany saved enough to get the whole rig for the cost of leather in the states. One correction for you, Sinn, if you got an ETA, only used Top Grade movements. The new ones have SW

  • Erik C

    This is a great entry level offering from Sinn. I purchased one for my father several years back and it meets all of his requirements as a no-nonsense, ex-military officer– easy to read, wearable case size, tough, good water resistance, respectable lume for night visibility, etc.

    That said, it is a shame that Sinn watches are only available in the US through Watchbuys. Nothing against the company, I have purchased a number of watches from them. However, they do very little in the way of marketing the brand and I am certain that Sinn would benefit from greater exposure if they allowed other retailers to market their products (as they do in Asia).

    Still, great watch! Thanks for another terrific review!

  • Blaise Wilson Brennan

    Typo: You say 48.5mm instead of 38.5 for the case diameter.

    • wornandwound

      thanks, fixed

  • 200 Fathoms

    The ultimate minimalist watch.

  • khj

    I used to ogle the 656 online and was holding out for it to get a tegimented case and a domed crystal. In the meanwhile I bought myself a 356 utc for the rare trip out of the time zone and for the adorable valjoux wobble. When the 856 three-hander was released with the hardened case I picked one up. I realize my ideal isn’t the same as everyone else’s, but tegimented 556 with a domed crystal would check all of those boxes. I could see myself wearing that 95% of the time and not wanting for anything else from a daily-wearer.

    • wornandwound

      agreed… a 556 tegimented with acrylic or domed sapphire would be the ideal

  • Kurt

    The review says that this watch lacks the anti-magnetic shroud available in other Sinn watches, but it says antimagnetic on the case back. Doesn’t that indicate that it does, in fact, have this feature?

  • Jason

    Love your reviews. This one is nothing short of spectacular!

  • Great review. Thanks for helping me choose this watch. I love it!

    Just as an fyi to others buying in the US – my 556 I from Watchbuys came with a black leather strap with black stitching, not the off-white stitching shown in these pictures. I wish it had the contrast stitching, but the all black strap looks great too and also seems very high quality.

  • ScanSpeak

    Excellent review on a great watch I’m thinking about buying. Now available at Watchbuys there is a red second hand option. Price aside, what do you think?

    Thanks.

  • Brad Maestas

    I’ve been lusting after this one for some years, having an affinity for minimalist styles as much as busy ones. I was able to see one in person at the last WatchBuys exhibition in SF and it only cemented my determination. I finally saved up and got one. It arrived yesterday and I couldn’t be happier. The proportions are just right for my wrist and it’s a perfect companion to the look and concept of my Leica M-D.