Side-by-Side: Sinn 556i, Oris ProPilot Date and Fortis Cockpit Two

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At some point in the last few months a great thing happened… On my desk, I had three of my favorite modern pilot/aviator watches to play with; the Sinn 556i, Oris ProPilot Date and the Fortis Cockpit Two. I was looking at them, admiring their individual qualities and it occurred to me that while very different, all three were playing at a similar concept and all three were priced in the same relative ball park ($1,020 – $1,550). So, it seemed only natural to take a look at all three together and compare and contrast them. I’ll say from the get-go, this isn’t to find a winner… All three are fantastic watches, but each offers a slightly different take on the modern pilot. Rather, in this article I hope to highlight what makes each watch unique and interesting.

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Since this is more of an overview with comparisons, it would be good to read our full reviews of the three watches as a companion to this article: Sinn 556i, Oris ProPilot Date and Fortis Cockpit Two.

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Cases

Working from the outside in, we have three watches and two sizes: the Sinn at 38.5mm and the Oris and Fortis at 41mm. All three are actually fairly modest for pilots watches, perhaps the reason I am drawn to them, but the 38.5mm Sinn stands out for being so nimble. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a great option to have out there. In terms of design, the 556i is also the most standard featuring classic contouring lugs, slab sides, chunky crown guards and a wide, chamfered bezel. One perk of the 556i is that it boasts 200m WR while the Oris and Fortis come in at 100m. It looks like many other watches, though the proportions are just right and the machining is immaculate. Actually, that’s something all three of these have in common. Their proportions are all very well considered, with no oversizing or the opposite. And, they are all very well made with sharp lines are great tolerances. Not surprising considering the brands, but worth note.

The Oris and Fortis go in more unique and modern directions. The ProPilot case is a standout of the watch, still making me marvel at the cool details they included, such as the twisting-turbine graining and slightly sunken bezel. The lines on the case are smooth and fluid, giving it a modern, aerodynamic look, while the domed sapphire adds a bit of a classic sensibility. It’s 41mm, but feels compact and robust.

The Fortis Cockpit Two case looks simpler than it actually is. The 41mm case has thick lugs, a tall bezel that emphasizes the dial and a large crown. The case actually tapers in as it approaches the crystal, making it smaller at the bezel, 39mm. Unlike the other two, the Fortis features a mix of brushing and polishing, on the mid-case and bezel respectively, adding a touch (a smidgen) of dressiness to the package. Overall, nothing is crazy different about the Cockpit Two case, yet it has its own personality and appeal.

All three have display case backs showing off their Swiss automatic hearts. The 556i has a lightly decorated 2824-2 with a gold rotor. The Oris has a Sellita SW220-1 with their signature red rotor and plain movement. The Fortis has a 2836-2 also with a signed rotor, but no other decoration. I guess at the price point it’s nice to see these workhorse movements ticking away, certainly something people like, though in the case of the Oris and the Fortis, the movements could have been a bit more dressed up. In each instance, given that these are tool watches at heart, a solid case back would also be welcome.

All at once, it’s nice to see three different approaches to the pilot case. The Sinn is classic but flawlessly executed, the Oris is modern with a stylish twist and the Fortis is understated with nice finishing.

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Dials

When I imagine a pilots watch, fliegers pop into my mind. Many a watch has drawn directly from those classic timepieces, often staying very close to the source material. A quick glance at the Sinn, Oris and Fortis reveals three unique and non-derivative interpretations of the pilot, a rare achievement for all three. They also make for a nice trio: the Sinn is graphic and minimal with no numerals, the Oris is bold and sporty, the closest to a classic flieger, and the Fortis is a playful twist on the concept with interesting typography.

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Drilling down a bit, the 556i is a master class in minimalism. Whether they intended on it being as such or just a no-fuss sports watch is hard to say (the 556a is, in comparison, a much more classic aviator style), but everything just works and feels reduced to the bare essentials. The dial is little more than large white rectangles for the hour and small rectangles for the minute/second with a date at 3, Sinn logo at 12 and “Automatik” at 6, all on gloss black. No numerals, save the date, no longer or wider markers at 12… just a series of stark, white shapes on black. Finished with roman sword hands, it’s easy to read at a glance, and has a stylish severity to it.

The ProPilot is pretty restrained as well and while a unique design comes across as a more traditional pilot. The matte black dial features a primary index of large, wide numerals in an attractive typeface that is very easy to read. Around it is a minutes and seconds index with a mix of bold and thin white lines, with a small chevron/triangle at 12. An oversized date window at 3 completes the design. The hands are a unique style, a sort of hybrid between alpha and sword styles. They are aggressive, adding attitude to the otherwise legibility focused design. For those who don’t want to stray too far, but still want something with personality, this is the right choice.

The Cockpit Two is by far the most exotic of the three, really taking the pilot concept into different territory. Specifically, the Cockpit draws on the “B-type” flieger, featuring and inner hour track and an outer minute track. Apart from their locations though, neither speak to historic models, utilizing an odd but attractive thin typeface, long thin lines and even a hint of color. The dial is the only one of the three that plays with elevation, distinguishing the hour index by placing it in a lower region. A divisive but certainly intriguing element is the use of a day/date with an “altimeter” window. This is a detail I typically don’t like, but found that Fortis had executed it well by placing the window on the edge of the lower region. Combined with Fortis’ unique sword hands, the Cockpit comes across as a fun mix of pilot and aviator with a graphic twist.

Movements

Though briefly mentioned before, inside of these watches are three very similar, but different movements. The 556i features the ETA 2824-2, the go-to Swiss workhorse that you’ll find in watches at a wide range of prices. Sinn goes a little further with theirs, using only higher grade 2824s, such as elaboré, which is apparent in the plating one finds on the movement.

Oris then uses the Sellita SW 220-1, which is a clone of the 2824-2 that has become a lot more common in the last few years as ETA restricted their supplies (which might be in the process of reversing now). For all intents and purposes, they are the same, as far as I know, and the SW 220-1 is just as reliable. Oris modifies theirs, adding in a date wheel with a larger typeface. It’s a small change with a big impact.

The Fortis then sports the ETA 2836-2, which is the day/date version of the 2824. As such, it has the same credibility and reliability associated with its date-only brother. In all three cases, the movements are automatics with hacking, hand-winding, about 40hr power reserve and a frequency of 28,800bph. Both of the ETAs have 25 jewels, while the Sellita has 26, though I’m unsure of why.

Wearability

On the desk is great, but on the wrist is where watches come to life. From experience I can say that all three wear really well. They are nicely sized and proportioned, and all come in with modest thickness; the 556i and Cockpit at 11mm and the ProPilot at 12.3mm, but part of that is in the domed crystal. This makes them easy to wear year round, and very comfortable on my 7” wrist.

Being that I have a 556i and a ProPilot in my collection, both have spent a lot of time on my wrist (just check out our instagram for confirmation). They are near perfect daily wear watches. They are svelte and stylish. The 556i is pretty much ideally sized for my tastes. The 38.5mm case doesn’t seem small at all thanks to strong lines and its bold, contrasty dial. It’s casual and sporty on some straps, more formal on others, making it very versatile. And it’s simply gorgeous. For a watch with so little going on, it makes a big impact.

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The ProPilot is then a little more aggressive, though still very versatile. The 41mm case is notably larger and has very thick lugs giving it a lot of presence, though I still find it fits very well. Likely because the lug-to-lug is 49mm, which keeps it well placed on the top of the wrist. When it comes to at a glance legibility, the ProPilot dial gets the job done. The numerals are big and bright, but there is a lot space as well, making everything clear and distinct. However, it’s the case that really catches the eye when worn. The textured bezel is a really gorgeous decorative element that plays with light that is cast on it. Not enough brands play with texture on cases, and it can go along way towards making something good become great.

The Cockpit Two I only wore during my time assessing it for review, but it too is an easy wear. In size, it’s pretty much identical to the ProPilot, though thinner. But, the dial really steals the show on this one, with the quirky layout and sudden shocks of red grabbing your attention. Of the three it has the most personality, perhaps at the expense of versatility (my concern would be with the red, not the design). It’s still extremely legible too, as any pilot watch should be, with the multi-level dial easily separating out the hours and minutes. The addition of a polished bezel gives the case just a touch of refinement that will look great peaking out from under a shirt sleeve.

Though very similar is some respects, and all very easy to wear, they do feel and look different. One is conservative and austere, one is bold and sporty and one is fun and quirky. Either they are three distinct personalities, or three shades of one. Regardless, I could see each appealing to different types of people.

Pricing/Conclusion

One of the reasons these three made for such a good comparison is that they are also fairly close in price while having very similar specs. The Sinn 556i on leather is $1,020, the Fortis Cockpit Two on a strap is $1,170 and the Oris ProPilot on a strap has an MSRP of $1,550. Sure, there is a $500 dollar difference between the lowest and the highest, which is significant, but in the watch world, there are plenty of watches with similar specs to these that cost a few thousand more. Also, that difference could easily be accounted for in the fact that the Oris is available through traditional retail while the other two are available direct from Watchbuys (different business model). All three represent a decent value, in my book, though the 556i and Cockpit are pretty exceptional. Sinn, Oris and Fortis are very high quality brands that I truly believe rival luxury brands at higher price points.

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With all of the new, bland pilots coming out (including those by brands with three-lettered names) it’s great to see with these three that the genre isn’t dead. In fact, with this trio as a cross-section, there is still a lot of room for creativity. And while you likely only need one of them, the 556i, ProPilot and Cockpit Two are so different from each other in fundamental ways that one could easily find room for all three in their rotation.

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst 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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