One of the more avant-garde “German tool watches” from the last few years is easily the Sinn 1800 S Damaszener (aBlogtoWatch debut here). We’ve seen the Frankfurt-based maker of tool watches slowly expand its offerings (not that Sinn doesn’t have enough SKUs at any given time as it is) to include more “art” watches in addition to the “professional” timepieces that the company is well-known for. What makes many of these more “lifestyle-oriented” watches from Sinn interesting is that they seek to combine skills the brand is known for in terms of making durable, go-anywhere watches with more aesthetic techniques which celebrate craftsmanship.
At Baselworld 2016, I was able to check out this prototype of the already sold-out (some retailers like WatchBuys still have a few in stock at the time of writing) Sinn 1800 S Damaszener watch, and I have to say that in person the watch looks really cool. Sure, it isn’t for everyone, but I think it was a fantastic idea for Sinn to attempt a piece like this. The real “achievement” is in making a fully Damascus steel case that is also durable. To this end, Sinn applies their “tegimented process” to the steel and also coats it in black. The result is a corrosion-resistant Damascus steel case that is also hardened to protect against dents and scratches.
In German “Damascus steel” translates into Damaszener stahl, and the case of this Sinn 1800 S Damaszener watch is cut from a solid piece of the attractive folded metal with a “wood-grain” look. The entire case includes three parts, and the idea was to fully emphasize the aesthetic qualities people like in the metal. Moreover, each piece of metal will have a unique pattern, so no two Sinn 1800 S Damaszener watches will look quite the same. Also notice that the case and dial are one in the same, and made from the same piece of metal. This small detail is important because it means that the “grain” of the watch case and bezel seamlessly continues onto the dial. I’ve never quite seen anything like this on a watch of this type before.
Sinn clearly wanted to focus on the wood-grain pattern, so the rest of the watch design is kept minimal. The dial is pretty basic but legible, as per typical Sinn protocol, with applied and lume-painted hour markers with matching hands. Under the “Damaszener” label on the dial is a symmetrical date window which is nicely integrated into the overall design. This is actually one of the more minimalist Sinn watch dials out there if you don’t count the aesthetic style of the case and dial.
For the most part, the Sinn 1800 S Damaszener is a rather unassuming watch when it comes to basic tech specs and size. Comfortable on the wrist, the 43mm-wide case is 10.3mm thick and water resistant to 100 meters. Sinn includes both a standard black padded leather strap as well as this “aged-style,” more rough brown leather strap that admittedly does look cool with the watch. Again, this is one of the more rare Sinn watches that is clearly trying to be artistic and fashionable (in a Sinn-style way) when compared to their more straightforward tool watches (despite that many of those are quite attractive too).
Since this was a prototype model, the movement was locked (not working), and I believe Sinn didn’t want me to photograph the back of the case for some reason. If you are curious, it is a relatively simple caseback which, if I recall correctly, continues the Damascus steel pattern in the metal. What I really like about how Sinn coated the watch in black (it starts in more natural steel) is that the black coating preserves the various finishes and textures of the Damascus grain motif, so you really get the richness of the aesthetic and can appreciate how the unique metal style plays with the light as you move the watch around.
Inside the Sinn 1800 S Damaszener is a base Swiss ETA movement which I believe is an 2892-2 automatic. Nothing super special, but there really aren’t too many ways to go wrong with a simple three-hand automatic like this. It keeps the case relatively thin and typically proves to be quite reliable. Perhaps in the future, if these Damaszener stahl watches become popular, we will see one with one of those Sinn + UWD German-made movements. Now that could be very cool.
Sinn currently has a lot of appeal for collectors because of their focus on durable, utilitarian watches that are priced well compared to a lot of “Swiss luxury products.” I hope that Sinn continues with this in mind and does not go the route some other brands have gone, which is to assume their core audience will remain loyal while increasing prices along with the “exclusive” nature of their products. It isn’t that Sinn has done this, but rather that other brands which at some point were more like Sinn did so in the past, and they ended up fundamentally changing as a brand. I personally feel that Sinn as a company is rare and precious enough that I want to keep reminding them of that, even though watches like the Sinn 1800 S Damaszener are very interesting and (in my opinion) beautiful, they should always first and foremost make professional-style military/dive/pilot/etc. watches that help us live out our real or imagined adventures.
When we initially debuted the Sinn 1800 S Damaszener toward the end of 2015, despite a lot of praise, many people were concerned about the comparatively high price which is probably at least double what most people spend on a Sinn timepiece. It doesn’t matter that the Sinn 1800 S Damaszener is part of a limited edition of 100 pieces, but that the complexity of the case required a lot of work outside of what Sinn typically has with standard case construction. Nevertheless, when consumers are asked to step outside of what they normally consider in terms of price for the brand, it is that brand’s responsibility to explain why some pieces cost a lot more than others, even if there are excellent reasons.
Price aside, the Sinn 1800 S Damaszener is an undeniably cool and also different watch from a brand that many of today’s veteran and novice watch lovers alike highly appreciate. There is a good chance that Sinn will revisit integrating Damascus steel into future watches – the question is whether those timepieces will remain simple and clean like the 1800 or if they will grow in complexity and ambition.