Sinn’s 856 Non-UTC is the result when a watch maker sets out to make the most functional watch they can. Drawing inspiration from their military cockpit navigation clocks, they’ve integrated the best legibility, features, and durability that they could into a timepiece meant for the wrist.
The 856 is what happens if you take their well-known 556 model, and turn the dial up to 11 (or is it “13” when you’re talking about watches?). It follows their familiar, yet austere pilot watch aesthetic. You’ll find plenty of useful technology that Sinn is known for both inside and out. The watch features 20 bar of water resistance, 80,000 a/m of magnetism resistance, scratch-resistant Tegiment technology on the case, luminous paint treatment on the hands and dial…the list goes on. When you translate Sinn’s spec sheet and get past the technical jargon, you’re left with a reliable tool watch that’s ideal for daily wear. Let’s take a closer look at the 856.
- Case: Tegimented Steel
- Movement: Automatic Selitta SW300-1
- Dial – Black Matte
- Lume – Yes, dial indices and hands
- Lens – Double AR coated (inside and out) sapphire crystal
- Strap: Leather
- Water Resistance: 20 Bar
- Thickness: 11mm
- Lug Width: 20mm
- Case Width: 40mm
- Crown: Screw-down
- Warranty: 3 years
- Price: $1680
The 856’s case measures in at a reasonable 40mm wide, 11mm thick, and 47.5mm from lug to lug. On my 6.75” wrist, the watch wears true to its measurements — it’s just right. 40mm is large enough to have some presence, but the 11mm thickness (thinness?) is sleek enough to fit under a cuff or stay comfortably out of the way during physical activity.
There’s a smooth angled bezel that marries to the case nicely surrounding the dial. The lugs gently taper from the base of the case to the end where you attach the strap. At the end, they’re drilled all the way through so you can quickly change a strap without special tools (I like using the smaller paperclips floating around my desk). You’ll find a rather large, textured crown that’s decorated with a capital “S” on the side of the case with crown guards that mirror the taper of the lugs. On the back of the watch, there’s a solid steel screw-down caseback. It’s mostly flat blank space, save for some high quality engraving around the outside. Some of the features of the watch are noted in German text.
Sinn is known for their implementation of technology into their watches – cases in particular. There are a few standout features that are built into the case. First and most notable is Sinn’s proprietary “Tegiment” hardening process. This treatment increases the strength and scratch resistance on the surface of the base material of the case. On the 856, the outer layer of the stainless steel case is hardened significantly by the process. While the case is still prone to dents and dings (a few are seen on the bezel after a year of wear) the watch remains otherwise scratch free – even on the inside of the lugs from constant strap changes. The process gives the case a unique look as well. Instead of a shiny, bright silver, the case takes on a deeper grey hue thanks to the Tegiment treatment and some bead blasting. It’s easy to spot the difference when side by side with a standard 316L stainless steel watch.
The movement inside is also protected from humidity, moisture, and magnetism. To keep moisture and humidity out of the case, Sinn employs their Ar-Dehumidfying technology. It’s a two-part system. First, there’s a copper sulfate capsule inside the case that you can see through a small window in one of the lugs. This pale blue dot will deepen in color should any water get inside the case. The technology works by drawing moisture away from the heart of the movement and into the capsule. If you notice the capsule is a deeper blue, it’s time for a service. Second, Sinn fills the watch case with non-reactive Argon gas to improve the internal environment in which the movement operates. This non-reactive gas keeps humidity out and all of the oils and lubricants working as best as they can. In their natural habitat aboard a plane, pilot watches can be subjected to high levels of magnetism from time to time. Through some clever case design, the 856 can withstand 80,000 a/m of magnetism. In day-to-day use, this means that you don’t have to worry about a laptop, speaker, or point of sale terminal messing with the accuracy of your watch.
Overall, the case of the 856 incorporates some of the best technology within their price range. The result is a rock-solid watch that’s well-rounded for daily wear, whether you’re in an office or out in the field.
Dial and Hands
The matte black dial on the 856 about as legible as they come. Large, white 12, 3, 6, 9 arabic indices stand out nicely against the black background. Each minute has a small hashmark with a longer, lumed harshmark every 5 minutes. The typeface on the 12, 3, 6, 9 indices are a nice fit with the overall flieger watch aesthetic. The look closely mirrors the dials seen in military aircraft cockpit navigation clocks. You won’t find much branding or text on the dial of the 856. There’s a “Sinn” logo at the 12 o’clock position, “Made in Germany” in very small text near the 6 o’clock mark, and a black glossy logo to denote the magnetism resistance of the watch present. At the 4 o’clock position, there’s a small date window that features white text on a black background. The typeface of the numerals is distinctly German, with a very Leica-style vibe. Personally, I like a date window on my watch. The one found on the 856 is unobtrusive and blends with the dial nicely.
To display the time, Sinn implements sword-shaped hour and minute hands. The hour hand is a bit on the stubby side, but its stature helps to quickly differentiate between the similarly-shaped minute hand. Both the hour and minute hands are treated with luminescent paint from the tip to about 3/4 of the way to where they attach to the stem. In the dark, it gives the hands an interesting look – almost like they’re floating. The wedge-shaped seconds hand has a gentle taper from the wider base to the point and is not treated with lume. It does feature the same white tip and black base seen on the other hands. Overall, high-contrast dial paired with the equally legible hand set result in an easy to read watch. All it takes is a quick glance to tell the time. One thing worth noting is that the lume doesn’t last all that long. The green glow given off by the hands isn’t super bright when freshly charged, and fades relatively quickly thereafter. Since the hands and indices are bright white on a dark matte black background, they’re still easy enough to read in low-light situations.
Beating at the heart of the Sinn 856 is Selitta’s SW300-1 movement. The SW300-1 is widely used as a direct replacement for the previously popular ETA-2892. Since ETA (Swatch Group) has cracked down on what brands they allow to use their movements, Selitta’s movements have started popping up more and more. The SW300-1 is an automatic movement with hour, minute, seconds, and date display with a hacking seconds hand. This means that when the crown is pulled out to set the time, the second hand stops in its tracks. A hacking seconds hand is a great feature to precisely set the time or sync up with the time with the rest of your squadron (or buddies, or clock in your house, or just the atomic clock website that you nerd out over). Setting the time and date is a simple task thanks to the three position crown. When you unscrew the crown, the first position allows you to manually wind the watch. The second position sets the date, and the third sets the time. If you’ve set a mechanical watch before, the 856 doesn’t differ much (if at all) from the standard experience.
Over the past year of use, I’ve had no problems with the Selitta SW300-1. There are some nice features like DIN ISO 1413 tested shock resistance (it can survive a 1 meter drop onto a wooden surface), and DIN 8309 magnetism resistance (when paired with the case design, it can withstand 80,000a/m). At the end of the day, it’s just nice to know that my watch is engineered to withstand some bumps and zaps beyond what it will typically see over the course of my day.
Straps and Wearability
The Sinn 856 is a bit of a blank slate when it comes to straps. A black and white dial paired with a matte grey metal case gives you carte blanche when picking out a strap. In the box, there’s a thick and padded black leather strap with white stitching, which for me doesn’t see much wear. Theres an available fully-Tegimented bracelet option available as well. It does add $310 to the cost of the watch, but you end up saving $80 by purchasing them together. Sinn also offers a rather pricey rubber deployant band ($320). I’m sure the quality is great, but the price just seems a bit too prohibitive to casually purchase.
The 20mm lugs are easily accommodated by tons of different brands and styles of strap. I think that the dark, matte steel case looks best with a strap that has brushed hardware. Since the case is only 11mm thick, both single and double pass straps work extremely well. My go-to strap is a dark green nato. It’s comfortable, looks great, and definitely fits the military aesthetic of the watch. I’ve even thrown it on a rubber tropical style strap for a water-resistant option that adds some texture. The 856 is no slouch on leather either. I really like it on one of the Olive Model 2 Premium straps from Worn and Wound.
The 40mm case size, low-key looks, and great legibility make the 856 an easy watch to wear. It pairs well with a plenty of different styles from business casual to straight up shorts and a tee-shirt. If you’re looking for a dressier tool watch, there are plenty of better options like the Sinn 556 with its glossy dial and shinier case. The impressive water- and shock-resistance make it an ideal candidate for daily wear and even some outdoor activity. While it’s no G-Shock, I did wear the watch while swimming in a lake and during some light (I’m afraid of heights) cliff jumping (okay, it was more like rock jumping) with no problems at all.
I’m a big fan of the 856. It’s one of my two most-worn watches (the other being a Speedmaster Professional). I was worried about it not getting enough wrist time, but I find myself reaching for it almost as much as the Omega. At $1680 on a strap, the 856 isn’t in impulse buy territory for a lot of us. The 556 A is very similar in appearance and size to the 856, but can be had for $600 less. However, you don’t get the Tegimented case, shock resistance, and magnetism resistance that the 856 offers. I think if you nerd out on features, or lead a more active lifestyle, then the additional $600 is a reasonable ask for all that’s added to the watch. If you’re looking for an every day watch that’s practical, durable, easy to read, and can be worn on virtually any strap, the 856 is an excellent option.