Sinn’s dedication to tool, pilot and military watches is undeniable. The brand is one of the main specialists in this field, with a full range of no-nonsense, robust and effective watches at reasonable prices. References such as the 103, the 140 or the 356 need no introduction anymore. However, if there was only one to keep in mind, this would be the “Bundeswehr Chronograph for Pilots”, known under the references 1550 SG (when it was made by Heuer) or 155 Bw (when manufactured by Sinn). This watch, produced during the 1960s, and later in the 1980s and early 1990s, is a legend among military chronographs… And today, it’s back! Meet the new Sinn 158 Chronograph.
1960s-1990s – The Original Bundeswehr 1550 SG and the Sinn Model 155 Bw
The Bundeswehr watch was designed for military pilots and created for the West German Federal Defense Force (Bundeswehr). It was initially made by a company called Leonidas, which was later purchased by Heuer. It was driven by a Valjoux manual-wind calibre 222 with Incabloc shock protection, 36-hour power reserve, flyback function and hacking feature. It was identified as a Heuer-Leonidas movement and would eventually be replaced by the similar calibre 230.
The watch featured two pushers for the chronograph functions with two subdials. The counter at nine o’clock showed real-time seconds while the dial at three o’clock was a 30-minute counter. Oversized Arabic numerals, straight hands and a “Concorde”-shaped tip for the chronograph sweep-seconds hand all combined to create a supremely legible watch.
However, the signature design element was the bezel. The watch had a distinctive, extremely wide, black bi-directional bezel with a semi-matte finish, a large, white triangle at its zero point and Arabic numerals at 15, 30 and 45.
Sinn’s role in this story occurred during the 1980s and early 1990s when Mr Helmut Sinn purchased phased-out watches from the inventories of the Bundeswehr and sold these after reconditioning with, inter alia, added SINN lettering on the dial under the label “Bundeswehr Chronograph for Pilots” as the Model 155 Bw.
It was during this period that the luminous materials were changed from the earlier radioactive substance to something safer, hence the dials with “3H” (Hydrogen-3) to denote the conversion. Some versions of the dial also included a small “t” on top of the 6 o’clock index that also referred to the presence of tritium.
All watches were fitted with a “Bund” style double layer strap, which was meant to protect the pilot’s skin in the case of extreme temperatures. They were produced from 1967 to 1990 when Germany was reunified, and the Bundeswehr was restructured.
2005, 2008, 2019 – The Sinn Bundeswehr Re-Editions
While the German brand still has some military-inspired pilot’s watches in its catalogue, mostly with the 103St (in fact, it is a signature model), the true Bundeswehr watch was only re-edited twice by the brand, in highly limited batches.
In 2005, Sinn created a 200-piece re-edition of the Bundeswehr watch for the Japanese market. The manufacture found 200 additional cases intended for military watches and put them together with a hand-wound Valjoux 7760 movement. The watch featured the same black dial with luminous hands and numerals (Super-LumiNova) and an identical Bund strap.
In 2008, Sinn created a second 272-piece limited-edition homage to the Bundeswehr watch, this time using an automatic Valjoux 7750 for German dealer Manufactum. Though the case, bezel and hands were identical to the military watches, this time the dial featured a day and a date window at 3 o’clock.
In 2019, together with watch magazine Revolution, Sinn relaunched a watch inspired by this military/pilot chronograph, the 155 Bundeswehr “Dark Star”. Needless to say, this very limited watch was, in fact, the base for the official version done by the brand, the following Sinn 158 Chronograph.
Bund 2020 – the Sinn 158 Chronograph
Gauging the success of the 2019 Revolution version, it was just a matter of months before Sinn launched its own version of the “Bundeswehr Chronograph”. But let’s not hide our joy, as once again, this is quite a cool watch that has just been released.
The design of the Sinn 158 Chronograph Pilot is in keeping with its predecessor. First of all, the case retains the 43mm diameter of the original watch – oversized back then, more traditional on the current market. The watch isn’t thin either. It has a case thickness of 15.15mm due to the modern automatic movement inside. All the rest is faithful to the 1550 chronograph, meaning an entirely bead-blasted stainless steel case, a black-coated matte pilots bezel, bi-directional and with 60-minute scale – with the same layout as the original – and a domed shock-resistant acrylic glass on top. As a piece of equipment for military pilots, the watch is also resistant to pressure drops and water-resistant to 100m.
Even though the mechanics have evolved drastically since the 1960s, the new Sinn 158 Chronograph retains its dial layout, with a bi-compax display with small seconds at 9 o’clock and 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock. As a concession to modernity and daily wearability, a date function has been added in a window positioned at 6 o’clock – a more civilian model than the original, no doubt.
This new model, however, feels more contemporary, sportier and less “military oriented” than the original. While the large Arabic numerals look familiar – same font as the 1550 – the rest has been updated. The matte black dial features a more detailed seconds track and different hands, fully coated in white luminescent paint (hours and minutes) or painted in red (for the chronograph indications). No vintage syringe hands and fauxtina here.
Powering this Sinn 158 Chronograph is a trustworthy, reliable, easily serviceable and accessible automatic chronograph based on the Valjoux 7750 architecture, and manufactured by Sellita. This calibre SW 510 beats at 28,800 vibrations/hour and stores up to 48 hours of power reserve. It is hidden under a plain steel caseback.
Straps, Price & availability
The Sinn 158 Chronograph “Bundeswehr Re-Edition” (ref. 158.010) can be delivered on multiple leather or silicone straps, including a most apropos Bund leather strap (check Sinn’s configurator to pick your favourite). It will be limited to 500 pieces and priced at EUR 2,590 (taxes incl.) It is now available to order on the brand’s website, sinn.de.