Way down at the bottom of this blog, possibly in the first post, there is a picture of a Heuer 1550 SG I once owned. I don't know about you, but I have a pretty firm No Repeats rule, which keeps me from buying the same watch twice. If I didn't like it enough to keep it the first time, why would I buy it again? I loved that Heuer Bund but I used it in trade for an equally fantastic military-issued chronograph, which had been a grail for a long time too. Although I missed the Heuer, the Lemania I traded it for was a simply fantastic watch, and I convinced myself it was a good move. Not a mistake, exactly, but it definitely felt like future unfinished business.
My Heuer was an instant favorite and accompanied me on a lot of adventures. If you haven't owned one of these because the 43 mm case size put you off, let me attempt to change your mind. It is a 43 mm case, that's true, but they are thin and flat, and the lugs are perfectly proportioned. The result is a very close-fitting and comfortable watch. Not a wrist tank at all. Here is a picture of mine that I took on one of many trips to northern Michigan on which it was the perfect traveling companion.
And some pictures I took of it in a light box one time for fun.
Long after the watch and I parted ways, I learned that it most likely was put back into service in the Bundeswehr with the service dial and hands that it originally came to me with, those pictured above. But before I knew this, and out of a genuine but unnecessary sense of returning my Heuer to a more "original" state, I sourced a tritium dial for it in Germany and had it installed on the watch. From then on, it looked like this:
In this iteration of the watch, the warm tritium dial didn't match the cooler color of the service hands, but this isn't uncommon with Heuer Bunds because of their military service history and it didn't really bother me. But, ironically, the modification made me less happy with the watch as a whole, not more happy. I had to admit that although I had started out with the best of intentions, what I had done didn't add value. So when the opportunity to make a trade for a totally original Lemania 6BB came up, one that allowed me to recoup my overall investment in the Heuer, I decided to wash my hands of it and start fresh.
But I always knew I’d come back to the Heuer Bund and I resolved to make a better decision the second time around. So I started doing my Heuer homework again, and after copious amounts of research and review, I was left feeling something less than excited and optimistic; depressed and confused were more like it. The Heuer-dialed watches are a minefield of frankens, put-togethers, outright fakes, and falsely modified dials (e.g., the non-genuine addition of the circle-3H to a plain dial by an unscrupulous seller). But my research also led me to learn more about the Sinn-dialed Bundeswehr watches, more than I had ever known before.
Now, it’s widely known that Sinn had the contract to service these watches for the Bundeswehr in the 1980’s. The point was to keep the watches in use; no one was thinking about the watch as a future collectible. At some point in the 1990’s many Heuer 1550 SG watches were sold to the public directly by Sinn. No one appears to know how many or what dials these watches had, however, and a search of your favorite forum will produce multiple threads on the topic.
From what I have gathered, the small T dial was the original. The dials were then officially modified with the addition of the circle-3H to make the occupational hazard of tritium more readily apparent to people handling the watches, and at some point many of the watches were redialed altogether with service dials that used no tritium, so they had no small T and no circle-3H. All told, there are perhaps thirty different dial variations seen on these watches.
In addition to enthusiast discussion on the forums, the bigger blogs have all picked up on the Heuer Bund recently, and the collective voice is busy sorting out what exactly constitutes a genuine Heuer Bund. To make matters even more confusing, for reasons no one really seems to understand the market for these watches appears to prize New-Old-Stockness, and eschews the normal wear and tear you might expect on a 40-50 year old watch that has seen military service. This motivates the market in a certain way, not always good.
It was all of this that was swirling around in my head when I decided to look into buying another Heuer Bund, and this time I formulated a new strategy. Rather than looking for an “original” Heuer watch, an elusive concept at best, I decided to find a Sinn. Yes, a Sinn. Although the Sinn-dialed watches are certainly less sought after by Heuer collectors and probably military watch collectors in general, they have a definite appeal to Sinn collectors.
What's more, in my view the Sinn dial sidesteps the whole originality issue. Of course it's not original. Anyone of any level of expertise can tell that a Heuer watch that says Sinn on the dial is not original. What it is, however, is a beautifully built watch that may or may not have seen actual military service in its current form, but certainly did in a past form. And in the case of my particular specimen anyway, it is freshly serviced by a master watchmaker at Sinn, the only remaining master watchmaker at Sinn who originally worked on these watches back when Sinn serviced them for the Bundeswehr. And interestingly, the case on my watch does in fact appear to be completely original. It has a low serial number and appears to have never been refinished or even polished. Ironic, considering I had decided not to get too hung up on this in my purchase criteria. The case on my Sinn is so original, you can still see the machining marks left over from the press that I presume stamped it out. The bezel has a pleasing amount of wear from its time in service, and the dial's lume is aging in a charming way and matches that of the hands exactly.
Perhaps nicest of all, I know the provenance of the watch back to the pilot who owned and used it in Germany. It doesn't get much cooler than that. On to some pictures.
Here we see the side of the unpolished, unrestored case:
The NSN indicating the watch was originally issued as a kit with a Bundeswehr strap:
On the wrist:
Fantastic dial details and lume that is even and equally aged with the hands:
Case reference 1550 SG is typically lightly engraved:
I am always happy to meet other enthusiasts. If I have something factually incorrect above, please feel free to contact me. Thanks for reading!