If you’re interested in vintage Sinn watches and you happen to be based in North America, your pursuit has probably been more frustrating than satisfying. There simply aren’t very many for one thing, and up until recently there has been an utter lack of definitive information on the various historical models. The latter at least has been remedied (not surprisingly by a passionate German collector) but even still, the best specimens always seem to be located in Germany, and tend to have prices that match their rarity.
So, when I discovered Guinand years ago and learned about its amazing heritage and history intertwined with Helmut Sinn, it felt like being let in on a secret. Unfortunately, Guinand closed for business before I could buy one of their watches and try it out. But through happy circumstances, Guinand has come back, and since then has demonstrated a definite dedication to its historical catalogs. For a frustrated Sinn fan, this felt like gaining the ability to travel through time and bring back a vintage Sinn, to say nothing of a vintage Guinand. Win-win.
Although I’ve owned at least a dozen different models of Sinn watches, I’ve only owned two Guinands. I started with the HS-100 commemorative chronograph, released to commemorate the occasion of Helmut Sinn’s 100th birthday. Then, at Basel World in March, 2017, Guinand announced a new and truly unique flieger. The watch was to be a limited edition of 75 pieces made with a new old stock A. Schild caliber 1920 movement dating from 1971, and was appropriately named the AS Flieger. I immediately loved the look of the watch but pondered the purchase for too long and missed out, as all 75 pieces sold quickly. In May or June, after seeing pictures of someone else’s AS Flieger, I wrote to Guinand and asked to be placed on the waiting list should more become available. To my amazement, a month or so later Guinand wrote to say they had had a cancellation of a pre-order and my number was up.
So my second Guinand was secured. My two experiences buying watches from them have left me so impressed with Guinand’s build quality and customer service that I’m planning a third, the Model 361, which will be the subject of a future post. Guinand’s old fashioned direct-to-consumer sales approach is refreshing and fun, and offers the opportunity to work directly with happy and motivated Guinand employees. The last time I sent a question to Guinand, it was answered by Matthias Klüh, the company owner, but I think Guinand’s regular point of contact is the very cheerful Petra Stegelmann. In fact, when a German strap customer of mine recently walked into Guinand’s store front in Frankfurt Rödelheim to show them his Guinand that he had mounted on a Rover Haven Arts & Crafts strap, I got a nice note from Petra.
Excellent and enjoyable customer service aside, what makes the AS Flieger itself really interesting, among other things, is the A. Schild movement that ticks away at 36k vph, giving a silky smooth hand movement. You might already own a high beat watch, but if you don’t, let me tell you how cool it is watching the second hand revolve around the dial at its nearly imperceptible 10 ticks per second. It is so smooth and fluid that it really must be seen to be believed. The date is quick-set by repeatedly pushing the crown in and the dial uses a DIN font with unbelievably perfect legibility. The design language of the dial reminds me of a gauge in the instrument cluster of a BMW or Audi. Guinand even took the time to match the dial’s font on the date wheel, and the icing on the cake is that this dial also has excellent lume.
This is what Guinand’s site has to say about the history of this movement:
At the beginning of the 1970s, an automatic caliber, referred to as AS1920, debuted with 36,000 semi-oscillations / hour and a particularly comfortable quick-date-setting. This movement has been used by selected Swiss watchmakers like Mido (in the Oceanstar models) and Girard-Perregaux (in the "Gyromatic highfrequency" models, as movement 41). In the middle of the seventies the production had to be stopped - the idea of a mechanical movement with fast oscillating balance to compete with quartz clocks with regard to accuracy was overrun by the force of the "quartz crisis". Due to the rather short construction period, the production numbers are very manageable compared to popular clock movements and make the AS1920 a collector's item. At the beginning of 1980, the brand name AS (Adolph Schild) completely disappeared as an independent brand. A clockwork with special technology and contemporary functions has remained, that is now resurrected in a Guinand watch.
Staying with the movement for just another moment here, experienced Guinand customers will already know that a new Guinand watch comes with a Zertifikat Endkontrolle, or Certificate of Final Testing. Accuracy freaks rejoice, because your new Guinand watch has been meticulously adjusted, fretted over, and sympathetically coaxed into near mechanical movement perfection. Worn on my wrist 24/7 my AS Flieger keeps time to within a second per day.
Regular readers will know that I enjoy evaluating any watch against the Rover Haven One Watch criteria. At this point you might be thinking to yourself, “fancy/oddball movement, limited edition, a name I never heard of… these things don’t usually make for a One Watch watch, right?” Wrong. It is with giddy engineering nerdiness that I now score the AS Flieger against the Rover Haven One Watch criteria.
Reasonable size. For me this is about 40-42 mm, although I'm flexible since one number never tells a watch's whole story. The Guinand AS Flieger is a perfect 40.6 mm in diameter with 20 mm lug width. It’s reasonably thin and it wears great on my wrist. In fact, I would say it's perfectly proportioned as tool watches go.
Good water resistance. A One Watch watch needs to have at least 100 m of water resistance. The AS Flieger has a rated WR of 100 m, so it meets the “let’s go for that unplanned swim!” criteria.
Strap flexibility. I'm not much of a bracelet guy and I'm not really into rubber straps either, so for me a watch has to wear well on nylon straps and leather straps. If a watch isn't strap-friendly, this is a deal killer for consideration as a One Watch watch. Happily, the AS Flieger wears very nicely on Rover Haven Arts & Crafts straps, one-piece pull-thru shell cordovan straps, and nylon NATO straps.
Better than average lume. The ability to read my watch upon waking up in the middle of the night is a key characteristic for me. The AS Flieger blows this test out of the water, glowing happily all night long and into the morning. Definitely one of the lumiest watches I’ve ever owned.
Strong legibility. I've had some really cool watches, but I've learned that if a watch isn't easily read at a glance, it just won't last with me. The AS Flieger gets perfect marks for legibility, unsurprising given Guinand’s pilot watch heritage.
Rotating bezel. A good One Watch watch will have some means of quickly and easily measuring short intervals of time. For me, this is a count-up or count-down bezel, which the AS Flieger has. Its friction bezel is perfectly adjusted too, I might add. Not too loose, and not too tight. Just right.
Date. A good One Watch watch must have a date indicator to be considered for admission into the One Watch Club. I don't really care where it is, as long as it isn't Sore Thumb Ugly. As noted, the AS Flieger’s date wheel, located at 3 o’clock, uses a highly legible font matched to the dial’s. Far from being Sore Thumb Ugly, it is date wheel perfection. Full marks.
Drilled lugs. Alas, the AS Flieger’s lug design would not have allowed for drilled lugs, but this is bonus point territory only anyway.
Ring, ring… hello, Perfect Score? This is AS Flieger calling, reporting for One Watch duty.
The Rover Haven One Watch criteria do not include price/affordability because it is so subjective. To some very tasteful people, “affordable” is 300 bucks. But to others, a reasonable price for a solid daily wearer watch is 5,000 dollars. And of course we all fall somewhere slightly different on this spectrum, so although I might mention a watch’s price in a review, I usually refrain from making value judgments. That said, this review would not be complete without a value analysis of the AS Flieger. This watch cost me $1600 all-in, after shipping and customs duties. There was no extra charge for picking my own serial number or for the pleasant chat I had with Petra Stegelmann over the course of the purchase. Now, think about a watch that represents quality, accuracy, exclusivity, and class to you. How much does it cost? How many brightly lit billboard, Internet, or magazine ads did you see for it this week? Are you likely to see another one on someone else’s wrist where you live? Yep, that’s what I thought.
So… a history interwoven with the legendary Helmut Sinn. A direct-to-consumer business model. Responsive customer service exemplified by the company president and a cheerful company rep. Surprisingly reasonable prices. This is why owning a Guinand feels like your best chance to travel back in time and own a brand new vintage Sinn or vintage Guinand, and the bonus is your new watch is modern, freshly assembled, meticulously adjusted, and backed by a warranty. The vintage watch experience with none of the vintage watch headaches.
As a final note, if you’ve ever worried about how “German” your German watch really is, any Guinand watch should put your mind at ease. The case, dial, and handset are all developed, designed, and made in Germany. The watch is assembled, adjusted, and tested for timekeeping and water resistance by Guinand watchmakers at their workshops. And every Guinand watch comes with Petra’s and Matthias’s best wishes.
Thank you for reading my blog. I welcome your comments and of course any factual corrections.