The Sinn 104 White. A weekend on the wrist in northern Michigan with the 104 St Sa I W. Hello, One Watch Club?
The Sinn 104 White was announced to great fanfare at Basel World 2017. I was immediately drawn to it, and my resistance lasted until about August of that year. When my watch arrived, I loved everything about it except its polished case finish so I sent it off to have the case media-blasted. I absolutely love this look and I wish Sinn would offer it as an option on all their pilot watches; perhaps it is available as a special request and I’m just not aware of it. The watch came back looking great, but unfortunately for me, my 104 turned out to be one of the Sellita-powered Sinns plagued by early ratchet wheel failure. I didn’t even bother following up with the authorized dealer, since I had knowingly blasted away my factory warranty at the same time as the watch’s polished finish. Why do we do these things to ourselves?
I sent the watch off to my watchmaker friend to see what could be done, and he put a new ratchet wheel into it, but the same thing happened again. Obviously my particular Sellita SW200-1 movement had some sort of curse on it, so I asked him about the possibility of putting an ETA 2836 into it and permanently exorcising the Sellita demon. He was excited about the project and sourced a brand spanking new ETA 2836 movement. When it arrived, he completely stripped and serviced the new movement and dropped it into the 104. Now I have the perfect 104, and probably also a pretty unique one at that. I also have a pretty depleted bank account.
The watch arrived back from this servicing on Wednesday and I was scheduled to take a weekend trip to see to some maintenance needs at the family cabin in northern Michigan. Regular readers may remember a post I made about finding an underwater geocache in Higgins Lake with my Marathon MSAR a few years ago. I’d be going to the same place this time, but it might as well have been the moon, the setting in winter being so dramatically different than it is in summer. So I hacked the 104 to atomic time Wednesday at 5:30 pm and wore it 24/7 through the weekend and back to work on Monday. I was pleasantly surprised with its timekeeping, which I’ll reveal at the end of this article.
Friday finally arrived, and I threw my gear into the Toyota for the northern adventure, Juniper the Flying Wonder Dog riding shotgun. Our cabin is not heated all year, so the only sources of heat are the fieldstone fireplace and a natural gas stove with a faux wood-burning insert. It was this stove that needed some work, and the weather forecast was for bitter cold temperatures and light snow. It seemed like a fit, since the imperative of fixing the gas stove never seems to really suggest itself in the summer months when there is so much canoeing, swimming, and snorkeling to be done. But if you were there in the freezing temps, might you not be more motivated? That was my plan, anyway.
I arrived in the early afternoon on Friday to find everything in order with the cabin, which was a chilly 27 degrees inside. Fortunately, I had pre-laid a fire in the fireplace the last time I was here, so in only a matter of minutes I had a warm fire going. With a few other adjustments like hanging an old army surplus wool blanket over the entryway to the less necessary parts of the cabin, the main room heats up pretty well. A little while later my good friend Blake showed up to lend assistance and moral support, and we strategized our problem-solving approach for the next day over a wee dram or two.
The Sinn 104’s suitability as a candidate for membership in the Rover Haven One Watch Club is pretty obvious. I’ll evaluate it against the One Watch Criteria anyway in case you’ve never had the chance to handle a 104 for yourself. You should note that mechanical reliability isn’t on the list of One Watch criteria; good thing, too, since if it were I’d have to give my particular 104 a failing grade because of its congenital habit of eating ratchet wheels. But with the fresh 2836 in it, I’m happy to report that it has a near-perfect score. To wit, the Sinn 104’s score against the Rover Haven One Watch criteria follows.
Reasonable size. A One Watch watch must be of reasonable size. For me this is about 40-42 mm, although I’m flexible since one number never tells the whole story of how a watch will wear. The Sinn 104 is 41 mm wide by 11.5 mm tall, with 20 mm lugs. It wears very comfortably and has an understated wrist presence. Full marks for this criterion.
Good water resistance. Since I enjoy all manner of water-related activities and am not above that unplanned swim from time to time, a good One Watch watch needs to have at least 100 m of water resistance. Typical for this brand, the 104’s case has a WR rating of 200 meters, so earns full marks here as well.
Strap flexibility. I like to wear nylon one-piece pull-thru straps and all manner of Rover Haven shell cordovan straps on my watches, so if a watch doesn’t wear well on these for some reason, it won’t earn points in this category. I’m pleased to report that the 104 wears very nicely on a wide variety of straps, earning full marks for strapability. My favorite way to wear the watch is on a nylon NATO strap.
Better than average lume. I like being able to read my watch upon waking up in the dark of night, so good lume is a key One Watch characteristic for me. Again, typical of every Sinn I’ve ever had, the lume on the 104 is excellent. Not the brightest I’ve owned, but more than adequate and easily read all through the cold, dark, winter night. Full marks.
Strong legibility. I’ve owned some Sinns that didn’t cut the mustard in this department even though they were really cool (hello, 903) and I’ve parted ways with them. Happily the 104 has excellent legibility at all angles. The black-framed needle hands and simple baton indices are a veritable study in legibility. Full marks.
Elapsed time. A good One Watch watch needs some easy way of measuring short intervals of elapsed time. A count-up or count-down bezel is surely the simplest way of doing this, and the 104 has a count-down bezel with great mechanical action. Full marks here as well.
Date. If I really did own only one watch, it would have to have a date indicator on it. And I don’t care where it is on the dial as long as it isn’t Sore Thumb Ugly. The 104 has both day and date indication in a nice little double-window at 3 o’clock. I actually don’t usually care for this arrangement (although hardly what you’d call Sore Thumb Ugly), but I find that it really works on the white 104. Full marks here.
Bonus points for drilled lugs. It seems like just about no watches have drilled lugs anymore, so like most watches, the 104 misses the bonus round here but scores an otherwise perfect 7/7 on the Rover Haven One Watch scale!
After we get everything up and running at the cabin we decide to take Juniper for a walk and go check out the frozen lake. Higgins Lake is the 10th largest lake in Michigan and is known for its deep, cold, crystal clear water and white sand beaches. Although it’s been cold this winter, there isn’t much snow on the ground, which affords us the rare sight of the ice itself. In places stress fractures can be seen, which seem to indicate the ice is about 6-8 inches thick. In other places, it appears closer to 8-10 inches. As we shine a flashlight down into the ice, the effect is an eery glow. Eventually our toes and noses get cold and Juniper seems a bit worn out with the effort of trying but failing to actually achieve flight, so we head back to the warm cabin.
The next morning it’s only 4° Fahrenheit outside, but we were comfy all night long in our cozy cabin. Over coffee, Blake and I laugh about the fact that we used to actually backcountry camp in this kind of weather as younger, hardier men. These days we trade our tents, backpacks, and skiing-in for mattresses, fireplaces, and being slipper-shod. An electric coffee maker is icing on the cake. We joke about which dog of mine was more mental. Sina, the old Aussie I had in those days, or Juniper the Flying Wonder Dog, the Brittany-Aussie mix who remains happily nested at the foot of my sleeping bag.
After breakfast we set about the task of repairing the gas stove heater. Unsure of my skills in this regard, I had called a local heating contractor who shows up right on time and sets to work while I watch and learn. He bears a striking resemblance to Gimli, son of Glóin, and wields his tools of the trade just as efficiently as Gimli wielded his axe. In under an hour the stove is back up and running; sometimes it’s just prudent to hire a pro even if you think you could’ve fixed it yourself.
With our only chore done, we have the rest of the day to goof off, so we decide to venture out onto the lake again. A little snow fell overnight, so the ice is now a white plain. As we’re hiking along, the wind makes our eyes tear up and we laugh that this must’ve been what it felt like to be Shackleton, except for the part about eating the dogs. Juniper gives me a wary glance, and we walk all the way to a point on the opposite shore, which I’ve only ever boated past before, and then turn and head back toward home, about a five mile trek in all.
Saturday night is spent by the fire, now augmented by our gas stove, swapping stories and listening to music in an 80-year old log cabin. It turns out to have been good timing, too, since the low temperature that night was a breath-stealing -5° Fahrenheit. That’s -21° Celsius, for those using the more rational scale. The weather system that brought us that cold air was only getting started, though. From my office on Monday morning I checked the temperature at Higgins Lake and saw -20° F (-29° C)!
We pack up our stuff and go our separate ways, two old friends who have made this trip and countless others just like it a zillion times over the course of three decades of acquaintance. I have a family birthday dinner celebration to attend back at home, and I have just enough time to drive home, unpack, and get myself cleaned up. I might have put on a different watch to go to an elegant dinner gathering, but it occurred to me how effortlessly the Sinn 104 makes the transition from rustic to civilized, from tool watch to dinner watch. With its mechanical issues hopefully resolved for good, the watch has made itself very welcome and useful. It’s comfortable to wear, stylish but understated, perfectly sized, and keeping excellent time. Oh, the results of the timing exercise – in the five days I kept the watch on my wrist 24/7 it had lost a total of 5 seconds, for an average of -1 sec/day. Not too shabby at all.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. I always like hearing from other enthusiasts and welcome your comments or factual corrections.