(Harry Tan kindly contributed some comments to my review; writing in italics is Harry's, all other text is mine.)
I first heard about the Sinn U1 All Black, a limited edition created for Singapore-based retailer The Hour Glass, more than a year ago, some months after the launch of the original U1.
When I first saw the original Sinn U1, I have to say I was underwhelmed. No doubt it was a tough and serious looking diver’s watch made out of u-boot-stahl, but beyond the fancy material it had no other attraction in my eyes. Needless to say, I was very wrong, the U1 proved to be a hit.
Thus when the Tempus edition - an all black U1 with orange accents - was announced my curiosity was piqued. I like watches with orange dials as you can see:
Clockwise from top: Glycine Incursore ARCO II, Sinn U1 All Black for Tempus, Seiko 'Samurai' 200m diver's watch in titanium
So I placed an order for one without even seeing a picture of it. All that was available then was this awful CGI:
Fortunately Harry used some of his Photoshop skills to create this mock-up:
Finally the day came and the first piece arrived in Singapore. It was not destined to be mine, but fortunately the owner, Harry Tan, kindly allowed me to examine and photograph the watch (those pictures were the first in-the-metal photos of the watch and they are posted here ). I was very pleasantly surprised - the Tempus U1 looked great!
Above: Harry's Sinn U1 photographed on the day it arrived
Eventually more pieces trickled into Singapore and I managed to get my hands on one. It’s been about a month since I collect mine and I have been wearing nearly every day.
The Tegiment coating is much, much tougher than I imagined it would be. A few days ago I knocked the watch against the edge of a metal cupboard, resulting in a few silver flecks on the bezel - ouch. With a heavy heart I managed to get through the rest of the day. But in the evening I realised that the silver bits on the bezel were gone! It was no miracle - the silver specks were bits of the cupboard, not nicks in the Tegiment coating!
If you visit the various fan sites of Sinn you will find that such stories are quite common – but as a sceptic, you never can be sure that this is not just hubris until you experience it yourself. This Tegiment quality – while not bullet proof – has proven to prevent heartaches for its many fans and owners.
The black Tegimentation on the Tempus U1 is used on the bezel, case, crown and back of the casing. There were some concerns about whether the metal was still the highly prized submarine steel and Herr Lothar Schmidt (CEO of Sinn) assured (in an soon to be published interview by Harry Tan) that they were very pleased and surprised to discover that submarine steel was able to take to Tegimentation process very well. So unlike the original U1 where the Tegimentation is only on the bezel, the whole watch is Tegimented which explains why the model cost so much more from its original model.
For such a heavy watch where the mass is concentrated in the watch case, the U1 wears well and obtrusively. The rubber strap is appropriately thick and stiff, ensuring the watch stays in its place. However, due to the sticky surface of rubber, the strap tends to pick up dust.
One of the successes of this model is that the strap and watch looks completely integrated like its one whole piece. The quality of the rubber and the finishing of the case and crystal are unmistakably German. However, for better or worse, the watch does not seem to take to alternate straps. Somehow it looses its no-nonsense look of being a serious tool watch when the rubber gets replaced. It’s merely aesthetic but this seems more of an issue on this model than the original U1.
Unlike the standard version, the Tempus U1 is sold with double fold deployant buckle. Majority of owners will be indifferent to the buckle styles, but serious minded divers will be disappointed to note that the double fold clasp does not allow for a wetsuit extension. The butterfly buckle takes a bit of getting used to, but after a while you no longer notice it’s there. Unfortunately the buckle is PVD-coated, so it is not scratch-proof unlike the case. In fact, the coating on the outer edge on my buckle has already worn off, showing a hint of the steel beneath.
Close-up of the buckle; scratches and worn-off coating on the outer edge are visible
Fortunately, Herr Schmidt, mentioned that he would consider fabricating a Tegimented version of the deployant if he could be convinced that the market wanted such an option. He did say that the Tegimentation will likely to be on the external surfaces of the deployant as the process needs some thickness in the metal for it to work.
Legibility is excellent. Even at the night the watch is easy to read but like most other watches, the luminous material on this watch is Luminova, which glows strongly for a couple hours before dimming. The date is sometimes a bit hard to read because the date window is small relative to the date numerals, so the edge of the window lies very close to the numbers. Couple that with the fact that the dial is thick, so the date cannot be read when the watch is at an angle.
Note the uneven paint on the rectangle at the 25 minute mark
One detail that needs improvement is the paint in the bezel numerals, which is not as neat or consistent as it should be. That being said, the biggest functional weakness of this watch is the crown. The gold standard for screw down crowns is the Rolex Triplock crown found in the Submariner and Sea-Dweller models; it turns smoothly and it feels secure. In contrast the crown of the U1 simply does not feel like the crown and tube are a good fit, the turning action feels forced and coarse. Apparently some U1 owners have the problem of the threads in the crown being stripped due to misalignment when the crown is being screwed in, but I myself have not had that problem.
Like the original U1, the Tempus U1 provides excellent bang for the buck. The retail price was approximately US$2600, but as far as I know every single piece of the 250 unit edition has already been spoken for. But good news for those who missed out on this - Sinn will be unveiling a regular production Tegiment U1 in the future. That version will be similar to the Tempus U1, but there will be three distinct differences: it will have red instead of orange dial accents, the case back will not be Tegiment treated, and the buckle will be single fold as opposed to double fold.
Regular production U1 will not have Tegiment-coated case back
When the U series was originally launched, Sinn had honestly published the fact that the process of submarine steel manufacture was a guarded trade secret and they had succeeded in convincing the patent owners and the marine authorities to allow them to use the process for a limited time to manufacture serious diving watches. This license period will not be for much longer - unless it was extended - so the production of submarine steel timepieces may come to an end.
I am very pleased with this watch. Sinn and The Hour Glass have done a terrific job in creating an affordable yet different limited edition. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a U2 “All Black”.
This message has been edited by SJX on 2007-10-02 05:35:47