Just in case you don’t always want to hear about the tailoring!
By Charlie. Tuesday 14th May 2019.
We are always busy at Henry Herbert – there is always something to do to keep us on our toes. A last minute customer request, organising fabrics and trimmings, serving customers both in our workshops or at their hotels and offices with our special Vespa scooter service, working with our two apprentices…and of course the making, tailoring and altering! But sometimes you might not always want to hear what I have to say! So, here to save the day every so often is Rupert Watkins and his thoughts around the rest of the luxury world – a kind of Gentleman Explorer! These are his thoughts on watches….
Watch collecting is a passion and for those bitten by the bug, tracking down the rarest of limited run editions and obtaining one off examples with impeccable and rare provenance becomes all consuming.
For many though, that realm of collecting is slightly beyond our reach. In a world that is dominated by high end Swiss watch brands, those seeking equally remarkable and slightly more under the radar watch firms should look to the German watch makers.
Germany has a long tradition of watch making stretching back to the beginning of the 19th Century. Many of the finest manufacturers are clustered in Glashütte in east Germany and there you will find illustrious brands such as A. Lange & Söhne, Mühle Glashütte and Nomos. At this rarefied end of the market, the prices can equal those of the top Swiss horology firms. So, for those seeking interesting and outstanding value we could first head to the German banking city of Frankfurt and Sinn watches.
The firm was founded by Helmut Sinn, a Luftwaffe pilot who was shot down in Russia, lost both his little fingers and saw out the war as an instructor. Sinn went on to have a 50-year long career in the watch industry. Though originally made in Switzerland, the success of the company soon meant production was moved to Germany and in 1979, Sinn had the means to procure a substantial amount of industrial assets being sold off by a then insolvent Breitling – which also explains the stylistic similarities between the brands. Sinn was an early exponent of selling direct to the customer cutting out the watch dealerships in order to keep costs reasonable.
Sinn produces a range of pilot’s chronographs, diving and dress watches. The pilot’s watches are indeed very similar to Breitling’s Navitimer and Cosmonaute models though a fair bit more reasonable and those seeking an elegant, dressier chronograph to wear with a suit could do far worse than look at Sinn’s 356 Flieger model. At £1,850 for a fully mechanical chronograph it is excellent value. Sinn’s ranges in recent years have slowly become more expensive but for the £4 – 6,000 price category this firm offers a lot of watch bang for your buck. Perhaps among the Swiss manufacturers only Oris offers similarly good value.
However, Sinn – known to be a forthright personality – was not done with the watch world yet. Having sold Sinn in 1994, after a break he acquired Guinard – a then defunct Swiss brand – in 1995 and continued to stay true to his roots producing excellent value, high quality watches with an aviation and military edge.
Again, there is a similar feel to Breitling in the company’s pilot chronographs but with a Serie 40 fully mechanical chronograph starting at under £1,500 this is another brand the budding watch connoisseur should be aware of. It also continues to operate a direct to consumer web-based business model.
Guinard itself traces its history back to 1865. Since the early 60s, it had been one of the manufacturers Sinn used before production was moved to Germany. Though Guinard continued to manufacture in Switzerland – often for other labels – until the 90s, in the early 2000s it moved to Frankfurt. Though Helmut Sinn died at 102 early in 2018, both Sinn and Guinard still bear his indelible stamp. At both firms Sinn’s motto was, “as perfect as possible, but only as expensive as necessary.” If you’re looking for two more unusual watches to discreetly protrude from under the cuff of your Henry Herbert jacket – firms with long and interesting backstories – these are two brands to know about.
As always, please feel free to leave a comment below.