Bravo, Nomos Glashütte! How The Metro Will Change The Watch Game
Okay, so if you know me, you also know that I am a fan of Nomos Glashütte. And it’s not hard to define why:
1) Nomos Glashütte’s watches are the biggest bang for the buck in our industry. I defy any brand anywhere to provide the consumer with more watch for the money than Nomos! The Club model, outfitted with a manufacture movement, begins at just € 1,080.
2) Nomos Glashütte’s watches are exquisitely designed with minimalist Bauhaus architecture and robust Shell Cordovan straps. In addition to a certain under-the-radar elegance, they take any kind of daily wear that you care to dish out to them. Perfect for a daily wearer.
3) The people behind Nomos Glashütte are some of the nicest in our industry. And while this is not a criterion that should be in this listing, as Joshua recently so aptly wrote, it sure as heck makes one a little more enthusiastic and passionate about products.
4) And I have to admit that as somebody who calls Germany home, I like the fact that Nomos Glashütte is a home-grown success story from historic Glashütte.
But that still doesn’t answer why I entitled this post, “Bravo, Nomos Glashütte!”
Over the years, Nomos Glashütte has worked and worked to increase its production depth. What began life in 1991 as a Peseux 7001 in a beautifully designed set of four timeless wristwatches has, bit by bit, become a set of true manufacture products in every single sense of the word.
Here’s a quick rundown of that history
Nomos Glashütte’s first calibers were based on the Swiss Peseux 7001 ébauche kit. This svelte movement was chosen for its reliability and accuracy – particularly in the face of its petite size (23.3 x 2.5 mm) – which was needed for the elegantly designed wristwatches.
Only a few years later, these movements had been so modified, refined, and refinished that they resembled the original movement practically only in name. And, in fact, Nomos Glashütte did rename them: NOMOS 1 T, which additionally contained a Triovis fine adjustment; and the 1 TS with stop-seconds was used in the base Tangente, Ludwig, Orion, and Tetra models.
The 1 TSD, containing around 30 more components, also boasted Nomos Glashütte’s own date ring, which fit around the existing movement, allowing the Tangente case to remain as sleek as ever at 6.05 mm without date and a trim 7.5 mm high with date.
The year 2005 brought the addition of the word manufacture. The first modifications basically improved the aesthetics of the movement, then the precision as time went on. Finally, it was apparent that Nomos was changing out so many components – including the base plate and mainspring – that the movement could truly be called Nomos’s own.
Even greater changes took place for the most part after 2000, when Uwe Ahrendt was hired to run the company’s production (and later became a partner). His pragmatic concepts, coupled with the unorthodox ideals of Nomos Glashütte’s founder and owner Roland Schwertner, have led the little company to undreamt-of heights.
In 2005 the Nomos Glashütte automatic movement was created, followed by the world timer and GMT complications in 2010. And in between, the movements were once again renamed, this time according to the Greek alphabet.
The movement names have now metamorphosed one more time, and with good reason. Today, Nomos Glashütte is a full-blown manufacture with the capability to design, manufacture, assemble and finish all kinds of simple and complicated mechanisms fully in-house.
With last fall’s introduction of the first luxury watches Lux and Lambda, Nomos Glashütte decided it was time to put this capability on display. Therefore, Nomos movements have henceforth borne the name DUW, which stands for Deutsche Uhrenwerke (“German Watch Factory”) Nomos Glashütte – which is a bit of play on Glashütte’s rich history in movement manufacturing.
At Baselworld 2014, Nomos Glashütte finally put all the pieces together and introduced a watch that terrifically, unequivocally puts everything out there that the no-longer-so-little German brand stands for. In fact, under the weight of the announcement of the “Swing System,” the new Metro model has almost faded into the background.
I’ll come back to what the Metro is and stands for in a moment as I, too, would like to put emphasis on the Swing System.
As we all know, Swatch Group holds a lot of power over little manufacturers, particularly when it comes to the escapement and balance components generally supplied to practically every manufacturer from the group’s Nivarox entity. These vital components are necessary for keeping the all-important beat.
It is also common knowledge that as of 2016, Swatch Group will no longer be obligated to sell these components to any other company. Should the group choose to turn the tap off, these brands will undoubtedly experience great struggle. And our industry could indeed become a lot less richer.
The scramble has long since started for sources, and Nomos Glashütte has chosen to go the original route it had already begun anyway…the manufacture route. In cooperation with the Technical University of Dresden, Nomos Glashütte has calculated and developed an assortiment, or regulating system, which the innovative little brand has christened the Swing System.
With the exception of the blued balance spring, which is supplied from inside Germany (and not Switzerland) – and not from a supplier able to offer a complete assortiment – all the parts of this new balance and escapement come from Nomos. The prototypes shown at Baselworld were still outfitted with a LIGA escape wheel, but next year’s production will contain a Nomos-stamped steel wheel.
“The hardest part is not to make a spring,” said Schwertner, “but to make the whole system work together.” AND Schwertner assures me that the Swing System will fit into all existing Nomos Glashütte calibers.
If you think this is small beans, then digest the fact that Nomos Glashütte has thus far invested more than €11 million into the Swing System, including the machinery required for in-house production.
Ride the Metro
All of this 20-odd-year history – and more – is now expressed in the new Metro model. The movement development described above is clear. But what about the design?
When Nomos Glashütte introduced its original four models – Tangente, Tetra, Orion, Ludwig – in 1991, they were an almost instantaneous hit in Germany, and soon the company no longer even required a traveling salesperson in its home country. (Find me another company that can boast this: when the numerous retailers run out of stock, they just pick up the phone and reorder.)
“Since 2010, Nomos’ turnover has also doubled,” Schwertner told me during Baselworld.
Thus it stands to reason that Nomos has approached the idea of offering a fully new watch design with more than a little apprehension. (Why change a winning game, after all?) The aforementioned Lux and Lambda represented the first brand-new designs in all this time. And while staunch followers of the brand were immediately polarized by both the designs and the prices ($17,800/€12,800 for the Lambda in rose gold and $20,500/€14,800 for the Lux in white gold), at Baselworld Nomos reported that the Lambda immediately sold out. This is a huge victory for a brand that usually moves in the $2,000 range.
Even more remarkable is that the Lux and Lambda were really the first fully new designs this company had dared to introduce since its inception. “Go slow, invest in quality, not marketing,” Schwertner reiterated his strategy during Baselworld. And now, six months later . . .
Impressions of a fast-moving train
Looking at the Metro, I immediately recognized all of the Nomos Glashütte codes that I had come to know and love over the years. Even if absolutely everything about this watch is different from the company’s flagship Tangente model, a multi-award-winning timepiece based on the codes of the Bauhaus movement and historical pieces from Germany’s horological history.
From the inside, it’s clear: it is the first piece to be outfitted with the new manually wound Caliber DUW 4401, which contains the Swing System.
From the outside, only the shape of the round 37 mm stainless steel case is reminiscent of the Tangente (which comes in a 37.5 mm case and goes up to 38.5 mm depending on the additional complications). And before you write this off as too small, remember a couple of things:
1) without a bezel, the watch opens up much more and seems much bigger on the wrist than it is, providing incredible comfort, and
2) all Nomos Glashütte watches are unisex.
Connoisseurs of the brand will immediately recognize that the lugs and crown are completely different on this case, but it is the dial that will take their breath away: as I said, the design codes are obvious, but there are no elements from previous watches here with the exception of the font of the date located at 6 o’clock and the logo.
Rock my world
What’s going to rock the industry, and likely raise a lot of questions directed at other manufacturers, is the Nomos Glashütte Metro’s comparatively low retail price.
Just stop and think about this for a moment: a beautiful, elegant watch with a full manufacture movement and in-house regulator for just €2,600.
Nomos Glashütte is not as readily available through retail shops throughout the rest of the world as it is in Germany, but the good news is that all of Nomos Glashütte’s products are now available in the brand’s online shop. The Metro will start delivery in just three months.
Case: 37 x 7.7 mm, stainless steel
Movement: manually wound Caliber DUW 4401
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds; date, power reserve display
*See this article on Marco Lang’s Uhren-Werke-Dresden for a bit of explanation surrounding the names of the movements.
Also published on Medium.