Road Trip: Cruising The Fast Lane To Cologne In A Corvette With Nomos And Chopard
Quill & Pad’s resident gentleman, Martin Green, and I quite spontaneously decided to take a small road trip. The object was to test out some watches for a day and do a little sightseeing.
We chose to go to Cologne, Germany, and we decided to take two automobile-themed watches with us: the Chopard Superfast Chrono Porsche 919 Edition (Martin) and the Nomos Glashütte Autobahn (Elizabeth).
Cologne, the fourth most populous German city, is situated on the Rhine river. Its claim to fame is the incredible Cologne Cathedral dominating the inner city, which took more than 800 years to build. Established in the first century AD, Cologne is also one of the oldest cities in the region.
Its fascinating beauty provided a magnificent backdrop for the high-octane day we spent with these two watches.
The order form
MG: Chopard is no stranger when it comes to connecting the world of desirable, fast cars with that of mechanical watches. The brand’s Mille Miglia collection has become one of its pillars, but the passion runs much deeper than vintage cars. With the Superfast Chrono Porsche 919 Edition, Chopard pays homage to an exceptional Porsche 919 hybrid race car that competed in the Le Mans Prototype 1-Hybrid (LMP1-H) category of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
ED: And in its second season at Le Mans, Martin, it won the LMP category! I was fortunate to be there when this happened, which you can read about in Porsche Wins 24 Hours Of Le Mans 2015 And Chopard Presents Superfast Chrono Porsche 919 Jacky Ickx Edition.
MG: Of course, this connection results in the obligatory references on the dial, which I personally could have done without, but in all honesty they are not that abundant and don’t interfere with the enjoyment of the rest of the watch.
What I appreciate is the silver-colored dial as a reference to the Porsche as this gives the watch more of its own character opposed to the traditional black dial of the non-limited version of this watch. It also makes the watch look even larger than the 45 mm diameter it brings to the table.
A bit confusing is that the Superfast is actually part of a collection within Chopard’s lineup that is called Classic Racing. However, there is nothing classic about this watch as it is a very modern, and modern-looking, mechanical chronograph dedicated to one of the most advanced cars Porsche ever made, so the “Classic” link is a weaker one for me.
ED: Nomos Glashütte, on the other hand, has absolutely no connection to the world of cars whatsoever. The Autobahn’s dial design, which resembles a dashboard instrument – in particular in low-light situations when the luminous substance takes center stage – is its only connection to a car other than its name: “autobahn” means “highway” in German.
This design of this timepiece comes from product designer Werner Aisslinger, whose goal was to create “an archetype. Something to withstand the test of time.” He also stated that he loves speed.
Though 41 mm is not my personal sweet spot when it comes to watch sizes, this watch’s inherent thinness (10.5 mm) made up for the larger diameter, and it sat well on my very thin wrist.
Under the hood
ED: The Nomos Autobahn is powered not by gasoline, but by Nomos Glashütte’s own automatic Caliber DUW 6101, made in Glashütte right down to the escapement, which the brand calls its Swing System (see more about that in Bravo, Nomos Glashütte! How The Metro Will Change The Watch Game).
Only 3.6 mm in height, I don’t need to tell you that Caliber DUW 6101 is really thin as far as automatic movements go. And it is this attention to keeping it real that is the big reason the brand’s watches remain so incredibly comfortable and wearable (and popular!) regardless of the case diameter.
Also, it is easy to see that this caliber was purpose-built for the larger case diameter because the date display is exactly where it should be on the edge of the dial. Not every brand pays attention to that small but important detail.
And unlike Nomos’s first movements, which necessitated turning the crown through all the dates manually to find the right one, this caliber includes a quick-set date adjustment feature. The only thing I’m not particularly fond of is the wide date window that reveals three numbers at once. The design idea behind it was to visually balance the arc of lume with an arc of dates.
MG: Taking after the car that inspired it, the Chopard Superfast Chrono Porsche 919 Edition is somewhat of a hybrid itself. Not that it combines two power sources, but rather that its mechanical movement is neither ETA-based nor a Chopard L.U.C caliber.
Caliber 03.05-M comes from Chopard’s other movement manufacture, Fleurier Ebauches, which makes it an in-house movement but one that is more utilitarian in design and execution than the more sophisticated L.U.C movements. And this is not at all a bad thing because the movement stands tall against the competition, both aesthetically and in performance.
The movement features automatic winding, a power reserve of 60 hours, and a column wheel-operated flyback chronograph complication. Visually, the movement is quite attractive with horizontal openings cut in the bridges giving the movement not only a very dynamic look but also quite a bit of character – more so than, for example, Cartier was able to install in its manufacture chronograph movement.
ED: Nomos Glashütte as a brand is probably the best bang for the buck out there at this moment. If you’re looking for a manufacture movement wrapped up in attractive design at a relatively affordable price, you really need to look no further than here. And the Autobahn does not disappoint in that respect, coming in at only €3,800.
MG: Regarding price, the Chopard takes the middle ground: at €11,300 it is more expensive than the brand’s ETA-based Mille Miglia models, but that is also justified by the in-house movement. A Chopard L.U.C. chronograph would never be available at this price point.
It is also interesting to note that this limited edition Superfast is only €100 more than its non-limited, black-dial sibling. I would pay that small surcharge happily to get the silver dial.
The Superfast is not only C.O.S.C. certified but also water resistant to 100 meters. A lot of brands don’t go through the effort to make their sporty, car-inspired chronographs water resistant to this extent, but I am glad that Chopard did. In essence, it makes the Superfast a more complete watch as it is ready for an active lifestyle, even if that lifestyle includes water.
ED: The Nomos Glashütte Autobahn is also water resistant to 100 meters. Not a lot of thin watches can say that, either. Bonus marks!
Only one of these watches is a sleeper
MG: In automotive terms, a “sleeper” is a high-performance car that doesn’t look like one: something that is either heavily modified or just plain unpromising looking that turns out to be a hypercar or similar.
As I mentioned before, the Superfast is large and looks even larger due to the silver dial. And Chopard makes the most of this volume by loading it with beautiful details. But a sleeper it will never be. It is a watch that gets noticed by the people around you. They may not comment on it, but their eyes will go to your wrist.
ED: The Nomos Glashütte Autobahn is most definitely a sleeper: when the lights go down, its lume turns up the volume! Even on the all-white-dial version that I wore.
If these watches were cars, what would they be?
MG: Although Chopard dedicated this watch to the Porsche 919, it is in my opinion by no means a race car! On the wrist, it reminded me far more of another Porsche, the Macan Turbo: a slightly beefy car that until a few years ago would not have been expected from the brand. Yet it does not disappoint: it is not only an ample performer but also stays true to the “DNA” of its marque.
The same goes for the Superfast Chrono. For a Chopard, its design is quite loud. But the longer you wear it, the more you see the fun of that. Just like the Macan, is it quite unapologetic in that it doesn’t subscribe to the “less-is-more” philosophy, and for a modern sports watch that is okay.
ED: And, indeed, the Autobahn is also quite loud for a Nomos, but it too is super fun!
My thought would be to liken it to a BMW 8, like the BMW M850i xDrive Coupe that you recently wrote about, Martin, which for me often looks so inconspicuous from the outside, but revs up once you get behind the wheel and take it out on the autobahn.
And frequently BMW’s designs make the cars look like they’re moving even when they’re not; the same could be said of the Nomos Autobahn.
ED: I found this a surprisingly good watch to wear while driving for a couple of reasons. One, the wide and fully uncluttered dial – the watch’s 41 mm stainless steel case just barely has a bezel, making the dial look bigger – allows immediate zero in on the time. The fully orange or orange-tipped minute hand (depending on the version) and orange second hand additionally aid in attracting the eye.
Then there is that amazing dial luminosity, which makes reading the time at night easy.
Its moderate size and low weight made it as easy to wear as any Nomos watch. But if I did have a gripe in that respect: the strap, which is made of NATO canvas material but has a normal buckle, just didn’t provide enough hold for the larger watch on my minuscule wrist, or so I felt. I far prefer the Shell Cordovan straps that Nomos produces to this, though I will admit that the Nato’s look is very fitting. Perhaps someone with a larger wrist feels differently about it?
MG: At first glance, the Chopard Superfast Chrono didn’t strike me as the perfect watch to wear while driving: its size and weight in combination with my medium-sized wrist didn’t make me think that it would sit very comfortably when handling the steering wheel.
The opposite was actually true: a well-crafted rubber strap and folding clasp secured the Chopard tightly yet comfortably to my wrist. The weight of the watch was well balanced, and although not featherlight (just like the Porsche Macan Turbo!), I got used to it very quickly and after a while even appreciated the weight on my wrist as a reminder that I was wearing a substantial sports watch.
What surprised me most was the operation of the chronograph. Almost all car manufacturers have experts on staff that determine what kind of pressure you must put on a button to operate it to make it just right for that premium feel.
Chopard must have one of these experts on staff because although it is hard to accidentally press one of the chronograph buttons, they were very easy and precise to operate. Exactly what one needs while driving a demanding car.
What’s the perfect road trip to take with one of these on the wrist?
MG: Given that I paired this Chopard with the Porsche Macan Turbo, I think that they make the perfect combination for a grand tour through Scandinavia, and I would drive them all the way to the pole circle to see the northern lights.
The watch is for sure enough for an adventure like that, and the Macan should be capable of supplying both enough power to make it an enjoyable and fun journey and enough traction to make it a safe one as well.
ED: As Nomos makes such great watches for daily wear, I felt that this road trip was perfect for wearing the Autobahn.
I didn’t have a BMW for the day, unfortunately, so I drove my own Corvette C6 for this road trip to Cologne, feeling that the two quality products – one made in Glashütte and the other made in Bowling Green, Kentucky – made for a good if unlikely pairing.
Leaving in the wee hours (when the German autobahn is best driven thanks to the lower volume of traffic), the watch’s lume led the way. As I finally hit real traffic, the watch helped me keep good time as I worried about missing the meeting point in front of the cathedral.
Driving back home late in the evening, the bright lume of the timepiece once again led the way. What a joy that was.
Summing up the Nomos Glashütte Autobahn and the Chopard Superfast Chrono Porsche 919 Edition
MG: While I love cars, I always have a bit of a problem when a watch is dedicated to a single-model car. Unlike the Mille Miglia, which combines a whole arena of different cars, this means that you need to have an attachment to this one car to see the added value of the limited edition that this Superfast Chrono Porsche 919 Edition is.
I don’t have that attachment in this particular instance, yet I like the silver dial enough to oversee the 919 on the dial and the Porsche Motorsport Logo on the back.
ED: Which is why I am so in love with the concept of Nomos’s Autobahn: you just have to have a relationship to the autobahn! Aside from the at-times dastardly traffic that drives across the German network of highways, I can truly say that I love the autobahn with its very fair system of speed limits and wonderful quality of tarmac.
And while most people outside the country live under the illusion that there is no speed limit anywhere on the German highways, rest assured this isn’t even remotely true. The stretches without speed limit seem to shrink by the day – and even when they’re there, you can hardly drive at speed because of the incredible volume of cars.
So I celebrate every moment I find a lonely stretch of speed limit-free autobahn with little traffic! Wearing the Nomos Autobahn on this road trip felt like helping to celebrate that.
MG: While the Superfast Chrono was a bit intimidating before I strapped it on the wrist, the design of the lugs, strap, and folding clasp are very refined and secured it comfortably.
In fact, after a while I noticed that I even started to enjoy its weight and size, almost like it was a guilty pleasure. I am a dress watch guy who can be tempted by a Chopard Mille Miglia, but a Superfast would mean going over to the dark side . . . which I enjoyed far more then I should have!
ED: Speed . . . in all its forms. What a great day!
Quick Facts Chopard Superfast Chrono Porsche 919 Edition
Case: 45 x 15.18 mm, stainless steel
Movement: Automatic Chopard Caliber 03.05-M, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 60-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, flyback chronograph
Limitation: 919 pieces
Quick Facts Nomos Glashütte Autobahn Neomatik
Case: 41 x 10.5 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber DUW 6101 with Swing System escapement
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Disclaimer: Many thanks to Chopard and Nomos Glashütte for lending us these watches. The brands, however, paid for nothing further on this road trip.
You might also enjoy:
Nomos Glashütte Autobahn: Pedal To The Metal!
Bravo, Nomos Glashütte! How The Metro Will Change The Watch Game
Chopard And The Mille Miglia: How An Event Became A Pillar For An Empire Across 30 Years
Watchspotting At The 24 Hours Of Le Mans 2015 Starring Chopard, Rolex, TAG Heuer, Rebellion, And Franck Muller
Porsche Wins 24 Hours Of Le Mans 2015 And Chopard Presents Superfast Chrono Porsche 919 Jacky Ickx Edition
Also published on Medium.