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Nomos, hip to be square
Connoisseur of watches

Nomos, hip to be square

Wednesday, 13 April 2016
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Alex Ballmer
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5 min read

Simple, sober, rigorously precise and Bauhaus-inspired: what else but a Nomos watch. The German brand broke the mould at this year’s Baselworld with a new reference whose in-house movement is contained in a square case. Glashütte clearly still has plenty of tricks up its sleeve.

Each year, Nomos comes to Basel with its mix of distinctive designs, in-house movements and unbeatable prices. With sales progressing by 30% in 2015 and a growing workforce – the brand currently employs over 250 people – Nomos is standing up well to the headwinds that are blowing through the markets. A particularity of German brands?

Nomos is based in Glashütte which, prior to becoming the watchmaking centre of Saxony, was known for its rich copper and silver deposits. By the early nineteenth century, however, the mines were all but depleted and the townsfolk left without a livelihood. News of their plight reached Ferdinand Adolph Lange. He believed watchmaking could provide alternative employment, and in 1845 set up a Manufacture, future A. Lange & Söhne, and began teaching workers their new trade. Lange was quickly joined by Moritz Grossmann, Julius Assmann and Adolph Schneider, the four founding fathers of German watchmaking.

Bauhaus inspired Nomos for its simple, uncluttered designs.
Making a name

The Swiss watch industry was unaffected by the changing tide of world events in the twentieth century. Glashütte, in contrast, was hit first by the economic crisis of the inter-war years, then by the ravages of the Second World War, following which the town became part of the German Democratic Republic. Its watch manufacturers were combined into a single state-owned conglomerate, Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB), which spent the next four decades mass-producing cheap watches. It wasn’t until the fall of the Berlin Wall that the German watch industry was able to rise from its ashes. This revival owes much to Walter Lange, great-grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange. In 1990, he came back to his ancestors’ homeland, determined to restore A. Lange & Söhne to its rightful place among the great watch manufacturers. Glashütte was at last back on the map, and is now home to virtually all the leading names of an industry that is founded on quality and precision.

Roland Schwertner © Nomos
Roland Schwertner © Nomos

One such brand is Nomos, established by IT consultant Roland Schwertner in the early 1990s, the start of Glashütte’s new dawn. He was convinced by the town’s potential; he also wanted to produce mechanical watches with a minimalist design at an attractive price. Inspiration for these new timepieces would come from the Bauhaus movement, founded by Walter Gropius in 1919 in Weimar. Bauhaus’ earliest proponents believed in using industrial methods to produce large quantities of functional objects. Building on this premise, Nomos set about creating watches with a simple, uncluttered design. At first the brand was reliant on ETA calibres, then in 2005 began producing its own movements. Today, Nomos has a dozen different collections and as many in-house movements.

Nomos Tetra Neomatik
Nomos Tetra Neomatik
Tetra Neomatik, squaring the circle

Brands exhibiting at this year’s Baselworld showed an abundance of models with a classical aesthetic, useful functions and preferably round cases. Nomos bucked the trend by presenting a square watch, something very few brands have attempted. Apart from the ultra-vintage Monaco by TAG Heuer, the shortlived Hermès Carrée H in 2010, and recent styles from Bell & Ross which play on the contrast between round dials in a square case, examples of square watches are few and far between.

Nomos DUW 3001
Nomos DUW 3001

This latest style, by the name of Tetra, bears all the hallmarks of a Nomos watch with its characteristic crisp, clean design. The dial is either blue with green accents or white with silver accents. The 33 x 33 mm square steel case features a sapphire crystal back that reveals Calibre DUW 3001, a self-winding movement measuring 3.2 mm high. Introduced in 2015, it already equips several other references including the Minimatik neomatik, the Tangente neomatik, the Orion neomatik, the Metro neomatik and the Ludwig neomtik (all those models are also available in a champagner version). A Cordovan strap in horse leather, a speciality of the brand, lends the finishing touch.

Nomos Tangente
Nomos Tangente

The DUW 3001 also drives the Tangente, the quintessential Nomos watch with its round but nonetheless angular design. The original Tangente was introduced in 1992 powered by a hand-wound caliber and has won numerous design awards; this restyled version was launched late last year. Because Nomos is usually positioned for the stainless steel models at between €1,000 and €4,000, the Lambda is an exception. This model available in pink or white gold 18k, released in 2013, retails for three time that. This classic timepiece features small seconds and a large indicator for the 84-hour power reserve, made possible by twin barrels. A single phrase inscribed on the balance cock says it all: Mit Liebe in Glashütte gefertigt (Made in Glashütte with love).

Find more information on www.nomos-glashuette.com

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