In its relatively young existence, Nomos Glashütte has become one of the most popular and successful German watch brands as well as probably the most accessible to newer (and younger) collectors. Nomos’s success — which includes an impressive string of German design awards — has resulted from a combination of sensible pricing, classical Bauhaus design, and creative forays into color, with a bit of mechanical innovation thrown in for good measure. Read on for an in-depth look at today's Nomos Glashütte collection, along with some background on the brand.
A Rebirth in Glashütte
It was just two months after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, in January 1990, when Roland Schwertner, a photographer and tech-savvy entrepreneur from Düsseldorf, founded Nomos in the East German town of Glashütte, deriving its name from the Ancient Greek god of law. Before World War II and the subsequent Cold War that partitioned Germany into two nations, the town (above), outside of Dresden in the state of Saxony, was a world center of watchmaking. The foundation of Nomos — along with the revival of historical watch brands like A. Lange & Söhne and the evolution of the conglomerate known as Glashütte Original into a luxury watchmaker — spearheaded the rebirth of Glashütte’s horological heritage in the new, reunited Germany.
What set Nomos apart from most of the other manufacturers in Glashütte, then as now, is the company’s clean, modernist aesthetics as well as its relatively accessible price points; a Nomos watch is a much more entry-level option for a budding German watchmaking enthusiast than anything from either of the above-mentioned brands. As a member of Germany’s Deutscher Werkbund, an association of artists, architects, designers, and industrialists established in 1907, Nomos is a champion of the Bauhaus style of minimalist, functional design. This devotion has been evident since the earliest Nomos watches, which hit the market in 1992. The four models that debuted that year — the Tangente, Orion, Ludwig, and Tetra — are still important anchors of the brand’s expanded collection today. Originally, all Nomos watches used hand-wound mechanical movements outsourced from Switzerland, based on the ETA/Peseux Caliber 7001; today, nearly all of them contain the brand’s own proprietary movements.
Growth in the 21st Century
Today, Nomos is the largest German watch manufacturer in terms of the number of watches produced annually. It employs around 300 people in its three facilities in the town of Glashütte, including its original headquarters in a converted train station, as well as at a design studio in Berlin, and makes upwards of 20,000 pieces per year. Over its more than three decades in business, Nomos has dabbled in high-luxury, limited pieces with hand-decorated, hand-finished movements and precious-metal cases, like the rose-gold and white-gold pieces from the Lux and Lambda collections, the latter also notable for their tonneau-shaped cases. The company has also become known for its special editions, usually spread throughout its product families, produced in cooperation with the charitable organization Medecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders); its tribute pieces honoring German composer Ludwig Van Beethoven; and its series of limited editions released in 2020 that commemorate 175 years of watchmaking in Glashütte.
Devotion to In-House Movements
In 2005, Nomos took the next step to becoming a self-sufficient manufacture, producing two in-house mechanical movements, the manual-winding Alpha caliber and the self-winding Epsilon. Subsequent years brought variants to each as Nomos started incorporating small complications as well as efficiency-focused technical upgrades. Making its debut in 2014 was the manual-winding Caliber DUW 4101 (the initials stand for Deutsche Uhrenwerke or “German Clockwork”), which introduced Nomos’ own in-house-produced escapement. Called the Nomos Swing System, it is notable for its tempered blue balance spring and its balance bridge fixed with screws on both ends; this innovative device is now found in movements throughout the collection. One year later, Nomos incorporated the Swing System into the automatic Caliber DUW 3001, an evolution of the Epsilon, which is noteworthy for its incredibly thin profile (just 3.2mm thick), its components made of a low-friction alloy, and its proprietary gear train with differently angled teeth on the wheels that substantially optimized its efficiency. Watches with Caliber DUW 3001 and its variants (like the Caliber 6101 with redesigned date wheel, found inside the Autobahn models) are called “Neomatik.”
Price: $1,900 - $4,980, Case Sizes: 33mm/35mm/38mm/39mm/41mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Automatic DUW 3001/Manual-wind DUW 4101/Manual-wind Alpha
The Nomos Tangente, regarded as Nomos’ flagship collection, has scooped up multiple design awards for its eminently clean, Bauhaus-inspired aesthetic. It resurrects an ahead-of-its-time dial design from the 1930s (the heyday of the Bauhaus movement), complete with a typeface typical of that era. Today, the Tangente, referred to by the company as “the round watch with the right angles,” is offered in a number of sizes and executions, the most understated being the 35mm model above, with a wisplike thinness of 6.6mm. The watch has a galvanized, silver-plated dial with traditional, central hours and minutes hands and a small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. Giving it life inside the case is Nomos’ in-house manually wound Alpha caliber, with a stop-seconds mechanism, Incabloc shock protection, a Nivarox balance spring and blued screws; the Neomatik caliber DUW 3001 beats inside most of the larger models. The three-part steel case is fitted with a sapphire caseback to show off the movement and is mounted on a genuine Horween shell cordovan leather strap.
Price: $1,600 - $4,200, Case Sizes: 33mm/35mm/38mm/39mm/41mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Automatic DUW 3001/Manual-wind DUW 4101/Manual-wind Alpha/Alpha.2
One of Nomos’ purest executions of Bauhaus design, the Orion, which made its debut in the first wave of Nomos models in 1992, is a throwback to the days when gents and ladies both wore smaller, more understated timepieces. The dial is accordingly clean and sedate, with simple bar indices and tempered blue baton hands on a stark white background, the only additional element being a small seconds subdial with its own blued hand at 6 o’clock and, on some models, a subtle date window at 6 o’clock. The watch fastens to a Horween leather strap and offers an array of case sizes and movement options: the Neomatik models range from 36mm to 41mm and contain the automatic DUW 3001 caliber while the smaller Orion 33 features the manually wound Alpha and the non-Neomatik Orion Date models are powered by the manually wound DUW 4101.
Price: $1,660 - $3,980, Case Sizes: 27mm/29.5mm/33mm/39mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Automatic DUW 3001/Manual-wind DUW 4101/Manual-wind Alpha/Alpha.2
The Tetra is the Glashütte watchmaker’s iconic square-cased model, the only non-round representative from the original quartet. The two-part stainless steel case has an exceedingly thin bezel framing the square-shaped dial, with thin baton hands and indexes, stylish Arabic numerals at the 5-minute markers, and a circular small-seconds subdial at 6 o’clock (replacing the square one of the earliest models). Since 2016, Tetra watches have offered Neomatik options, outfitted with Caliber DUW 3001. The smallest, most understated iterations feature 27mm steel cases and Alpha calibers, while the largest, at 39mm, are equipped with automatic movements.
Price: $1,380 - $4,000, Case Sizes: 33mm/35mm/38mm/41mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Automatic DUW 3001/Manual-wind DUW 4101/Manual-wind Alpha/Alpha.2
Rounding out the four original pillars of the Nomos brand is the Ludwig, another elegant round-cased model like the Tangente and Orion but distinguished by the Roman numeral hour indexes, rather than the more modernist Arabic numerals, on its dial, which alternate at the hour positions with slender baton indexes. As per historical tradition, Nomos uses “IIII” rather than the more traditional “IV” for the 4 o'clock hour; if you’re curious as to why both versions of this numeral are correct, click here.) The thin, recessed bezel is another decidedly vintage-style feature, as are the long, thin lugs reminiscent of the wire lugs on some of the first wristwatches. Smaller Ludwig watches run on the hand-wound Alpha and its offshoot, the Alpha.2; the largest models are Neomatiks, with Caliber DUW 3001. Appropriately, Nomos’ most historical-look model was used as the basis for a limited-edition set celebrating the Peace of Westphalia, a significant historical event in German history, in its 375th anniversary year of 2023.
Price: $3,280 - $4,920, Case Sizes: 38mm/40mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Automatic DUW 5001/DUW 5101/DUW 5201
The Tangomat, launched in 2005, is the first Nomos watch to house an automatic movement, and the “bigger brother” to the Tangente, with its own shelf full of design awards. (Presumably its name is derived from “Tangente” plus “Automatic.”) It’s also one of the largest watches in the portfolio, at a 38mm diameter for the base models with sub-seconds and date, and 40mm for the Tangomat GMT (above), the latter equipped with a unique dual-time indication, operated by a pusher above the crown, that displays all 24 of the world’s time zones, in a window at 9 o’clock, as designated by international airport codes (NYC for Eastern Standard Time, etc.) along with a triple date display at 3 o’clock. Tangomat watches originally contained the pre-Swing System Epsilon caliber; today, they house the modern DUW 5001 (Tangomat), DUW 5101 (Tangomat Date) or DUW 5201 (Tangomat GMT).
Price: $2,030 - $10,920, Case Sizes: 33mm/38mm/39mm/41mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Manual-wind DUW 4401/Automatic DUW 3001/Manual-wind DUW 4101/Manual-wind Alpha/Alpha.2
The Metro line features wide, round dials whose round bullet-point hour markers align with minuscule Arabic numerals along the minute track. The stainless steel cases, with very thin wire lugs and sapphire crystals in the front and back, are offered in a variety of sizes, with manually wound as well as Neomatik calibers inside. Most models have a small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock, including the popular Silvercut models, whose textured-look, polished silver-gray dials are lent a splash of primary color by the seconds hand and indexes. The most emblematic Metro model is the Datum Gangreserve (Date Power Reserve), containing the in-house DUW 4401 manual-wound movement equipped with the innovative Swing System. Conceived by Berlin-based designer Mark Braun, the model’s distinctive dial features a pair of very thin, blackened “quill-tip” hands for hours and minutes, a small seconds subdial with red hand at 6 o’clock, just above the date window, and an eye-catching, round, power reserve window with red and white areas inside a mint-green wheel. Metro models come in a range of fashion-forward dial colors, including Sage, Urban Grey, and Midnight Blue, and even a handful of luxurious gold-cased editions.
Club/Club Sport/Club Aqua
Price: $1,500 - $3,960, Case Size: 36mm/37mm/39mm/42mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters/200 meters, Movement: Manual-wind Alpha, Automatic DUW 3001/DUW 6101/DUW 5101
Nomos started exploring sportier territory with the launch of the Club collection in 2007. Club models are identified by their round cases with wider bezels; bolder applied Arabic numerals on the dials (reminiscent of the typography on U.S. Highway signage, the brand says) and somewhat thicker pointed hands with luminous coating. While the extra robustness compared to the dressier Nomos models is relatively subtle in the aesthetics, it is pronounced in the construction: the original Club model, mounted on a Horween leather strap, with a manual-winding Alpha Caliber, is water-resistant to 100 meters, more than three times that of its predecessors in the collection; newer models, equipped with the Neomatik Caliber DUW 3001 and mounted on steel bracelets, have increased this rating to 200 meters. Also boasting 200 meters of water resistance are the diving-inspired Club Aqua models, with extra-large date displays powered by the self-winding Caliber DUW 5101. The bracelets on the Club Sport, among the few to be found in Nomos’ modern portfolio, have a combination of polished and satin finishes and are equipped with quick-change spring bars.
Price: $1,500 - $1,650, Case Size: 36mm/38mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Manual-wind Alpha
Spinning off from the Club collection in 2017 and positioned as the German maker’s most entry-level family of timepieces, the Club Campus is noteworthy for its streamlined, no-nonsense aesthetic and its use of a “California” dial, i.e., one that uses a combo of Arabic numerals, Roman numerals, and plain indexes for its hour markers. Club Campus models offer two sizes (36mm and 38mm) and utilize the manually wound Alpha calibers. Members of this Club collection sub-family are hot among younger watch enthusiasts not only for their very tempting price proposition but for their array of eye-popping colorways — Blue Purple, Cream Coral, Electric Green, and Future Orange (pictured), to name just a few. Present on almost all Club Campus models, which are mounted on soft velour leather straps and carry the manually wound Alpha caliber, is a bright orange seconds hand in the 6 o’clock subdial.
Price: $3,580 - $4,230, Case Size: 36mm/38mm/40mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic DUW 3001/DUW 5101
The first “diver-style” Nomos watch, the Ahoi was introduced in 2013, and the nautically inspired family has been growing steadily since. Setting the Ahoi apart from other sporty models in the collection are its swim-friendly textile strap and its screw-down crown flanked by crown guards, which gives the steel case a water resistance of 200 meters despite its impressive thinness (just under 10mm for the flagship 38mm models). As seen on the “Siren Red” version of the Ahoi featured above, the model does not have the ratcheting dive-scale bezel that would make it a “true” diver, but it does boast a many of the usual Nomos aesthetic elements, like legible Arabic markers, thin baton hands, and off-center seconds subdial; beating inside is one of the brand’s self-winding, ultra-thin Neomatik calibers, with high-level decoration and a 43-hour power reserve.
Price: $4,800, Case Size: 41mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic DUW 6101
One of the newest collections to join the Nomos portfolio, the motorsport-inspired Autobahn roared out of the gate in 2018, merging the signature Nomos Bauhaus minimalism with the high-tech dynamism of an automobile dashboard. Named after Germany’s high-speed highway system and developed in cooperation with architectural designer Werner Aisslinger, the Autobahn has an inwardly curved rehaut, reminiscent of a banked racetrack, for its outer minute track, and a speedometer-inspired, curved triple-date window at 3 o’clock. The curvature of the date window is echoed on the upper part of the dial as well, most prominently in the arcing hour scale with luminous sectors, traversed by the hour hand. The slender minutes hand aligns with the scale on the outer edge, and its orange tip matches the color of the hand in the seconds subdial right above the date window. Autobahn watches are equipped with the Neomatik Caliber 6101, which features an ultra-efficient, quick-change date display. The 41mm case, just slightly over 10mm thick, renders the Autobahn one of the largest Nomos models while still striving for comfort and wearability.
Price: $6,100, Case Size: 39.9mm, Case Height: 10.9mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Automatic DUW 5201
As should be evident if you’ve read this far, one of Nomos’ strengths is that it manages to achieve horological complexity without ever sacrificing its characteristic streamlined aesthetic. Perhaps the pinnacle example is the Zurich Worldtimer, whose case is in stainless steel and measures 39.9mm in diameter (large for Nomos but relatively modest for a world-timer), with a galvanized white or midnight blue dial under a domed sapphire crystal. On that dial, two faceted hands indicate the local time while a disk at 3 o’clock shows the time in 24-hour format with a red pointer. A pusher above the crown advances the city ring between the outer track and the dial’s center to reveal the times in the 23 other time zones outside the wearer’s home time. Nomos’ in-house DUW 5201, with a 42-hour power reserve and the proprietary Swing System escapement, ticks inside.