One of the greatest things about working with a bunch of passionate product enthusiasts is that I’m constantly exposed to amazing products and get to learn about what make them so special. The downside is that it can be rough on my wallet – after all, it’s hard to go back to the old ways after hearing music on top-of-the-line headphones, typing on a Topre keyboard, or writing with a Pelikan Souveran. But not being able to afford the things that I want just means that I get to research them and obsess over them for a long time, which is something that I’ve gotten quite good at.
I’ve been learning a lot about watches lately, and recently had the opportunity to check out some amazing ones at the WatchBuys road show in San Francisco. WatchBuys is a direct-to-consumer watch distributor for several German brands (like Sinn, Dornblueth & Sohn, and more), and they offer extremely competitive pricing on their pieces because there’s no retail markup. The catch is that there’s no real storefront to view the collection, but owners Rob and Tim travel around the states to allow curious minds like myself to view the wares. During their trip to SF, I was able to discuss and view a brand that I’ve been fetishizing a fair bit – Nomos.
Nomos Glashütte is a German watch company founded in 1991 (right after the fall of the Berlin Wall) that specializes in the purist and minimalistic Bauhaus style of timepieces. This style certainly isn’t unique to them, but they seem to add just a touch of whimsy and playfulness to an otherwise sober look that results in a truly wonderful aesthetic.
There are a few other factors beyond the attractive design that make Nomos appealing to me. The first is that they have been using in-house movements since 2005 (prior to that, they used a Swiss-made ETA / Peseux 7001), which definitely puts them in a small group of elite watchmakers (like Patek and Rolex). Of course, “in-house” doesn’t necessarily translate to “original,” as their movements are largely based on existing ETA movements. Nonetheless, it’s still an impressive feat and presumably helps them ensure top-tier quality in their products. Some of their models became fully in-house when Nomos introduced the Swing System in 2014, which uses their own escapements (rather than stock ETA ones).
The next thing I love about Nomos is the size of their watches. I’m very anti- large watches, in part because I have small ectomorph wrists and in part because I just love the refined look of smaller vintage watches. The vintage Omega Seamaster I wear almost every day measures a puny 35mm, and I don’t find it to feel feminine at all (to the contrary, I get compliments on its size all the time). Even the more casual field watches I like tend to be around 38-39mm.
Nomos has watches in a range of sizes, but many tend to be much smaller than what is readily available on the market. Their classic watch is the Tangente, and it comes in 38, 35, and even 33mm. That said, these Bauhaus-style watches tend to have very large dials and narrow cases, so they do tend to “wear big.” Still, finding watches under 40mm is tough these days, and Nomos has them in spades.
Lastly, Nomos excites the menswear nerd in me because they use shell cordovan from Horween in most of their straps. There are many watches out there with crummy straps, and although they can be easily replaced, it’s exciting to see Nomos go for the best right out of the gate.
Thanks again to Rob and Tim of WatchBuys for showing me the collection and answering my incessant n00b questions – they certainly know their stuff, and are a great source for exceptional pricing on top-of-the-line German watches. Here are some of my favorites from the Nomos collection:
The Tangente – this is the classic Nomos model and comes in many forms. My favorite is the 35mm Tangente Datum Gangreserve with red power reserve, shown here. The upper complication is a very clever power reserve that indicates how much energy is left by using two rotating dials that show increasing amounts of red as power diminishes.
Zurich Worldtimer: This is another crowd favorite, shown here with a blue dial. Often seen on the wrist of my dear friend Jacob, this clever watch changes time zones with a click of a button – the pusher above the crown satisfyingly moves the inner ring forward one time zone and the hour hand ahead one hour. Very clever, very fun to play with.