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Nomos, the radical art of nuance

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September 2020


Nomos, the radical art of nuance

This year, the German town of Glashütte celebrates 175 years of watchmaking history. And while A. Lange & Söhne and Glashütte Original are its traditional legatees, Nomos has dusted off this horological heritage by offering a range of resolutely contemporary designs.

U

we Ahrendt, the CEO of Nomos, insists on precision. Although the watchmaking giants of Glashütte were revived after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dismantling of the East German industrial complex, he is keen to point out that his brand was the first newcomer to settle in the Saxon town in 1990, where it pioneered a “new tradition”.

Despite lacking the financial support of listed groups (A. Lange & Söhne belongs to Richemont and Glashütte Original to Swatch Group), this independent brand has established full legitimacy, and has earned its place in the top three brands of the German watch capital. And while stock markets are plunging, Nomos retains its AA+ certification by the Deutsche Bundesbank’s credit quality rating system.

A hand-wound Ludwig model (equipped with the in-house Alpha calibre) from the limited-edition series commemorating 175 years of watchmaking in Glashütte
A hand-wound Ludwig model (equipped with the in-house Alpha calibre) from the limited-edition series commemorating 175 years of watchmaking in Glashütte

For many years, the brand has also kept a base in Berlin (three hours away from Glashütte), where it has its own design studio called “Berlinerblau”. This modus operandi now seems to be inspiring its neighbours: A. Lange & Söhne also recently moved its marketing and administrative operations to Berlin, while production remains in Glashütte.

Uwe Ahrendt has been the CEO of Nomos since 2000.
Uwe Ahrendt has been the CEO of Nomos since 2000.

Technological and financial autonomy

What makes Nomos special is first and foremost the path it has chosen to follow since 1990: the brand has not taken up the strict canons of Saxon watchmaking, but has sought fresh inspiration from other great periods of German design, starting with the Bauhaus. “Our niche is that of the modern watch, with its neat, classic and elegant aesthetics,” Ahrendt sums up.

This positioning relies on a much more accessible segment than its neighbours, with an average price ranging from 1,000 to 4,000 euros. “The stability of our positioning is one of the keys to our reputation,” continues Ahrendt. “We are today the most important German watchmaker in this segment.”

The Duo series: the Tangente, Orion, Tetra and Ludwig models in a smaller diameter and with two hands only
The Duo series: the Tangente, Orion, Tetra and Ludwig models in a smaller diameter and with two hands only

Aesthetic nuances, and minimal modifications that transform the identity of the watch as much as possible, are one of the keystones of Nomos’s watch design.

This stability is the result of an independence cultivated both technically and financially by the German brand. “We produce all of our calibres ourselves and we are one of the few companies with mastery over escapement manufacture. Thirty years ago, there were many more independent watchmaking companies. We have certainly become ‘rare’ in that sense also...”

Winning designs

One particular Nomos line has won first place in several German and international design competitions: the Tangente. This year, the Tangente Sport model, equipped with the Neomatik in-house calibre, was once again crowned with an iF Design Award. To date, the brand has won around 160 awards, including 9 iF Design Awards, with models including the Tangente Sport, Tangente Neomatik 41 Update (2019), Metro Neomatik 39 Silvercut (2018), Tangente Neomatik Midnight Blue (2017), Minimatik (2016), Metro Date Power Reserve (2015), Ahoi (2014), Tangomat GMT (2013) and Zürich (2012).

The Tangente Sport won the 2020 iF Design Award. This automatic model features a case with a screw-down crown, a white silver-plated dial, luminescent colouring on the hands and indexes, and a “1000 ft” inscription—a subtle allusion to the watch's water resistance.
The Tangente Sport won the 2020 iF Design Award. This automatic model features a case with a screw-down crown, a white silver-plated dial, luminescent colouring on the hands and indexes, and a “1000 ft” inscription—a subtle allusion to the watch’s water resistance.

Aesthetic nuances, and minimal modifications that transform the identity of the watch as much as possible, are one of the keystones of Nomos’s watchmaking design, combined with a mastery of in-house calibre production to resolve the delicate equation of form and function. Among its patented inventions is the circular date display, found in the Tangente Update line.

Nomos provides a template for radical and deliberate independence (technological, financial and aesthetic) at a time when crisis is shaking the foundations of an entire sector.

 A quartet of Tetra models pays tribute to the 250th anniversary of the birth of German composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
A quartet of Tetra models pays tribute to the 250th anniversary of the birth of German composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

This year, Nomos released a Tetra series celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, an Ahoi model in support of Doctors Without Borders (a collaboration initiated long before the pandemic), as well as three Ludwig limited editions celebrating 175 years of watchmaking in Glashütte.

In thirty years, Nomos has become an essential contributor to the vitality of the German watchmaking ecosystem. The brand demonstrates the possibilities offered by radical and deliberate independence (technological, financial and aesthetic) at a time when crisis is shaking the foundations of the entire watchmaking sector.

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