Nomos Glashütte releases its own “swing system.” The brand’s terminology refers to a new in-house escapement which features in its Bauhaus-influenced Metro watch. This degree of vertical integration is quite rare. In this article from my online magazine Escapement, I discuss this latest development in more detail.
Although familiar with many terms used in watchmaking, “swing system” is not an expression I am accustomed to hearing. Nomos Glashütte uses the phrase to describe its new in-house escapement or, as the Swiss sometimes describe it, the “assortment.” The production on an in-house escapement is unusual and the preserve of only a small group of elite brands, the majority of which are based in Switzerland. The escapement includes the balance staff, balance wheel, balance spring, pallet lever, escape wheel and a number of other tiny parts.
Producing an in-house movement is no mean feat, but to create an in-house escapement is quite exceptional. The majority of companies use the services of Nivarox, the brand leaders in the field and a subsidiary of Swatch Group. The balance spring embraces a mind-boggling area of metallurgy. An alloy used for the balance spring must breathe in a relatively uniform and predetermined manner, unaffected by changes of temperature. The balance wheel must be made with due consideration to aerodynamics and temperature. Each element of the escapement must collaborate in successful union to provide accurate timekeeping. Consideration also needs to be given to the robustness of the escapement. The decision by Nomos Glashütte to create its own swing system seems remarkable, bearing in mind its relatively tender age. The capital outlay necessary to create an in-house escapement will have been substantial, but evidently the German watchmaking company felt it was justified. The result is a degree of independence which will no doubt be envied by many other watch brands.
I recently had the opportunity to sample the delights of the Metro and appraise its colorful form.
Nomos Glashütte has always had a remarkable knack of creating dials which prove simple to interpret yet exhibit delightful parcels of eye-catching detail.
The black hour and minute hands are slender along two thirds of their profile, but then breathe in to form super-slim elongated tips. The narrow gauge of their design makes the read-off of individual minutes, or parts thereof, very user-friendly. Black and white are two colors which are comfortable bedfellows, so the decision to pair the black hands with a white dial seems very logical. However, the watch incorporates two additional tinctures which are rather avant-garde, namely red and a pale mint green. A subdial displaying running seconds, placed above 6 o’clock, includes a bright red hand. While it represents a brave use of color, it does not look out of place, seeming perfectly at home in its surroundings. The subdial includes a snailed finish and black strokes, indicating each 5-second integer. A power-reserve indicator resides in the upper portion of the dial and is located off-center. It indicates the available energy stored within the spring barrel using a combination of red, white and mint green hues. It is unusual, but I like the individuality granted by the palette of colors chosen and asymmetric positioning.
A date display is positioned at 6 o’clock. In common with the Nomos Club Automat Datum Dunkel, the date aperture is trapezoidal in shape.
Returning to the dial layout, Nomos has continued its Bauhaus design philosophy, with form following function. The hour circle consists of black and mint green dots with the hour hand able to engage with each spherical marker. The same principle applies to the minute hand, with its tip touching the minute circle. The minute circle consists of small black dots and Arabic numerals. There is a welcome sense of logic to the dial layout, with everything appearing clear-cut and sensible.
The bipartite, stainless steel case has a modest diameter of 37 mm. In reality, it seems larger when placed upon the wrist, and for many wearers it should appear ideal. However, with my behemoth-like arms, I would have preferred the case to have been 2-3 mm wider.
The case height is a relatively restrained 7.65 mm, which should prove popular with those readers seeking a slender profile to their timepiece. Nomos has housed a fine movement within a relatively shallow case, delivering a very graceful appearance.
Wire loop strap attachments accord an air of functional minimalism, reinforcing the uncluttered, neat aesthetic.
The crown has a knurled circumference, adorned with three rows of circular grips. Its design begs to be touched and rewards curious fingers with a lovely, tactile feel.
Nomos is no doubt proud of its achievements in producing the DUW 4401 movement, featuring the brand’s own escapement, and has chosen to reveal its handiwork via an exhibition caseback.
I have already said much about the swing system, but it represents a further evolutionary step by Nomos Glashütte, which started life in 1990 and created its first in-house movement in 2005.
The DUW 4401 is a hand-wound movement that features 23 jewels and delivers a power reserve of approximately 42 hours. Where Nomos watches differentiate themselves from the majority of similarly priced watches is with the high level of finishing in evidence. The movement doffs its hat to Glashütte tradition by incorporating a three-quarter plate, beautifully decorated with Glashütte ribbing. Thermally blued screws populate the movement, perlage can be seen on the mainplate, and the ratchet and crown wheel are adorned with sunburst decoration.
The balance spring evinces a blue shade, courtesy of heat treatment, contrasting with the adjacent rhodium plated surfaces.
I would suspect that the aspiration of many high-end watch companies producing timepieces which attract six-figure sums, is to become increasingly vertically integrated. The aspiration to make in-house movements and, ultimately, in-house escapements helps justify premium pricing. However, the Metro retails for the relatively modest sum of £2,390. It is the affordable pricing of this watch, bearing in mind its impressive specification, which is a revelation. The finishing is yet another area that impresses and, in particular, I think the surface decoration of the three-quarter plate is superb, especially considering the accessible price point. While the styling may not be to everyone’s taste, I appreciate the non-typical use of mint-green detail, off-center power-reserve indicator and unusually shaped hands. The arrangement of each aspect of the dial delivers a fresh and original appearance which remains eminently legible and easy to understand.
This watch manifestly shows the ability and ambition of Nomos Glashütte. Moreover, as the brand continues to get into the swing of things, adding its escapement to further models, it demonstrates its prowess at making thought-provoking watches that offer exceptional value.
- Model: Nomos Glashütte Metro
- Ref: 1101
- Case: Stainless steel; diameter 37 mm; height 7.65 mm; water-resistant to 3 bar (30 meters); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; power-reserve indicator.
- Movement: DUW 4401, hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600vph (3Hz); 23 jewels; power reserve 42 hours
- Strap: Black Horween Genuine Shell Cordovan strap presented on a steel pin buckle.
- Price: £2390 (RRP as at 9.12.2014)