Recently, I flew to Berlin and traveled onwards by car to the German home of watchmaking, Glashütte. The German town is located in Saxony and isn’t the easiest place to get to. However, within moments of arriving at the small atelier, positioned adjacent a railway platform, I knew my rationale for making the journey was justified.
Watchmaking in Glashütte can trace its origins back to 1845, when Ferdinand A. Lange took the bold step of establishing a watch manufactory in, what was, at the time, a village. He trained the local unskilled workforce in a variety of trades necessary to make fine pocketwatches. At times, his task proved challenging and Lange expended much effort trying to impart the essential skills to his employees in order to produce watches of the highest order.
Despite his initial difficulties, Lange persisted, and ultimately his workforce acquired the necessary skills to craft fine pocketwatches. Similarly to how the Silicon Valley of today became a center of excellence for electronics, Glashütte became a beacon for German watchmaking. Indeed, the town attracted horological luminaries such as Alfred Helwig, a former pupil who later became a teacher at the watchmaking school within the town. Helwig’s name entered the annals of horology, courtesy of his invention, the flying tourbillon (1920).
Watchmaking has survived numerous challenges over the years and now flourishes with several watch companies calling Glashütte home. One watchmaking company residing in the town is Nomos Glashütte.
The Birth of Nomos Glashütte in 1990
Nomos Glashütte was founded in 1990 by Roland Schwertner, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since its inception, the company has been on a roll, enjoying continued sales growth. On the face of it, the winning recipe seems very simple: clean Bauhaus styling paired with manufacture movements, all delivered at remarkably keen prices.
My first “hands-on” encounter with a Nomos was with the neatly styled Ludwig Automatic Datum. The restrained case diameter of 40 mm is typical of the brand, as indeed is the uncluttered dial design with its peerless legibility.
It is a risky business recommending watches, but invariably, when pushed for a high-quality timepiece priced around £2,000, the name “Nomos Glashütte” freely leaves my lips.
In recent times, the German watch company has continued to innovate and launch new models to sate the needs of small market segments. The Tangomat GMT is the ideal tool for today’s business traveler. The brand’s foray into diver’s watches was unexpected, but equally pleasing. The Ahoi Atlantik remains a watch I continue to covet and based on its modest asking price of £2,600.00 (as of 6-3-2015), I suspect it will join my modest inventory of possessions at some point soon.
However, perhaps there are two specific areas in which the brand has demonstrated its watchmaking ambitions more than anywhere else.
Firstly, in 2014, the brand announced the creation of its own ‘Swing System’. This is the term it applies to the escapement, or “assortiment” as the French would say. It consists of the balance staff, balance wheel, balance spring, pallet lever, escape wheel and a number of other tiny parts such as pallet jewels, etc. The in-house escapement first appeared in 2014 with the release of the brand’s Metro model. Since this time, other models within the company’s collection have benefited from the in-house escapement.
The decision to create an in-house escapement was a colossal undertaking, necessitating many millions of euros to bring to fruition. Nevertheless, on the face of it, the decision taken by the board of this young brand to embrace this extreme form of vertical integration appears to have been vindicated, with the “Swing System” receiving widespread critical acclaim.
Secondly, and perhaps more surprisingly to me, was the decision by Nomos to produce gold watches in 2013, namely the Lambda and Lux models. As a former marketing professional, this strategic move by the company seemed confusing. Up to this point, I always “got” Nomos and understood its three key selling arguments: superb design, high quality manufacture movements and, finally, accessible pricing.
My initial thoughts, back in 2013, were that the Lambda and the Lux models were dashingly handsome but seemingly at odds with the clearly defined marketing positioning of Nomos’s core range.
The problem is, by virtue of the intrinsic worth of its case material, any gold watch is likely to be costly. I initially wondered if Nomos, in the hope of tapping into new market segments, had confused its existing client base. I need not have worried. With increased exposure to these products, I now realize my initial concerns were misplaced.
The Lambda and Lux models represent the epitome of Nomos ownership. The distilled finishing of the two movements showcase the ability and talents of this brand and stands testament to the obvious potential of this young and evidently ambitious company.
The Lux Weissgold, featuring pale blue hues, caught me on my blind side and proved a comely concoction which proffered something new and a welcome alternative to the usual suspects. However, I also found myself drawn to the Lambda Roségold with its 42-mm case and warm temperate tones.
Lambda Roségold – A Tempting Prospect
The scale of the Lambda Roségold seems optimally sized for my wrist, conferring a comfortable fit. The dial blends magnificent lucidity with small pockets of judiciously conceived detail that I have no doubt will augment long-term ownership delight. Quite simply, this is a watch I want to own.
Turn over the watch to view the hand-wound movement and the seduction process is complete. The rhodium-plated three-quarter plate is equipped with delightful anglage, expertly applied by the deft use of hand tools. Sunbeam polishing with a motif radiating from the crown wheel, outwards across the plate, is yet another example of the high end-finishing which will, no doubt, appeal to purists, myself included.
Several gold chatons reaffirm the no-compromise construction of Nomos’s DUW1001 caliber and the balance cock is engraved with the worlds “Mit Liebe in Glashütte Gefertigt” (“Lovingly Produced in Glashütte.”)
The Nomos Glashütte Lambda Roségold is not the most expensive watch I have written about for “Temptation Thursday by Escapement.” However, it is no less deserving of comment. Nomos Glashütte has produced a stunning watch that is imbued with a plethora of details which induce adoration. The decision of the German watch company to produce this model now seems eminently logical with increased exposure to its fabulous form.
I crave this watch and, with its relatively modest price tag, there is little reason for not purchasing this fine timepiece from Saxony. Indeed, it is only after revisiting this watch again that the rationale for its creation has become abundantly obvious.
Model: NOMOS Glashütte Lambda Roségold
Movement: DUW 1001, hand-wound; frequency = 21,600 vph (3 Hz) 29 jewels, power reserve = 84 hours, indications = hours, minutes, small seconds, power reserve indicator
Case: 18k rose gold, diameter = 42 mm, height = 8.9 mm, water resistance = 30 meters
Strap/Bracelet: Brown Cordovan dark brown strap supplied on an 18k rose-gold pin buckle
Price: £11,800 (recommended retail price as of 3rd June 2015)
Where I tried on the watch: Several locations, but the final phase of seduction process was at the Nomos Glashütte manufacture.