Close-Up: The Award-Winning, Bauhaus-Inspired Nomos Tangente Watch

Nomos Tangente DatumNomos Glashütte, a watch brand very popular in its native Germany and now making a big push in America as well, takes justifiable pride in its flagship timepiece, the starkly designed — and multiple design-award-winning — Tangente watch, which applies Bauhaus design principles to its dial.

Watch aficionados are likely familiar with the German watchmaking town of Glashütte, and the two major luxury brands that hail from there, A. Lange & Söhne and Glashütte Original. (Another German watch company, Tutima, has recently moved some manufacturing there as well.) Nomos, founded in 1991, has a few aspects in common with the “big two” Saxon watch brands, in that it makes its own movements and incorporates traditional Glashütte elements into them, such as three-quarters plates and Glashütte wave and sunburst decorations. However, Nomos is different in that its watches are by and large much more affordably priced, with steel cases and mostly simple complications.

The Tangente, first conceived in 1992 by Nomos founder Roland Schwertner, takes its visual cues from an unsuccessful but ahead-of-its-time dial design from the 1930s (the heyday of the Bauhaus movement), incorporating a typeface typical of that era. Schwertner liked the typography and, with his designer Susanne Gunther, used it in a more modernized dial and case design that became that of the original Tangente. The company, referencing its clean design aesthetic, calls the Tangente “the round watch with the right angles” and refers to it as the watch that put the young company on the map.

The Tangente, below, has traditional, central hours and minutes hands and a small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. All the hands are in tempered blue steel over a galvanized, white, silver-plated dial. The watch contains Nomos’s in-house Alpha caliber, with manual winding, a stop-seconds mechanism, Incabloc shock protection, a Nivarox balance spring and blued screws. The tripartite case is a modest 35 mm in diameter and is available with a sapphire exhibition caseback. It comes on a strap of genuine Horween shell cordovan, a specific type of tanned horsehide leather, and retails for $1,750 (with solid steel caseback) or $2,020 (with sapphire caseback).

Nomos TangenteThe Tangente Datum (or Tangente with date, below) contains the in-house, manual-wind Beta movement, which includes a large date function at 6 o’clock (Nomos calls it a “long-distance date,” because it claims it can be seen from far away). Adding the date mechanism to the base Alpha movement meant the movement and the watch needed to be slightly bigger (37.5 mm diameter case) but still smaller than many of the large watches in vogue today from both Switzerland and Germany. The Tangente Datum with solid caseback is $2,340; the version with the sapphire back is $2,610.

The contrarian design approach seems to have paid off. Nomos has won more than 100 design awards for its watches, including Chicago’s 2013 Good Design Award, established in 1950 by modern design pioneer Charles Eames, for the Tangente Datum. More Nomos watches that have recently debuted in the U.S. market can be found in our feature story, “Getting to Know Nomos.”

Nomos Tangente DatumThis article was originally published on April 10, 2013, and has been updated.

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  1. Joaquim Siu

    I have owned a Tangomat GMT for about 3 years having bought it in Frankfurt in one of my visits. I have been doing a lot of research on NOMOS before that as I was very attracted by the simple Bauhaus design. Once I got to handle the actual watch in the boutique, you can feel the quality and excellent workmanship. It also wears very comfortably on your wrist in spite of its big size. Wonderful watch company. You cannot get a better watch with a manufacture movement at that price point.

  2. Joe Ngaw

    I owned the Nomos Tangente watch since many years ago, having requested a German friend working in a Lufthansa joint-venture aircraft maintenance firm to purchase it for me. This watch tells very accurate time, and holding it, one appreciates the superb balance of aesthetics and workmanship in every single detail. It is no wonder that a prestigious watch review magazine refer to it as a poor man’s Patek, because of its overall quality and reasonable price point.

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