At Basel this year, Nomos has done something so surprising that, had this been Geneva instead of Basel and cars instead of watches, it would have made primetime news. Let me set the scene…
Imagine that one manufacturer made the engines that powered most of the world’s cars, but each carmaker stuck their own brand name on the rocker cover. So your Mercedes was really powered by the same engine as a Kia. That’s pretty much what happens in Watchworld. Nivarox, part of the Swatch Group, manufacture the assortiment, the collection of pallet, balance wheel, hairspring and escape wheel used by most of the world’s watchmakers.
Now, imagine that engine maker decided it didn’t want to sell to anyone except its own factories anymore. Can you imagine the implications for every other brand’s cost, supply chains, production lines, tooling, sales? That’s exactly what Nivarox has done. It’s said that soon it won’t sell its assortiment to anyone outside Swatch Group.This has left the industry scrambling frantically to develop alternatives. It’s one of the reasons you’re seeing many more Japanese and Chinese movements in watches today.
Nomos, always a watchmaker that goes its own way, hasn’t been panicking. Instead it’s just quietly got on with developing its own assortiment, called The Swing System, and debuted it in the new DUW 4401 caliber powering the equally new handwound Nomos Metro model.
And the Metro’s a beauty. Its design is a little more involved than the form-and-function Bauhausian style of most Nomoses (Nomoi, if we’re being correct about the Greek) but still very recognizably a Nomos.
Nomos watches are always proof that achieving apparently effortless simplicity is anything but. On the Metro, there are so many tiny details that the light on the designers’ espresso machine must been have kept burning late into the night.
Notice how the hands look so similar. How would you tell them apart at a quick glance? Easy. See how they align with the dial markings? The minute hand’s delicate tip lines up perfectly with the minute markers. The hour hand’s with each of the 11 hour markers (the twelfth ‘marker’ is the date window at 6 o’clock).
The red lacquered second hand picks up the red of the offset power reserve indicator on the 42 hour movement. You wind by hand with the machine-knurled winder. The lugs are rounded and flowing (unlike the maker’s usual angular lugs), but the Cordovan strap is traditional Nomos. It all hangs together just-so.
The price? $3,780 and you’ll find them gracing a watch shop near you from May this year. In my opinion, that’s daftly cheap for a serious manufacture movement, let alone one as revolutionary as this.
But that’s not all Nomos have been up to at Basel this year. There are the two new Ahoi models – the Atlantik and the Atlantik Datum – too. You’ll already know the Ahoi, one of Nomos’ more overtly sporting watches. Like the Ahoi, the two Atlantiks are both water-resistant to 200m to the rather exacting DIN 8306 standard.
The difference here is the Atlantik’s richer, deeper dark blue dial set off with gold plated hands. The first Ahois (struggling for elegant plurals again) have white dials and rhodium plated hands. The new dial colour gives the watch a richer, more classical look than the contrasted and more designed feel of the white-faced Ahoi.
Behind the screwed-on caseback, the date model runs an automatic Nomos Zeta movement with an automatic Epsilon powering the plain (if a Nomos dial can ever be called that) watch. The Ahoi Atlantik / Atlantik Datum will cost $4,060/$4,660.
So, a joyfully subversive showing from Nomos at Basel this year. Typically quietly and unostentatiously, this little maker from Germany has yet again reinforced its maverick credentials. And I love ’em for it.
by Mark McArthur-Christie
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