In the world of watchmaking a brands’ quality & heritage is usually measured by how many centuries it has been in existence. Brands most often considered ‘high-horology’ such as Vacheron Constantin and Breguet have heritage stretching back to the 1700’s with over two century’s of history and the majority of swiss watch brands you recognise today including Omega, Heuer, Zenith, IWC, AP & Breitling were all founded in the 1800’s.
And in the eyes of many, heritage equals quality after all we learn from experience right? The thought that through time a brand or product matures and improves leads to the thought that older companies produce better products. But is that a fair assumption that older is better and newer lacks the experience, finesse and charm?
Founded in 1990 and located in Glashütte, there is no doubt that NOMOS is a newcomer to the watch industry. Glashütte is a small town tucked away between forests and hills, south of Berlin and near Dresden, located in the eastern Ore Mountains and home to Germanys’ master watchmakers having settled there in 1845. You may have heard of a few other brands from this rather distinguished town including Moritz Grossmann, Glashütte Original and A. Lange & Söhne to name a few.
However in a relatively short space of time, NOMOS have started to make a name for themselves delivering quality and innovation at an affordable price point. With this in mind we wanted to take a look at NOMOS to see what this young German company has to offer.
Last year NOMOS released their Club Campus – a model aimed at first time watch owners & enthusiasts and so we thought that this would be as good as any place to start. We contacted the lovely folks at NOMOS who were kind enough to send us a watch to spend some time with – so we did!
The Club Campus is available in two sizes – a 36mm and 38.5mm and each is available with either a black or white dial. The watch we chose to spend some time with is the Club Campus 38 with the white dial and open case-back reference: 737. As a matter of fact, NOMOS were kind enough to send us both the 735 (with a closed case-back) and the 737 to compare. Considering the market that NOMOS are pursuing, this does provide two very sensible options. For those who wish to commemorate a notable occasion, the steel case-back has been designed with plenty of space in the centre for an inscription – and indeed NOMOS includes a free engraving with all Club Campus’s should you wish to have an inscription. For those who wish to appreciate the movement as well, the clear case back is available and offers a view of the inside.
The box for the club campus is a slender dark ash wooden box. Opening the box reveals a small envelope containing the instruction booklet and guarantee card tucked behind an elastic retainer in the lid, and held in place in the base underneath a NOMOS cloth is the watch itself. This presentation is in itself the epitome of NOMOS – unfussy, unpretentious, minimalist and yet elegant. NOMOS haven’t spent a disproportionate on their packaging with a high lacquered wooden or leather finished presentation case that you will put to one side and never see or look at again, neither have they supplied the watch in a cheap tin or cardboard box – it’s just ‘appropriate’ – proportionate and elegant.
Taking the watch out of the box reveals its proportions. With a height of only 8.5mm this is a slender and elegant watch that’s entirely polished. The watch case and bezel are one single piece with traditional formed lugs that protrude to carry the strap. Although 38.5mm in diameter, it wears comfortably on a 7” wrist due in part to the lug to lug distance of 48.5mm. The crown is signed ‘NOMOS’ which immediately shows an attention to detail as the text is only 4mm in its entirety, however as you might expect for a dress watch it is not a screw down. However despite this it is still water resistant to 10atm/100m allowing you to comfortably swim in it without fear of harming the watch.
The Dial of the Club Campus is a feature in itself – the result of an anodised white silver plating giving the dial a beautiful metallic finish. The design of the dial is also rather unique being a ‘reverse’ California dial with arabic numerals on the top half of the dial and roman numerals on the bottom. Incidentally, a dial with only roman numerals used on the dial is traditionally referred to as a ‘Buckley’ dial and a ‘California’ dial has roman numerals on the top half of the dial and arabic numerals on the bottom. This dial is particularly well balanced with 10, 12 & 2 on the top half of the dial and IV & VIII on the bottom half with the small seconds hand in the middle. Interestingly many dials using roman numerals do so incorrectly where 4 is represented as ‘IIII’ rather than the correct roman numeral ‘IV’. The remainder of the dial indices for ‘odd’ hours are represented purely by markers. Overall this creates a beautifully balanced dial that is uncluttered yet still interesting and individual. Indices are written in a beautiful soft hue of blue with a very feint orange surround matching the colour of the small second hand.
The Club Campus is powered by the NOMOS inhouse Alpha movement. Yes that’s right it has an in house movement – whats more its’s also beautifully finished with tempered blue screws, rhodium-plated surfaces with Glashütte ribbing and NOMOS perlage. If you choose the sapphire case back, this is all on display and can be appreciated. The caseback itself is screwed down helping it achieve its 100m water resistance.
Get in close – as we have tried to do with some macro photography, and you see the attention to detail up close. This is not a movement that has had corners cut even at this price point.
Although the alpha movement was their first movement, we were rather shocked and stunned by its performance. The average deviance measured against an atomic clock was 1.2 seconds per day over the course of the time that we had the watch. That’s not just within COSC chronometer standards (-4/+6 seconds average daily rate) but also within Rolex’s ‘Superlative Chronometer’ standard (-2/+2 seconds average daily rate). This is particularly interesting as NOMOS don’t make any claims regarding the Alpha movement’s accuracy.
NOMOS supplies the Club Campus 38 on their Velour leather anthracite strap which is beautifully soft, extremely comfortable and suits the watch well. Although you wouldn’t be doing the watch justice of you didn’t also try it on a plethora of other straps as its a strap monster! It dressed up beautifully with brown and caramel leather straps to casual social events. Due to the slender proportions of the watch at only 8.5mm thick, it was an ideal watch to wear on a NATO strap. Even with the extra two layers of material behind the watch it never looked clumsy or out of place.
The second hand meant it went particularly well with a couple of straps which added a flair of colour and allowed the watch to dress down very well. Interestingly on more than one occasion someone thought the watch and strap came together clearly demonstrating their suitability.
Over the course of two weeks we wore this watch to the office with a suit, to social occasions in the evening, to a barbeque, to an evening of Shakespeare and swimming with the kids.
The NOMOS Club Campus 38 is a fabulous watch. Delivering an elegant versatile aesthetic that works as well in the ballroom with black tie as it does on the beach and everywhere in between. Worn with a suit its a clean dress watch that due to its 8.5mm height slips under any cuff, and worn with jeans and a cashmere, its anthracite velour strap looks as casual as it does smart. Although not a typical feature of dress watches, the fact that this watch is also water resistant to 100m means you are able to swim with the watch on and not be overly concerned by the poolside while topping up your tan. In the modern world this is a practical feature and its clear that NOMOS have not compromised the design of the watch in order to achieve this.
Our personal choice is the silver dial and open caseback that allows the beautiful in-house hand-wound movement to be seen and appreciated as we discovered many people wanted to enjoy the back as much as the front of the watch given the chance.
Our two extremely minor criticisms would be that the lume on the dial and hands doesn’t last long and isn’t really usable in the dark. And as this watch works so well on such a variety of watch straps we would love to see NOMOS include quick release spring bars on their straps. This is especially useful when travelling and taking a couple of extra straps for all occasions and not requiring a strap changing tool and spare spring bars in your luggage.
Its clear that NOMOS is punching above its weight with attention to detail and quality that certainly cannot be beaten at this price point if not many times higher. Although short, NOMOS is creating a heritage to be proud of as an innovator with individual style and fantastic quality. While NOMOS may not have the same experience in watchmaking as other brands from Glashütte, it’s clear that previous assumptions need to be challenged. A heritage based on time alone has not prevented NOMOS from delivering quality, finesse and charm in equal proportions, and we look forward to spending more time with NOMOS in the future!