NOMOS Makes Watches For People Who Love Design

Cultural Perspectives • 20 Apr 2021

NOMOS Makes Watches For People Who Love Design


It’s hard to believe that German-made goods were once out of favour with the world. It had nothing to do with the quality. Rather, war and politics propagated negative perceptions, causing Deutschland’s mighty machinery to slow to a grind. It took the Deutscher Werkbund (and later, the Bauhaus School) to bring them back up to full speed. Formed in 1907, the Deutscher Werkbund was an association of artists created to reshape public perception and accessibility of German products. Done so by pairing creativity with business smarts and engineering expertise. Without the Duetscher Werkbund, we may never have got NOMOS Glashütte!

Nomos Glashütte Tangente nematik Update 41 and Silver Dial
NOMOS Glashütte Tangente nematik Update 41, a thoroughly modern way to display the date. 


Designers, architects, and creatives contributed to the effort; initiating a unique movement that fused German arts and crafts with mass manufacturing. Werkbund design held mastery over machines, creating understated, fun, quirky and timeless high-quality products at affordable prices. This formula makes for success even amongst today’s quality-hungry and design-savvy consumers. Brands like Muji, Bosch and Uniqlo stand out from the crowded market with their quality, affordability, and minimalist design – all elements that echo (to varying degrees) the Werkbund philosophy in the 20th Century.


Black and white photo Double House in Weissenhofsiedlung Le Corbusier
Double House in Weissenhofsiedlung built by Le Corbusier. The estate was built for the Deutscher Werkbund exhibition of 1927.


While the Deutscher Werkbund dissolved the mental barriers associated with German products, there was one more barrier to break before NOMOS would arrive on the watchmaking scene. The fall of the Berlin Wall ushered in a new generation of German innovation. And it was in 1990 that Germany’s youngest luxury watch brand – NOMOS – planted the seeds for a bright future in the East German town of Glashütte.

Nomos Glashütte Workshops in Glashütte
NOMOS Glashütte HQ.

It was no coincidence that Roland Schwertner, the company’s founder decided to move to this small town. Glashütte has a history of high-end watchmaking dating back to 1845. In those intervening years, Germany became a world leader in scaling up production without compromising quality. This applies as much to cars as it does to watches. And in most instances, a good German watch is a watch that was (and still is) made in Glashütte.


As the story goes, Roland searched the town’s historical records to familiarise himself with the watchmaking terrain. He came across a company called NOMOS from the previous century. This defunct clockmaker carried the Greek word for balance and restraint in its’ title; qualities that perfectly express NOMOS’ quirky watches.

Archival drawing of Glashütte Black and White
Archival drawing of Glashütte. 


To emphasize the stringent quality standards of this unique town, the appellation “Glashütte” was placed under special protection. Only companies that create at least 50 percent of the value of a watch’s calibre in Glashütte are allowed to label their timepieces as “Glashütte watches.” NOMOS Glashütte goes far beyond the required 50 percent—and makes up to 95 percent of each movement on site. For a relatively young brand, it’s quite remarkable that the Glashütte-based has managed to make its own patented escapement (called the Swing System), one of the final challenges the manufacture faced in becoming a truly independent maker of movements. NOMOS even makes their own hairspring, a remarkable achievement!


Nomos Glashütte Club Absolute Grey Future Orange Fabric Leather Strap
New Nomos Glashütte Club in Absolute Grey and Future Orange.


These innovative achievements set NOMOS watches apart from the crowd, both in function, form, and philosophy. Having grown alongside a generation of millennials, the brand isn’t burdened by history. They’ve been given a clean slate to take the best of Glashütte watchmaking and to then do things their way. It’s a bit of a quiet rebellion.

Craving independence, the company’s investment in in-house manufacturing was imperative in order to improve and innovate. These qualities are at the core of Glashütte-based watchmaking and ensure that they not only stay ahead of their competitors but also stay relevant in a fast-changing world.

Workshop Bench Nomos Glashütte
Light-filled ateliers in Glashütte. 


Glashütte may be the mechanical heart of NOMOS’, but Berlin is its creative soul. In true Werkbund style, the firm opened its’ own creative agency, Berlinerblau, solely for the purpose of working with Berlin-based creatives. NOMOS is the agency’s only client, and a variety of designers, artists, and ideators partner with the agency to generate new watch designs, advertisements, and content. One of those creatives, Industrial Designer Mark Braun, worked on the design for the Minimatik. The first NOMOS watch to come with their patented Swing System escapement, it’s a quirky take on minimalist watches. Its circular power reserve indicator and colourful hour markers add a splash of colour and break up the uniformity of the dial.

Berlinerblau Design Studio Berlin
Inside Berlinerblau. 

At first glance, the Minimatik’s face doesn’t appear to be anything but stripped-back simplicity. At second glance it reveals a more playfulness nature. Fluorescent orange, cyan blue, red, silver, and charcoal feature on the Minimatik models in understated brilliance. The Minimatik is emblematic of NOMOS’ approach towards colour. Just enough is used to show personality, but there’s a threshold NOMOS doesn’t cross. NOMOS never uses colour in excess (aside from some of the brightly coloured Club and Ahoi references), one reason why there’s a tendency to think of NOMOS watches as a tad dressier than their contemporaries. This artful balance and focus on restraint explain why the quirky brand has amassed a loyal following of architects, designers and creatives.


Tags: design german watch nomos glashutte

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