Aesthetically, it’s a lesson in restraint and finesse. Mechanically, it’s an impressive feat of horological engineering. Combined, the Nomos Tangente is a timepiece that marries quality and elegance in one very tidy package.
The Tangente is one of the Nomos’ most emblematic pieces; it stands for the sophistication and high-quality craftsmanship that the company has become renowned for in its relatively young history. Nomos is Germany’s youngest luxury watch brand, establishing its roots in 1990 in the town of Glashütte. The town’s past is rooted in watchmaking, making it a hub for German watch production. In the same vein as Champagne and Gorgonzola, watches made here are bound by geographical checks: in order to adopt the Glashütte label, a company must make at least 50 percent of its movements in the town. Nomos makes up to 95 percent in Glasshütte, incorporating hallmarks of Glashütte manufacturing such as three-quarter plates, sunburst decorative finishing and Glashütte ribbing.
Such is the focus on high-calibre construction at the company that the Nomos Tangente has won multiple awards for its design, including the Chrono Award and the iF Award. And it’s not hard to see why. The Tangente is described by Nomos as “the round watch with the many right angles”. It’s a timepiece that is exceedingly neat from the outset, with its relatively plain dial and uncomplicated typeface housed in a stainless steel case. Its form is tastefully subdued, modern yet charming, and indicative of the watch’s quality. It also represents two closely intertwined design influences that came out of Germany in the early 20th century: the Deutscher Werkbund movement and the Bauhaus school of thought.
The Deutscher Werkbund was a collective of German artists and designers founded in 1907, who helped pave the way for modern architecture and industrial design. At the time of the association’s conception, its members sought to promote German-made goods to a world that had turned away from them. The approach paired creatives with engineers, harnessing the power of manufacturing to make products that were high quality and reasonably priced. One of the Werkbund’s members was Walter Gropius, founder of the Staatliches Bauhaus, a German art school where the Bauhaus philosophy originated. Bauhaus design is typified by the idea that form should follow function; quite simply, appearance is almost secondary to mechanics and is dictated primarily by how the product operates. But that’s not to say that Bauhaus-influenced pieces are aesthetically lacking. Instead, they strike the perfect balance between application and good design.
The Nomos Tangente fits squarely between the Werkbund and Bauhaus outlooks. Its relative affordability (prices start at around AU$2,300) makes it a fantastic entry point to the luxury watch market, but it doesn’t skimp on quality nor presentation. The watch’s dial design harks back to the 1930s, the peak of Bauhaus’ heavy influence. The typography used for the Arabic numerals is also somewhat typical of the era, and was chosen by Nomos founder Roland Schwertner who put it into the original Tangente design in 1992. The hours and minutes hands are classic and central, sitting just above a modest seconds subdial. The Tangente date power reserve has a separate date window, while the new Tangente neomatik 41 Update houses an innovative date ring that runs around the perimeter of the dial and uses two red dots to frame the date.
The Tangente also comes in a selection of styles and finishes. The dial on the original is a clean shade of white, while the neomatik is available in rhodium-plated silver and a striking midnight blue. The Tangente 33 comes in white, grey, champagne and gold. The Tangente, the Tangente power reserve, the Tangente 33, Tangente 38 and the Tangente neomatik 39 all feature the distinctive cornflower blue hands that the model is known for, which are created by heating the steel to 290°C. Others are rhodium-plated. Many models have straps made from Horween Genuine Shell Cordovan leather, but others use a velour leather for a softer look. All models are made with sapphire crystal glass.
But, true to Bauhaus thinking, the Tangente’s design is simply a frame for its interior workings. The watch encloses great mechanics, including calibres that are made in-house. The hand-wound original Tangente uses Nomos’ very own Alpha calibre, which was the first movement used by the brand. It still powers most of the watches in the Nomos collection, but some models — such as the Tangente power reserve, the Tangente neomatik, and the Tangente neomatik 41 Update — use various automatic calibres, all of which are specially made by Nomos. The automatic calibres are remarkably thin, lending themselves well to the Tangente’s sleek shape.
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