When Nomos contacted us and asked if we would review one of their watches I have to admit I was slightly hesitant. While Nomos makes an excellent entry level product for the budding watch collector, my expensive tastes and proclivity towards finer manufacturers such as Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and A. Lange & Söhne perhaps made me rather skeptical that I would enjoy wearing an entry level product – to put it bluntly, I was being a snob. However, I agreed and kept in mind that I wasn’t testing the product for me, I was testing it for the demographic it was catering to and quite frankly, the majority of the people I write for – again, the budding watch enthusiast. What I never imagined, was that I would fall in love with the watch and have a difficult time eventually giving it up.
Nomos left it up to us to decide which timepiece we wanted to test. I of course chose the Tangente since it’s one of their most popular models and really, the crown jewel of their lineup (in my opinion). Before we go into the review, let’s pause for a moment and discuss the brand behind the watch.
The small, remote village of Glashütte is by no means an attraction, and yet, it is world famous. The town is often referred to as the new Geneva of the watch world where the watch makers within its borders are quickly being seen as the world leaders in fine watchmaking. Despite its recent prominence, Glashütte has been an epicenter of horological ingenuity since 1845 and due to such a strong lineage, it affords its watchmakers with capabilities those elsewhere would struggle to achieve. Similar to branding a watch as “Swiss Made”, in order for a company to label its timepieces from Glashütte, they must adhere to a set of strict rules and regulations that govern and protect the local manufacturers. In an effort to emphasize these stringent quality standards, the appellation was placed under special protection: Only watch makers that create at least 50 percent of the value of a watch’s caliber in Glashütte may benefit from the reputation of using the Glashütte name. Located within the small town protected by such appellations is a contemporary company: NOMOS Glashütte.
NOMOS Glashütte however does not just abide by the 50% rule for manufacturing. Instead it builds up to 95 percent of each movement in Glashütte, which is particularly pleasing since they not only meet the standard requirements but exceed them. Within its factory walls sit 170 employees who have successfully obtained a handful of patents that have afforded them the ability to produce watches that have received more than 100 awards for watchmaking performance and design. While other watchmakers in the village such as world-famous A. Lange & Söhne rely heavily on tradition and compete with the trifecta of Patek Philippe, Audemar Piguet and Vacheron Constantin, NOMOS takes a restrained cosmopolitan approach to watchmaking ticking a little bit different than its local and international competitors.
Nomos is still a fairly young brand, with its roots only tracing back to January of 1990. It was just two months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when entrepreneur Roland Schwertner opened the Nomos company. After hiring watch designer Susan Günther, the first collection was drawn up showcasing a Bauhaus purist style that was rarely seen in eastern European watches at that time. Due to this risky endeavor, Nomos quickly made a name for itself winning multiple awards early on. Focusing primarily on manufacturing mechanical watches with hand-wound movements, the basis for the movement was, until 2005, the Swiss-made ETA SA / Peseux 7001.
Then in April 2005, Nomos Glashütte began to create their own in-house built movement called the “α” (Alpha), a manual winding caliber that to this day is found in the Tangente timepiece I’ll be reviewing in this particular article. Since then, the range has expanded to include a line of other manual winding movements with additional functions: β (Beta), with a date indicator; γ (Gamma), with a power reserve indicator; and δ (Delta), with both a date and power reserve indicator.
Then in the summer of 2006, Nomos introduced its first automatic movement in the Tangomat, which is powered by the ε (Epsilon) caliber. Following that, they created the automatic ζ (Zeta) caliber – which features a date indicator – that can be found in the Tangente Datum models. By 2009, Nomos had grown by leaps and bounds expanding its workforce and range to include several new models and sizes; most notably three world timers – powered by the new ξ (Xi) caliber – and the eighth watch model, Ahoi, which was released in 2013.
The Nomos Glashütte Tangente
When the watch finally arrived at my doorstep via courier, I opened it expecting a fairly humdrum timepiece that resembled the ones I had seen in department stores time and time again. Upon first look, the long rectangular box it came in was nothing special. A black stained wood with the word Nomos engraved in the top. Its metal hinges and locking mechanism were adequate but by no means showcased quality. In fact, it looked fairly cheap. No points for showmanship upon first glance.
When I opened it I saw exactly what I had expected. A very simplistic timepiece which of course I respect since you may know, I’m not a fan of flash or glitz and prefer watches that compare to that of a fairly “basic” Calatrava. This Tangente certainly appealed to me, but it really didn’t strike me as being anything special.
When I released the watch from its elastic band confines that strapped it into the case, I turned it over to find a clear case back that showcased the movement – again, fairly typical for an entry-level luxury dress watch. One thing I did notice immediately however was that the strap was a hand sewn horween cordovan leather band which I have to say excited me. Truth be told, it’s one of my favorite leathers for watch straps next to of course ostrich or alligator. I do prefer it over lizard but the one drawback is that it doesn’t hold its shape very well and will mold to the shape of your wrist which can often be deemed an eyesore. Still, I was impressed with the quality of the cordovan used for this particular strap and the stitching was on par with what I would expect from any luxury watch between $3000 and $10,000.
While I still wasn’t overly impressed with the watch, once I put it on I instantly fell in love.
I’m a very small man. I stand only 5’5″ and in my prime weighed no more than 150lbs. My wrists are slight and my hands are no exception. Therefore, I have a distinct hatred of large watches and while I find them distasteful on other people, I view them as truly abhorrent on my own wrists. This is one of the first things I really loved about the Nomos Tangente was its 35mm case. It fit absolutely perfectly on my wrist and instantly demanded my respect. Of course, there is also a larger version available in a 38mm casing, but it’s still relatively modest in comparison to many wristwatches found on the market today. In comparison to many slim watches, the Nomos wasn’t at the top of the game but still came in at a very respectable 6.6mm measuring from the sapphire crystal glass back. It really wasn’t anything to complain about other than that its height caused the crown to impact the back of my hand during certain motions and gestures; nothing of course out of the ordinary for a watch of that size, and certainly far better than many I’ve tried on before.
One thing I quickly noticed was the stainless steel case was prone to oil smudges and scuffs. I found myself having to dry polish the case at least once a day in order to maintain its appearance.
While the watch was nothing exceptional off the wrist, on the wrist it became a thing of beauty effortlessly blending into a variety of apparel I wore during my two week trial with it. From jeans and a polo shirt to a business suit and even tuxedo, I received nothing but compliments on it from a wide demographic ranging from watch admirers to average joes. Its galvanized, white silver-plated dial was spectacularly clean and simple, yet elegant and refined. It was so simple that I could easily see this watch being a favorite amongst architects, designers and other art-influenced professionals. As the days passed I became more and more attached to the timepiece.
Since the hands are a tempered blue, I initially worried that they would be more difficult to pair with a variety of clothes. That fear became lessened as I realized they almost romantically intertwined with whatever I was wearing, somehow taking on a slightly different shade depending on the color it sat next to. I purposely began to interchange outfits trying every color and shade I had in my wardrobe from reds to purples to pinks and browns. Nothing seemed to clash with the hands, nor any other part of the watch aside from the obvious black leather strap that I simply refuse to wear with a brown-influenced outfit.
The α (Alpha)—Nomos caliber with manual winding movement proved to be as exceptional as the understated elegance of the timepiece. Despite having to wind it once daily, the watch maintained close-to-perfect time even capable of being compared to that of a Rolex Submariner which of course is far more expensive than a base Tangente and relies heavily on the prestige behind the Rolex made movement inside it.
While advertising suggested that the Tangente is water resistant, I did not thoroughly test it as I would never shower, bathe or swim with any timepiece that wasn’t specifically designed for underwater use. That being said, I did occasionally splash light water on the watch while doing dishes or cleaning up my two year old daughter and the watch persevered through it without difficulty.
The sapphire glass was a blessing as having two children that lead very active lifestyles, it took mild daily beatings occasionally being knocked against a wall or having a toy thrown at it. I am pleased to report that it managed to withstand every impact without so much as a scratch to the surface.
The retail price for the Nomos is US$2330 or € 1,600. However, the Euro Price includes 19% of sales tax, so effectively it is only €1345. At current exchange rates, this converts to $1,850, which is $480 less expensive! So buying the watch in Europe can provide you with considerable savings, and that’s just for a new piece. If you want a used model, they go for less starting at a thousand Euros but make sure to take a look at our watch shopping guide and vintage watch buying guide before you decide to buy a used watch.
Stowa Antea – The Inexpensive Tangente Alternative
If you like the design but the brand is not important to you, consider the less expensive Stowa Antea watch. Likewise from Germany and likewise in a Bauhaus design, you have to take a very close look to discern the difference between the Nomos and the Stowa. And as if that weren’t good enough, the Stowa is built around the Peseux 7001 movement – the same one NOMOS used before 2005 for the Tangente. Priced between €780 – 980 including 19% sales tax, the Stowa runs between $900 – 1130 without tax.
In the end, I really only had four complaints:
1. The stainless steel case smudged and scuffed easily and I could foresee that being a significant concern if I had purchased the watch or for those who work in a mild to moderately harsh environment.
2. The crown, while discreet did continually impact the back of my hand causing a mark that remained with me until a few days after the watch was returned to Nomos.
3. The cordovan shell leather was so supple that it formed to my wrist. This was made very evident when attempting to place the watch back in its case as it refused to sit flat.
4. The wooden box that the watch came in was cheap and fairly useless. The interior lining was a hotbed for dust and airborne particles despite leaving it closed and only opening it for minutes at a time. The metal latch and hinges were cheap and did not represent the quality of the watch as well as it should. I’ve owned hundred dollar watches that came in nicer packaging and while I appreciate that the packaging isn’t overwhelmingly important, many people keep the box for storage and as a part of the collection.
Overall I was very impressed with the watch and fell in love with it over time. When it finally came time to return it to Nomos I have to admit I was sad to see it go.
Nomos has managed to convert me not only to a fan of their products but a lover of the Tangente line. I would highly recommend this watch to anyone looking to start their collection and I myself would be pleased to wear it as a daily-wear dress watch.
The movement is exemplary and kept accurate time regardless of position or influence, and the strap while supple was resplendent. The dial and case, despite showing scuffs and smudges made the Tangente one of the most beautifully designed and simplistic timepieces I’ve seen.
The Nomos Tangente is officially my number one pick and recommendation for those looking to purchase their first entry level luxury dress watch over and above every other brand I’ve tried.