For an online magazine with ‘Chronicler’ in the name, it comes as little surprise that the past is as important as the future. Watch design has passed through many stages whether you look at 1940s ‘flieger’ pilot’s watches, 1950s dress watches or 1970s angular case shapes. However, few movements have influenced watchmaking like Bauhaus. This movement directed watches to a more simple, minimalistic aesthetic in order to improve functionality and to avoid the unnecessary — something taken to heart in today’s Nomos Tangomat GMT.
A Little History
The Bauhaus school, founded in 1919 by the architect Walter Gropius, used aesthetics to give a cleaner approach in the interwar period in order to improve society. Unlike the decadence often associated with the ‘20s, Bauhaus put health, exercise and expression above all else. Following the slogan “Art for Industry”, iconic pieces such as Marianne Brandt’s silver & ebony teapot were created. These mixed elegance with daily practicality, something which is integral to any watches labelled ‘Bauhaus’.
For more about Bauhaus watches, take a look at our celebration of the 100 years of Bauhaus.
The Nomos Interpretation
Rather a lot of brands have directly quoted the Bauhaus as the inspiration for their watch designs but even fewer actually have a direct connection. Nomos is not one of them. Founded in 1990, NOMOS Glashütte (or NOMOS Glashuette) has no direct lineage to the fabled Bauhaus school yet has arguably done the most for this philosophy. Through their line of minimalistic but nonetheless well-made watches, most people think of Nomos when they discuss Bauhaus watches. For me, this is a product of their acceptance of the ideas of the Bauhaus including being a member of the Deutscher Werkbund. Co-founded in 1907 by Peter Behrens, the mentor of Bauhaus heads Walter Gropius & Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the Deutsche Werkbund is a union of German artists, designers and architects. Membership for Nomos gives a clear idea of their pride in the creation of their watches in Germany.
However, what Nomos are known for is creation elegant watches for everyday life with horological value within. To my eye, there is one watch which epitomises this view: the Nomos Tangomat GMT. Over the past few days, I have found this piece to present a compelling package for everyday use with a design just as well suited to travel as to formal events.
The design of this watch is deeply rooted in Nomos’ history and one of its early models — the Tangente. Released as the purest expression of Bauhaus, the Tangente remains a component of the current range with sizes ranging from 33mm to 38mm. However, in the pursuit of a new market for a more complex watch, the Tangomat GMT delivers new features and a larger case of 40mm in diameter by 50mm from lug-to-lug. The result is a watch which wears well on wrists over 6 ¼ inches in circumference, though may feel somewhat wide for the smaller-wristed. The case depth is a reasonable 10.9mm which, whilst not ultra-slim by any standards, makes the case comfortable for extended wear.
Putting ergonomics aside, the design of this watch is sober yet quietly satisfying. The general concept is carried over from the Tangente with a cylindrical case in polished stainless steel. From this case protrude the lugs which exude subtle functionality thanks to a narrow profile and drilled holes to facilitate strap changing. Their shape is also highly sculptural as a consequence of the facets which allow them to curve down towards the wrist. Detailing is something which I always look forward to seeing on Nomos’ creations and which is present here in the perfect alignment of the flat bezel and double domed sapphire crystal. The crown is another example of simplicity sometimes being best. It is as simple and functional as a gear within the movement yet is given a delicately engraved Nomos logo. Looking around this case, other choices suggest the thought put into the experience of ownership. For example, rather than screwing the caseback into place, Nomos has secured it with 6 individual screws. Simple though it may sound, this measure gives vertical alignment and symmetry to the caseback — a real pleasure to see.
The strap on which this watch is offered is black and made from Horween shell cordovan. Its extremely soft backing and glossy surface lends an appealing balance of simplicity and formality. Above all, its quality suits the watch perfectly by subtly drawing the eye back to the watch head. In a range including taupe suede straps, this is clearly a more conservative offering yet it serves as the perfect all-rounder on this watch’s 20mm lugs.
The Bauhaus Dial
Finished to a standard commensurate with the price of £3,720, the case of the Tangomat serves as a perfect frame for the component most recognisable on a Nomos: the dial. Presented with a subtle silver plating to give a sparkling touch, the dial of the Nomos Tangomat GMT takes inspiration from those of the 1930s and ‘40s. This inspiration is particularly apparent in the elongated Arabic numerals which surround the dial and receive a subtle undertone of Teutonic order in their serifs. Painted onto the dial, these are key to the elegance of what is, fundamentally, a complex watch by being replaced alternately by batons. Whilst noting these black numerals, it is important to share that the quality of print is impeccable. One can see neither errors nor even minor discrepancies — something not at all uncommon for this price. Aside from the numerals, the text on the dial is kept to a bare minimum. Where it would have been easy to mention the movement, Nomos have merely added their name and ‘Made in Germany’: three words central to the brand.
The Blued Hands
The hands of this watch exude simplicity and functionality with a simple, straight shape. An aspect of this watch which I found myself coming back to was the sheer legibility of the package. A contributor to this is the difference in length between the hour and minute hands whilst their rich blue colour stands out against the dial. This also brings us to the Bauhaus appreciation for crafts, something evident in the exquisite thermally-blued hands and their gently curved top. Whilst imperceptible without close inspection, this level of care is highly satisfying in such a minimalistic watch. The seconds, whilst similarly finished, are placed at 6 o’clock on a sunken subdial complete with engraved concentric rings.
The unique GMT function
At this point you may be wondering why I have neglected the two windows on the dial and the rather conspicuous pusher. These represent the makeup of what might just be the most practical GMT function which money can buy. Truth be told, most of us are nowhere near lucky enough to need a GMT function during our daily lives. For this reason, the ideal setup is one where, for 90% of the time, this function quietly operates in the background. On the Nomos Tangomat GMT, the namesake function is controlled by the pusher at 2 o’clock which serves to jump the hour hand forward in one-hour increments through 24 time-zones as displayed in the window at 9 o’clock. Meanwhile, the home time is shown at 3 o’clock in a widened window to improve legibility. Each of these apertures are finished with surprising attention. Where often one might see a simple bevel, Nomos have pleasingly stepped the transition from dial to rotating disk. Concealed at 8 o’clock is a pusher which synchronises these two displays and which can be pushed with a delightfully made tool included in the package. Whether a casual traveller or a regular traveller for work, I find the amalgamation of boardroom elegance with practicality aboard your next flight to be very compelling.
The In-House Automatic Movement
At the heart of the Nomos Tangomat GMT is a movement at the functional pinnacle of the Nomos range; it is the in-house DUW 5201. Whilst Nomos’ calibres DUW 1001 and 2002 as seen in the Lux and Lambda ranges offer engraved balance cocks, weighted balance wheels and gold chatons rival the great houses of watchmaking in Glashütte, the more modest DUW 5201 is perhaps more clever. Granted, it is not as luxurious, but with automatic winding, a 42-hour power reserve, hacking, handwinding and Nomos’ own escapement it is no bore. Aside from this, it is relatively slender for what is, in essence, a worldtimer complication at only 5.7mm thick. Decoration is very complete with striping, and perlage across even the movement holder. Furthermore, colimaçon detailing and thermally blued screws top off the show, whilst the movement of the rotor engages and disengages the reverser wheels which appear to dance as they transfer energy to the mainspring. Over the last few days, I have found the movement to keep fair time, although it should be noted that chronometer certification is not available.
It is difficult to write a conclusion to this review which is not already clear. I find this watch to be extremely appealing considering that the complications displayed are both practical and exciting. As far as competition is concerned, the most likely alternative would likely be the Grand Seiko SBGM221. This dress watch offers the same minimal water resistance & a slightly narrower 39.5mm case with a greater thickness of 13.7mm. Of course, there are pluses and minuses, but the Seiko is more ornate and probably has superior dial and hand finishing as well as a longer 3-day power reserve. However, Nomos can provide a slimmer case and more interesting complication. In any case, the Grand Seiko’s £4.500 price shows the value available from Nomos.
To summarise, something very special has been achieved with the Nomos Tangomat GMT: the creation of a potentially perfect everyday watch. More interestingly, though, they have done so without leaving the forward-looking ideas of the Bauhaus school behind. I really rather like that.
Availability: £3,720 with the included leather strap, carrying case and pusher tool.
- Dimensions: 40mm x 50mm x 10.9mm
- Material: Stainless Steel
- Crystal: Double Domed Sapphire
- Display: Flat galvanised silver-plated dial / Painted Bauhaus-style Arabic numerals / Sunken seconds with concentric rings / Time-zone displayed in a stepped window at 9 o’clock / Home time displayed in a stepped window at 3 o’clock
- Water Resistance: 3 ATM / 30m
- Movement: DUW-5201: Time, time-zone, home time, jumping hour hand, small seconds / Bidirectional automatic winding & manual winding / 26 jewels / 3Hz, 21,600 vph, 6 ticks-per-second / 42-hour power reserve
For more information, head over to the NOMOS Glashütte website.