Uwe Ahrendt, CEO, Nomos Glashütte opens up to Hiren Kumar Bose on why the 25-year-old Germany-based brand has desisted from making a tourbillion watch, on being the country’s leading mechanical watchmaker and why its watches are not considered status symbols but piece of mechanical beauty
Nomos has had a wide following among watch lovers, thanks to its clean and modernist aesthetic… a favourite among those looking for a dressy watch. What do you ascribe the success of the brand?
I don’t think there is one single attribute to Nomos’ success; rather, it is a result of the unique combination we offer—fine mechanical watchmaking from Glashütte and award-winning design from Berlin. We have a very high level of in-house production—all ten calibres are designed and produced entirely in-house—and we offer remarkable value-for-money for a fine mechanical watch. But of course, what also draw customers to Nomos Glashütte is our clean and understated watch design.We produce elegant timepieces suitable for work and everyday life; that go perfectly with a T-shirt, a suit, or even a tuxedo.
In which countries are Nomos watches most popular? How many watches are you producing presently? Would you like to share info on the volume of your business?
Nomos watches are sold in fifty countries around the world, and overall demand for them is growing strongly. Nevertheless, our most established market remains our domestic one—Germany. The UK is another important market for us. Further, we are rapidly expanding our retailer network in the USA, and in Asia, China and Singapore represent our most dynamic markets to date.
While we do not reveal exact production figures, what we can say is this: No other German brand produces more mechanical watches than we do. The second-largest company in Glashütte does not even produce half as many. And we are producing more watches every year.
We are also growing strongly in terms of our business size. Currently, Nomos Glashütte has a staff of over 260 employees: The majority of them, around 230 to be specific, work in Glashütte—while over 30 employees work for the subsidiaries Nomos Glashütte USA Inc. in New York and the in-house creative agency Berlinerblau in Berlin.
In the last eleven years, Nomos has produced 10 in-house calibres. A record of sorts for a company which began operations in 1990. What were the compulsions in having one’s own calibres?
Developing our own calibres was something we wanted to achieve from the very beginning: We wanted independence, excellent proprietary technical solutions, and to become a watchmaking company that does everything in-house. In fact, we now produce up to 95 percent of our calibres’ value in-house—far exceeding the 50 percent minimum required to create a “Glashütte” timepiece. And we have just presented our latest in-house developed and produced calibre, DUW 3001. At only 3.2 mm in height, it is an incredibly slender automatic caliber and features our proprietary escapement, the Nomos swing system. Both of these technical innovations took years and a sizeable amount of financial investment to realize.
More generally: Making as much in-house as possible, including our watch design, ensures that we can control the quality and quantity of the timepieces we make.
While most companies have watches with 44 or 45 mm dials Nomos has limited itself to 42mm. Any particular reason for doing so?
Nomos Glashütte has never been a company to follow trends in the watchmaking industry—quite the reverse, in fact. We produce watches that are clearly contemporary, mature, and straightforward. In short, Nomos watches complement the wearer without attracting too much attention to themselves. And we know that the typical customer purchasing a Glashütte timepiece is a connoisseur; they are looking for mechanical beauty, not a status symbol.
Our largest watch, the gold model Lambda, features a 42-mm diameter. Its larger size is required to do justice to both the opulent DUW 1001 calibre within and its gracefully minimalist dial. Otherwise, we find that our unisex 35 mm sizing suits a range of wrists, and our additional 33 and 38 mm sizing for many models offer a wide choice for customers. We offer two models, Ahoi and Zürich, exclusively in 40 mm—and like Lambda, this is to accommodate the fine calibre within and the overall watch design.
Keeping within its DNA of a minimalist design Nomos hasn’t tried doing a tourbillion. Any plans to do a tourbillion in future?
Part of our brand philosophy is to offer ‘democratic luxury’ that is affordable to many. The key to this is a focus on series production, with a dash of high-tech when it aids accuracy. A tourbillion would not exactly fit with the clean aesthetics of our watches, and it would make them significantly more expensive. Nomos Glashütte combines prize winning design and high-quality craftsmanship to produce fine mechanical timepieces with remarkable value-for-money—which is certainly one of the aspects of our brand that customers find appealing.
But of course, we are at work on further technical innovations and new watch models. Currently, we are exploring the new opportunities our latest ultra-thin automatic movement DUW 3001 offers us—but won’t reveal them yet. There is plenty to look forward to.
Can you take us through Nomos Minimatik with its self-winding calibre DUW 3001 launched recently and is unique among the Nomos bouquet of watches?
Minimatik is the watch that introduced the ultra-slim automatic caliber DUW 3001 and the neomatik series. The renowned designer Simon Husslein created its rounded case, while NOMOS’ in-house designer Thomas Höhnel is behind the balanced dial.Its curved form and its flowing lines make Minimatik both modern and elegant—a new archetype of a wristwatch. It has won several prizes, most recently the prestigious iF Design Award, which is something that we are very proud of! When we launched this model, it was in two versions: one with a classic white silver-plated dial and one with a champagne-coloured dial and neon orange accents. Since October, these have been joined by a brand new version with a dial in a beautiful shade of midnight blue.
Within a period of two and a half decades, you’ve built up an enviable 12 collections. How has this journey been and what are the lessons learned about peoples’ taste and the models which are doing well and those which aren’t?
During my years as CEO at Nomos Glashütte, there have been plenty of challenges along the way. But for me, the biggest achievement so far was the development of our own proprietary escapement—the Nomos swing system, which we introduced in 2014. After years of research, and a significant amount of investment, we finally reached this milestone.Until now, it was quite impossible for small watchmaking companies to craft this essential component—it was too difficult, too complicated, and simply, too expensive. This is why nearly all brands source their systems from the same few specialised producers in Switzerland. Now, being able to produce the escapement in-house not only ensures the quality of our production but also secures our independence for the foreseeable future.
When it comes to the aesthetic of our watches, our focus is very clearly centered on creating beautiful, long-lasting design according to the principle that form follows function. And it is precisely this approach that draws customers to Nomos Glashütte—which is why many of our watch models are considered classics.Tangente, for example, has been a bestseller since its launch in 1992. By sticking to our principles, rather than attempting to follow trends, we have developed timepieces that stand the test of time.
What has the response to Nomos models in India? What plans you have for the Indian market?
Currently, Nomos watches are available in India via nomos-store.com. We are certainly interested in increasing our presence in international markets such as India, although the USA remains our primary focus for the time being.