A frequent rule in serious watch collecting is to mostly acquire pieces from brands that only use in-house movements. The implication is that if your watch is not fitted with an in-house caliber it is inferior. However, since in-house does not usually translate to greater value nor higher quality, a fair question to ask is why does in-house movement matter?
The whole issue became front and center in the watch industry in recent years as the Swatch Group started limiting the availability of their ETA and Valjoux ébauche (movements) to companies outside of the "family". The immediate result is that lots of companies that depended on the ETA calibers for their watches had to develop expertise in-house or get them elsewhere. This is an issue that the watch industry has had to only recently deal with but one that is somewhat evident in other industries.
For instance, I doubt anyone buying a Ferrari would be happy if it was fitted with a BMW engine, or buying a BMW and accepting a Toyota engine. When buying a car, we (consumers) expect that the manufacturer will not only engineer the outside of the car but also the inside and the engine... Of course, parts and components are sometimes sourced from third parties in the car industry, however the engines, as a whole, typically come from the same "name" as the one branding the outside of the car. Nevertheless, in the watch industry for the longest time, this was not the case as ETA became the de-facto engine of a majority of Swiss Made watches.
This is a very important concept, since having a watch that is completely (or close to) built in-house likely means that the same attention to detail, to design, to maintenance, and so on, was done in one place, by the same group of designers and engineers. The grand houses of the Swiss watch industry have known this for a while and do everything themselves for a reason... Rolex for instance, produces everything (even forging the steel and precious metals used in their cases) in-house, and few watches come close to the quality and craftsmanship that you get with a Rolex.
So while on the one hand, having everything produced in-house means potentially higher quality, control, and precision, it also unfortunately translates into higher prices since the economy of scale that ETA can achieve is difficult to attain by one manufacturer. So simply said, in-house, likely means more expensive and, until proven, questionable quality. But does this have to always be the case? NOMOS, from the famous Glashütte region of Germany, is one of very few manufacturers breaking that trend with in-house movements and unique designs and style for a surprisingly affordable price while also providing excellent quality.
Based in Glashütte, the same home as A. Lange & Söhne and Glashütte Original, NOMOS inherits the long tradition of excellence in watchmaking that make timepieces from that part of the world renowned and easily compete with the best anywhere else. Firmly anchored in the Glashütte tradition with Bauhaus design: form follows function, NOMOS watches contain in-house decorated movements that are fully executed by the manufacture, except for the Nivarox hairspring and one or two other components.
In this post, I want to talk about the Tangomat model from NOMOS, which is a larger and automatic version of their classic Tangente model with the in-house ξ (Xi) movement---the manufacture's most complex movement to-date which powers the Tangomat GMT (reviewed here), the Tangomat GMT Plus, as well as the Zürich Weltzeit (reviewed recently by Adi Soon).
The Tangomat GMT features a classic round case like the Tangente in polished stainless steel. It is 40mm wide and 11mm high with lug to lug measurements coming in at 50mm. This means that the watch wears a bit larger than expected, while also being flat on the wrist so as to easily pass for a slim dress watch. I found it to be very wearable and I believe should fit most wrist sizes.
The Tangomat GMT has, what I am best able to describe as, a silver creamy dial (hard to see in pictures, which appear whiter) with a flat sapphire crystal and a cutout at 9 o'clock showing the airport city code that corresponds to the time shown by the hour and minute hands. The home-time (local time) is shown in military fashion (24 hours) with a cutout at 3 o'clock that shows more than the current hour. The running seconds sub-dial is at 6 o'clock with an effective but thin blued steel hand just like the hour and minute hands of the main dial.
Part of what makes NOMOS special is the attention to detail on the dial and other parts. In particular, the cream dial has simply printed (in black) even-hour markings with a NOMOS "unique" sans serif font. The cutouts for the GMT and home-time are done in layers that are brilliantly executed, giving a sense of depth to the dial.
However, perhaps the shining feature of all NOMOS watches, and certainly this Tangomat GMT, is the beautiful movement showing through the sapphire case back. The decoration is done with a flair (e.g., sunburst decoration and Glashütte pattern) reminiscent of the other (more expensive) brands in the region. However, NOMOS manages to also maintain a unique style that differentiates them.
The rotor is fluid and winds the watch efficiently in either directions. The three-quarter plate movement includes a hacking second feature and uses the incabloc shock protection system and 26 ruby bearings. The balance wheel, with Nivarox hairspring, can be adjusted in six positions. The rest of the movement is decorated with blued screws, and rhodium platted surfaces. The result is a rather unique looking movement that is easily differentiated from the all-too-common ETA stock or modified movements.
As mentioned, the NOMOS Xi movement in the Tangomat GMT is the manufacture's most complicated engine. It powers all of the NOMOS GMT-style watches. Using the GMT feature is relatively easy once set. You essentially press the button at 2 o'clock to change the city code at 9 o'clock to indicate your current local time or the time you want to see, e.g., as you travel. Each press will move the hour hand forward one hour and change the city code eastward. However, in doing so, the minutes hand does not change nor does the home-time disk at 3 o'clock. That way you can always know your reference home-time.
You can set the home-time by pulling the crown to position one (only position) and that will stop the seconds and move the minutes hand and gradually move the home-time disk as the minutes hand rotate around the dial. Changing the hour hand to synchronize it with the home-time in a particular city is achieved with a pusher at 8 o'clock. NOMOS includes a stainless steel pin tool to help you do so in the minimalistic black wooden box that comes with the watch.
There are 24 city airport codes for 24 different timezones. These are primarily major cities around the globe and predominantly in the northern hemisphere. The complete list starting with my current location is:
LAX (Los Angeles), DEN (Denver), MEX (Mexico City), NYC (New York City), SCL (Santiago), RIO (Rio de Janeiro), FEN (Fernando De Noronha, Brazil), PDL (São Miguel Island, Portugal), LON (London), BER (Berlin), ATH (Athens), DOH (Doha, Qatar), MOW (Moscow), KHI (Karachi), DAC (Dhaka, Bangladesh), BKK (Bangkok), HKG (Hong Kong), TYO (Tokyo), SYD (Sydney), NOU (Tontouta, New Caledonia), AKL (Auckland), PPG (Pago Pago, American Samoa), HNL (Honolulu), ANC (Anchorage).
Since the watch does not contain a date feature, there are no date changes as you cross over the international dateline whose closest represented cities are Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) and Pago Pago, American Samoa (PPG).
I imagine that in time, NOMOS could offer a customization feature for the airport code ring such that a customer could chose different cities for each timezone since clearly while some international cities like NYC, LON, HKG, TYO, or SYD, are no-brainer choices for all, it might be useful for someone living in the Middle-East to have cities nearby listed instead for some timezones.
Another unique characteristic of NOMOS watches are their custom made straps. They are genuine Shell Cordovan leather sourced from Chicago. While I did not know much about this type of leather, I took it for granted as I researched the brand before I purchased. However, after wearing it for the past few months I have to say I am sold on the quality and uniqueness of the leather.
Shell cordovan is made from the backside of horses and according to NOMOS, is a very durable and breathable leather. I can attest to at least the latter and the former to the extent that mine looks pretty much the same so far since I got the watch. Three other things about the strap is that it is thin, very flexible, and comfortable. It takes the form of your wrist quickly and you hardly notice you are wearing the watch. This is also due to the fact that the watch's size (40 mm) and a mere 70 grams of weight give it more of a dress watch dimension and feel. The strap is secured with a simple tang buckle with NOMOS' logo name inscribed.
At $4,570, the NOMOS Tangomat GMT is easily the watch with the most bang for buck that I have in my collection. I am already a believer in the brand and this will not be my last purchase. The NOMOS online store is also really well executed and after getting a brown strap, a loupe, and a catalog (free) from the store, I can also say that the service is first class. The whole process was easy, simple, and quick. Within one week I had my new strap, loupe, and also email exchanges with a NOMOS sales representative for an item that was out of stock that I wanted to get.
NOMOS as a company is a breath of fresh air for the watch industry. A no-nonsense German brand that respects its Glashütte origin while providing top notch products and services to watch lovers everywhere. I for one cannot wait to see what else they will be coming up with at Basel this year. An in-house chronograph perhaps? Oh, I can already see my wallet complaining, well not too much, I am sure... nomos-glashuette.com
>Model: Tangomat GMT
>Size: 40mm x 11mm (50mm lug to lug)
>Weight: 70g (with strap)
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes
>Friend we'd recommend it to first: Guy or gal who travels frequently and wants a GMT or world timer that is understated yet has horological pedigree and that will not break the bank.
>Worst characteristic of watch: GMT cutout showing the city airport code should also be showing three entries like the home-time or a pusher at 4 o'clock to move the city ring in the other direction. Also, while the strap quality is excellent, I think the tang buckle is a bit fragile... I cannot say for sure that it will break but it feels fragile and cheaply made, compared to the rest of the watch.
>Best characteristic of watch: Easy, the movement. The NOMOS Xi movement is superbly executed, decorated, and is very accurate. A joy to look at and never fails to bring a smile on my face every time I peak at it via transparent sapphire caseback.