I’ve long been a fan of NOMOS watches; they have an instantly recognizable design language, unparalleled feel for color, interesting and attractive in-house movements, and a reasonable price point. Plus, they hail from the German watchmaking mecca of Glashütte, so that gives them some bonus marks, in my book. That being said, I’ve yet to buy a NOMOS, and this is the first chance I’ve had to spend some extended quality time with one on my wrist. The reason I’ve never pulled the trigger on a NOMOS mostly comes down to thinking that, although I love their designs, the watches are just a bit too dressy for my lifestyle, which consists of a disproportionately high amount of time spent outdoors and a disproportionately low amount of time dressed up.
But within NOMOS’s catalog sits a peculiar little beast, the Ahoi Neomatik 561. Originally released in 2013 and updated with the smaller case size and updated Neomatik movement in 2017, the Ahoi line was NOMOS’s first high water-resistance (200m) watch line designed specifically as sports watches. The Ahoi retains all the tell-tale NOMOS design cues but adds crown guards as a subtle nod to the enhanced ruggedness of the Ahoi line.
The NOMOS Ahoi is available in two case sizes, 40.3 mm (which includes both a date and no-date option), and 36.3mm no-date version. Both sizes are available in several colorways (white silver, signal red, signal blue, and Atlantik). As with all NOMOS watches, dial diameters can be deceiving, as the signature long lugs make their watches wear larger than expected. So, even though I typically have no issues wearing 40-42mm watches on my 6,75” wrist, for the Ahoi I chose the 36mm, no date version in Atlantik blue.
Opting for the 36mm version was absolutely the right call for my wrist. The relatively long (~46mm), angular lugs, coupled with the small bezel makes the watch look and wear more like a 38-39mm watch. Even if you’re used to ~40mm watches, the Ahoi doesn’t feel undersized, which isn’t always the case for a 36mm watches. For instance, as much as I appreciate the Tudor Black Bay 36, it wears too small for my taste. Not so with the Ahoi.
Looking at the watch, it would appear that the lugs angle down steeply to hug the wrist. However, due to the placement of the lugs on the case, the watch still sits relatively flat. What this means is that the case should work well for larger wrists without much trouble. That said, for smaller wrists, a bit more curvature or lower placement of the lugs would improve the fit. The 40.3mm Ahoi would be much too large and ungainly for my liking, so no question that the 36mm Ahoi was the right call.
Getting back to the case, like everything else that NOMOS does, the key is simplicity with flawless execution. The only element that encroaches on that ethos is the addition of crown guards. Yet, even those are small and unobtrusive. You won’t find twisted lugs, beveled edges, mixed surface finishing, or anything else we’re so used to seeing on modern watches. Instead, the NOMOS case is fully polished with soft edges. Fully polished cases across the NOMOS line are part of what dresses up even the most casual of the NOMOS offerings, like the Club. Given the shape of the Ahoi case, featuring a small bezel and thin lugs, the polished surfaces don’t stand out. The crown is modestly-sized, screws down cleanly, and is signed with the NOMOS logo. Atop the case sits a domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides, allowing you to appreciate all the minutiae of the dial.
As with all NOMOS watches, the dial is the true star of the show. NOMOS calls this colorway Atlantik blue, but even in direct sunlight, it appears more slate gray with only the slightest suggestion of blue — much like the North Atlantic itself. The Atlantik colorway doesn’t have the immediate pop of some of the colorways, but versatility wins out for me. I consider it to have the same versatility as a black-dial watch, but with more personality and visual interest.
Adding a bit of needed warmth to the dial and contrasting the cold tones of the Atlantik blue are the rose gold markers and handset. The color match is superb, but the gold is subtle and not overbearing. In other words, if you’re not a fan of gilt accents, don’t worry; the effect here is subtle, not at all heavy-handed. But one thing that’s not at all subtle is the neon orange small seconds hand and neomatik text on the dial. It’s a fun pop of color that adds a youthful touch to the watch. The Ahoi also features mint green lume within the hour and minutes hand that play off the orange. As is usual with NOMOS, they know how to combine colors in fun, unexpected ways that simply work. The lume on the hands is effective and long-lasting, but the dark gray Super-LumiNova used for the hour markers ….not so much. They’ll show up for a short while after a full charge, but thenquickly fade and disappear. Honestly, I didn’t realize the hour markers were lumed until after I’d had the watch for a few days and noticed a slight glow after coming in from the sun.
The NOMOS Ahoi comes mounted on an 18mm nylon strap that complements the dial and is comfortable and versatile. The Ahoi would also work well on leather or perhaps perlon, but in my opinion, the nylon strap is the way to go. Keep in mind, the Ahoi features drilled lugs, so swapping straps is a breeze if you’re so inclined. One thing to note is that the nylon strap comes in a variety of sizes, so be sure to specify the correct size when ordering. Someday, perhaps, the newly released bracelet will be available as an option, but not yet.
Powering the Ahoi, and on proud display behind the sapphire caseback, is the in-house NOMOS caliber DUW 3001. The DUW 3001 is an automatic movement that features 27 jewels, a 43-hour power reserve, and features NOMOS swing system escapement. The DUW 3001 has a svelte profile, at only 3.2mm-high and 28.8mm in diameter, allowing it to work in small-cased models. Especially considering the price point, the movement is nicely decorated with heat-blued screws, rhodium-plated surfaces, and features Glashütte ribbing and NOMOS perlage — much more interesting than seeing another ETA or Sellita movement. And, given that it’s regulated in six positions, you should expect excellent timekeeping.
I’d always suspected if there was one NOMOS that would work for me, it would be the Ahoi. And work it most certainly does. The sizing is great, and the watch is comfortable to wear anytime, with the added assurance that it’s plenty tough enough to stand up to my daily outdoor adventures. But one criticism that’s always been leveled at NOMOS and other brands that embrace the Bauhaus school of design is that, if done poorly, simplicity can be boring — beautiful and functional, but lacking the visual interest to motivate you to pick it up and strap it on every day. The Ahoi, to my eye, is anything but boring. This largely comes down to complex color choices married together in a harmonious design. Despite a watch box full of more complex watches, I kept coming back to the Ahoi, over and over, simply because it was a pleasure to see on my wrist and I knew it would work with anything I chose to do or wear. The NOMOS Ahoi comes in at $4120. Head on over to nomos-glashuette.com to learn more.
>Model: Ahoi Atlantik 561
>Size: 36.3mm-wide, 9.6mm-tall, ~46mm lug-to-lug
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Anytime, especially when wearing smart casual clothes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: My best friend Mark. He’s an architect who loves modern, minimalist design but also regularly hikes and explores the forests of the Pacific Northwest. This watch would be at the top of my list for him.
>Best characteristic of watch: NOMOS simply knows how to do color.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Weak lume on the hour markers.