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The Swing of Things

Nomos Glashütte Declares Its Independence

By Managing Editor, Our Minutes

With the premiere of their new Metro model, the charming independent brand NOMOS Glashütte rocked Baselworld 2014. Though the timepiece itself is compelling, it’s what powers the watch that caused a stir.

Yesterday, we gave you a primer on watch movements, including the escapement, which is arguably the heart of a mechanical watch movement. Comprised of high-precision components—the balance, balance spring, escape wheel, and pallet—the escapement is the system that powers a mechanical watch and sets its pace. A well-made escapement ultimately ensures that a timepiece will be accurate, even over time, and serves as a reliable indicator of a watch’s quality.

NOMOS Glashütte can now do something that almost no other company can—produce its own escapement.

The tweezers hold NOMOS Glashütte’s balance and balance spring (the tempered blue coil). On the movement, you’ll see that the escape wheel (with teeth) and the pallet (with two red-hued legs) have already been placed.

Escapements are inordinately difficult and expensive to produce, particularly for younger brands unable to take advantage of economies of scale. Watch parts are very small, often thinner than a human hair, and must be interchangeable with each other. Mass-production of such finely formed components is thus quite challenging, and typically outside the realm of possibility for truly independent watchmakers delivering more than a few finished timepieces a year. The majority of components found in escapements today come from a single supplier based in Switzerland, and distribution is tightly controlled.

NOMOS Glashütte has long been celebrated for constructing its own movements, sourcing 75–95% of its watches’ value directly in Glashütte, a tiny German mountain town. There must be something in the water there, as the village is home to other such storied brands as A. Lange & Söhne and Glashütte Original. But NOMOS Glashütte was the first to earn the Glashütte stamp of origin, which stipulates that a watch must maintain a local value of 50%. (Essentially, for every $100 a manufacture spends on outsourced parts, such as balance springs, $100 worth of work on a movement must take place in Glashütte itself).

The brand has a history of going above and beyond to demonstrate its commitment to local talent (as well as its own self-sufficiency). With this new escapement, called the “Swing System,” NOMOS Glashütte has, in its own words, made a declaration of independence. Over time, the brand plans to integrate the Swing System into all of its in-house movements—without raising prices. Though you’ll see the Swing System in a few existing models, the all-new Metro is the first watch to utilize it.

In-house built caliber DUW 4401 (the first with the in-house Swing System)

NOMOS Glashütte’s in-house caliber DUW 4401 (the first with the in-house Swing System)

With an offbeat mix of mint and red accents, hour and minute hands resembling the nib of a pen, plus an off-center power reserve featuring a distinctive design, the Metro signals a whole new era for the brand.

This is an exceptionally crafted timepiece, particularly at its price point ($3,780). To experience more of the brand’s expertise, take a look over a NOMOS Glashütte watchmaker’s shoulders in the short video below.


Specifications

Watch

Case: Stainless steel, bipartite; diameter 37 mm; sapphire crystal back, height 7.65 mm
Dial: Galvanized, white silver-plated
Hands: Steel, black oxidized
Water resistance: 3 ATM
Lug width: 18 mm
Strap: Shell Cordovan black

Movement: DUW 4401

Diameter: 32.1 mm including movement holder
Movement height: 2.8 mm
Power reserve: ~42 hours

Katie Wudel

By

Managing Editor, Our Minutes

Katie Wudel is a writer, educator, and timepiece enthusiast. She serves as the managing editor of Our Minutes, a digital destination for the watch-obsessed powered by Tourneau. She has developed content and digital strategy for a wide range of clients, from Berkshire Hathaway’s watch and jewelry retailer Borsheims to the world’s most famous concert venue, Carnegie Hall. Her writing has appeared in such distinguished literary journals as McSweeney’s, Tin House, Prairie Schooner, and Fairy Tale Review; was “top news” at Jezebel.com (part of the Gawker network); and has been recorded for NPR’s Snap Judgment. Katie is the digital communications manager for Lit Crawl NYC and was a recent writer in residence at Hedgebrook, a fellowship for visionary women authors.

Managing to do this feels a little like landing on the moon.

Uwe Ahrendt, NOMOS Glashütte’s General Manager

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