When I think of German watches, my mind heads in three distinct directions. The first two categories I think of are the tactical/military and the rather high-end. The former is inhabited by brands such as Sinn, Stowa, and Laco, while A. Lange & Söhne and Glashütte Original dominate the latter type. The last sub-genre I think of when considering the Teutonic path contains watches of the modern, minimalist style. Prior to moving to Germany, my experience with these watches was limited to owning a “Max Bill” Junghans and seeing Braun watches on the wrists of friends. Frankly speaking, these clean watches have interested me but I’ve almost always stopped short of buying as they left me a bit cold because, well, they are a bit cold – in their overall execution at least.
The Nomos Metro…minimalism with character?
Enter the relatively new upstart brand, Nomos, and we see watches, at least upon first blush, that fall into this minimalist category. But wait! There’s a lot more here than meets the eye as the brand crosses some genre boundaries by relying on far more than practically penned cosmetics in order to ply its trade; Nomos makes their own movements and they make them damn well. All that being said, is there enough happening in a given Nomos model to appeal to someone, namely me, who generally prefers watches more ornately rich in character? Well let’s see. Yes, your author was recently fortunate enough to spend about a week with one of the brand’s newest pieces: the Nomos Metro 38 Datum.
Nomos is a hot brand. The facts are that the Glashuette-based company makes its own movements, creates modern yet timeless watches, and then sells them at a shockingly reasonable price. This has made them popular with everyone from hipsters, designers and people who are simply looking for a good, wear anywhere watch. It doesn’t really hurt that the brand, while making some serious timepieces, doesn’t seem to take itself so seriously. A quick read of the Nomos website literature reveals a certain whimsy within their commentary and the people I’ve met at Nomos, when I attended as a normal person off the street, were highly approachable and friendly. This is certainly not a given within the watch industry! So, as a member of the Fratello team, I was excited at the prospect of trying a Nomos in order to gauge the fuss and, then, let you the reader know if such ado is worthy.
The Nomos Metro 38 lacks the power reserve window
I requested a white-dialed Nomos Metro from the company and it was shipped to me within a couple days. Admittedly, I had the original 37mm model with the dial mounted off-centered power reserve window in mind when I made the request, but what I ended up receiving was the slightly larger Nomos Metro 38 Datum. Despite the nomenclature, this Metro actually grows by 1.5mm to 38.5mm and loses the power reserve window in the process. It also changes movement from the in-house DUW 4401 to the DUW 4101. Otherwise, the watch looks identical to its smaller stable mate. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed that I didn’t receive the 37mm watch with its trademark window, but this disappointment soon faded.
When I popped open the small, flat wooden Nomos service box, I could immediately tell that I was looking upon a very high quality watch in the Nomos Metro 38. The gleaming, mirror polished, stainless steel case looks amazing in the metal and combines well with curved sapphire crystal and edge-curving dial. Plus, the watch was delivered on an always-nice, shell cordovan strap with Nomos pin buckle. I promptly picked up the watch and strapped it to my wrist…or so I thought.
More strap trouble with the Nomos Metro 38
I’m either wasting away, meaning German beer is turning into Coors light, or I’ve had a bad run of luck. Last month, I received and reviewed the Seiko Astron and promptly had to swap the OEM strap for a NATO. Well, with the Nomos Metro 38, the situation was even worse. I “think” Nomos included the standard Medium size strap, but I have to tell you that my size was a good 5cm away from the smallest hole that this strap afforded; it was like a belt or a tourniquet. So, I repeated the same act as with the Seiko and threw the Nomos on a leather NATO. In any case, Nomos offers a lot of strap options in different lengths, so do a little bit of research when making your choices.
Performing a strap change on the Nomos Metro 38 gave me the chance to utilize the little levers sitting on the back of the Nomos strap. They made the swap a breeze and I simply fitted some standard 20mm spring bars in their place. Interestingly, Nomos states that the Metro Datum 38 has a 19mm lug width. Perhaps this is between the wire lugs as I found that a 20mm NATO fit perfectly. So, 19mm or not I think that 20mm works well with NATO’s and probably would be fine for traditional straps provided that the strap has large enough spring bar holes to allow for the incoming wires.
What a dial on the Nomos Metro 38!!
I really like the simple dial on the Nomos Metro 38 and I think it possesses the perfect blend of legibility and contrast. The details are well executed and perhaps more numerous than you’d first imagine. For instance, the dial actually slopes downwards, towards the movement as you reach the hour indices. It’s a gently slope that helps soften the appearance of what could otherwise be a very stark look. The dial color itself is said to be a galvanized, silver-plated finish. It’s certainly whitish, as opposed to the optional black model, but has a matte/metallic finish similar to the current craze on high-end German sports cars. It’s perfectly uniform, flawless, and really a nice hue.
The hour markers at 3, 9, and 12 are the signature gray/turquoise that Nomos debuted on the original Metro (the same hue is used on the power reserve window of the 37mm model) and it really gives the overall look some needed pop. I say this because the rest of the writing on the dial (aside from a small red dot at 6:00), the numeric outer track, date wheel, Nomos name, and other hour indices are printed in black. Ah, I almost forget, the sub-dial showing the second is perfectly ridged and features a nicely contrasting red needle hand. It all really comes together perfectly!
Two things I’ll spend a moment on are the hands and the date window of the Nomos Metro 38. I really like the design of the slender hour and minute hands. They fit the watch well from a design perspective and are perfectly weighted. The minute hand reaches exactly to the outermost minutes track while the hour hand reaches to the dots that form the hour indices. It all makes sense and while I am sure more separation between the two tracks would likely ruin the design, do have to say that the hour and minute hands are startlingly close in length. Yes, I always had an idea about the relative time of day so there was never an issue, but it is a little niggle I thought I’d mention.
The date window is worth a mention because, to me, it is pulled off with aplomb. It’s certainly noticeable, but it flows ever so nicely. Sure, I’d love to see a version of the Nomos Metro 38 without date, but I’d be perfectly happy with this one. Well done to Nomos on the successful blending of a commonplace complication that is botched so commonly.
One other little detail concerns the wire lugs. They slope downwards nicely to help fit the wrist and make the watch look like a little sculpture when the strap is removed and the watch is laid upon the table. I originally thought that the lug spacing looked a bit narrow at the reported 19mm, but now I’m not so sure. I think another 1mm of spacing wouldn’t throw off the balance, but perhaps that would have the effect of requiring odd 21mm NATO’s between the wires. Anyhow, I think I actually gave the watch a little more “beef” by using a 20mm NATO.
The engine of the Nomos Metro 38 …the DUW 4101
I haven’t mentioned it yet, but another reason I chose to review a Nomos Metro 38 versus my other favorite looking Nomos, the Ahoi, was due to the use of a manual wind movement. The in-house, 23 jewel, DUW 4101 is a little gem to behold and to wind. The small, lozenge-like, signed crown with precision grooves is a lovely thing to use. When fully wound, the Metro has a power reserve of 42 hours. I certainly did not test this, but the watch never ran out of steam and, with its 6 adjustments, it kept ridiculously good time. Of course, the 4101 contains Nomos’ now-famous swing system, which is the combination of the balance, balance spring, escape wheel and pallet.
This is really a story of “David and Goliath” in the watch industry and is truly impressive to consider. If you’re a person who is into human will and ingenuity, a Nomos with the swing system is a perfect reminder of what is truly possible – think of Nomos as “the little engine that could”. Character often comes from within…
Robert-Jan often talks about his general disdain for display backs, but I think that Nomos has earned the right to use a sapphire not only due to its innovative reputation, but also because they know how to properly finish a movement. The Nomos Metro 38 movement is a beautiful little workhorse. It’s individually numbered and gives a great view of the swing system: seen on the right side of the window. Now, one thing that did throw me was the lack of a quickset date function. Perhaps this is in keeping with using what is essentially an anachronistic movement style in itself, but it was a surprise nonetheless. Not to worry, though, as I spent a couple minutes winding the hand past midnight and then backwards to roughly 9 PM in order to properly adjust the date.
Wearing the Nomos Metro 38 in Germany
I really enjoyed wearing the Nomos Metro 38 Datum. It feels like a solid ingot on, or off, the wrist and it is supremely comfortable. The crystal fit, the way the lugs meet the case: all these details are executed flawlessly. The watch measures and feels like 38.5mm but it looks larger due its nearly nonexistent bezel. Plus, it fits well under almost anything due to a slim 7.75mm height. It really is amazing to think that such a relatively small company is producing such a well-built watch.
When viewing the side profile, the watch reminds me of a 1950’s pulp magazine rendition of a UFO “flying saucer”: smooth, graceful and I like it. Plus, it’s a “go anywhere” watch that I think would look just as good on a more formal strap as it does on a NATO. And, with 3ATM of water resistance, it’s perfect for about 99% of the activities that one encounters.
I wore the Nomos Metro into work and I also wore it to parties and during normal weekend activities. I received some compliments on the watch, especially from German friends who had never handled a Nomos. I think they were truly impressed and certainly more so when I mentioned the price. The Nomos Metro isn’t cheap, but it is a heck of a value when you try to think of anything new that contains an in-house movement combined with such a practical, appealing design. In the Nomos online store, the watch retails for €2380 Euros in Germany and The Netherlands. It grows to 2200 GBP in the UK and balloons to $3480 in the USA. Nomos doesn’t have an Authorized Dealer network in the USA where one can view the watches, so the use of a distributor presumably explains the hefty markup. Personally, I’d look to take advantage of the currently low Euro and weave the purchase of a Metro into a European visit.
Immense value to be found with the Nomos Metro
I see a lot forum threads related to “if you could only own x number of watches, what would they be?”. Nomos, various models, are popular choices along with stalwarts such as the Speedmaster and Submariner. Again, it blows me away how a small, relatively new brand has achieved this much of a following so quickly, but I think it tells us that at the root of it all, most watch buyers aren’t the spineless lemmings who merely follow trends. No, a lot of people can thankfully spot value and uniqueness when it’s placed in front of them. The Nomos Metro 38 Datum, with all that in-house goodness, well-executed design, and irreproachable finishing, is value personified in a watch world that so often seems to be leaving much of that behind. Would I own one? Absolutely, and I don’t often even look at 3-handers. In answering my earlier question about character, I think the Metro is rife with the stuff both inside and out. Now, whether I would buy the 37mm or the model I tested here is a good question, but I think I’d be satisfied with either…as long as it’s white.
I really look forward to seeing more from Nomos and I’m so glad that I was able to spend some time with one of the models on my ever-present “potential buy” list. The Nomos Metro 38 Datum was highly worthwhile and, let me reiterate, it does have a soul. I know the good folks at Nomos read online content, so let me tell you what I, and a few other folks, am dreaming about from the brand. Nomos, you’ve clearly shown an ability to innovate and can operate in a self-sufficient manner. Now, up the ante a touch more and please produce a simple, well priced, 40mm or below, column wheel, manual wind chronograph. This would really be something. For now, though, Nomos has given us plenty of great things to consider…have a look!