NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig 38 And 33 Duo Enamel White Editions
The nights are drawing in. The festive season is soon to be upon us. As logs are lugged from the wood store and stacked aside the fireplace and thick, woolen sweatshirts are dragged down from the attic in anticipation of the frosty times ahead, NOMOS Glashütte has kindly decided to treat us to a little bit of class to cheer our chilly hearts. The NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig has always been the brand’s most traditional model. To me, it is the watch equivalent of “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…” by Dean Martin. It is charming. It is anachronistic. And it makes me feel like I’ve stepped back in time in the best way possible…
NOMOS Glashütte seems to have developed the enviable habit of slowly shifting into the perfect position over a series of several releases. It appears as if the brand is triangulating itself towards an ideal fusion of styles and innovations via a series of incrementally different watches. I’m well aware that this “ideal” result is totally subjective. However, I think it is interesting to observe a brand evolving in the open market. While the R&D process behind watch design is painfully painstaking at the best of times, listening to the reviews of customers and critics prior to releasing a follow-up certainly gives a brand the chance to pivot if it is absolutely necessary.
A plan long in the making…
However, I doubt that was the case here. I would wager these NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig models have been in the works for some time. They arrive on the heels of the stunningly successful launch of the Lambda in steel. That model also used an “enamel” dial, as did the previous celebration of Glashütte’s 175th anniversary of watchmaking — the NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig Neomatik 41 Date that we reviewed on Fratello. Deploying this concept on the ever-popular 38mm diameter was a logical step, but the inspired move, in my opinion, at least, was dressing-up the more recently-released 33mm “Duo” model with a glossy dial.
Two hands are better than three?
The sub-seconds dial commonly seen on German watches was seen as an almost indispensable mainstay of NOMOS Glashütte’s brand identity for the first three decades of its existence. But last year’s release of the Duo collection changed that. The original Duo line removed the sub-seconds dial of the four original models that put NOMOS on the map in the early ’90s. The Tangente, the Orion, the Tetra, and the Ludwig were all put forward for the experiment. This new look breathed life into the 33mm line. It was an unexpected and, quite surprisingly, satisfying endeavor.
Inspired by the earliest German pocket watches, the sub-seconds style has become central to almost all brands operating in Germany. The reason? It is not motivated by aesthetics alone. There is a practical reason behind it. By preferring a sub-seconds hand as opposed to a centrally-mounted seconds indicator allows watchmakers to create thinner calibers. If German watchmaking can be typified by one unifying trait it is that reliability and wearability always come out on top.
This is not a nation best known for its high complications. Although these exist (with many favoring German Haute Horlogerie over Swiss), it is the pragmatic foundations for which the nation is more often lauded. NOMOS Glashütte built its reputation on a perpetuation of these ideals. By fusing traditional sensibilities with a fresh Bauhaus style, NOMOS went from zero to hero before the century of its establishment was over.
Why these releases interest me
The debut of the Ludwig Neomatik 41 Date was very well received. Limited to just 175 pieces, the watch sold out hours after our article reviewing it went live. Here, however, we have the maturation of a concept I feel works best in the new 33mm model. For many people, that diameter will be intimidatingly small, but having had plenty of 33mm Ludwigs on the wrist I can attest to the fact they not only look larger than they are thanks to the slim bezel, favorable height/thickness ratio, and pared-back dial, they also wear larger thanks to the long, stick-like lugs that require a bit more wrist real estate to pull off than the diameter alone suggests.
What I like about these releases in comparison to the 41mm neomatik model, is the reversion to the classic stick hands for which the Ludwig is famous. The 41mm anniversary model employed leaf-shaped hands. I wasn’t such a huge fan of them personally but did feel they looked at home on that watch in particular. To me, the stick hands used in these models give the design a bit more coherence.
They also give a bit more prominence to the novel dial finish. Rather than using vitreous enamel for its “enamel” dials, NOMOS use an enamel paint, which has a similar luster but is far easier to produce in volume runs. It is a fine substitute that achieves a similar aesthetic. I would certainly like to see real, Grand Feu dials deployed on the Lambda (in steel) at some point, but here, especially given the price point, such a venture would not have made sense.
A full complement of numbers
The other major difference that I really like personally, is the absence of the sub-dial on the 33mm Ludwig. Why? I love the full 6 o’clock Roman numeral. I think it gives the dial a brilliant balance. Of the four models given the “duo treatment” thus far, I think the Ludwig is my favorite for that reason. More balance is added to that dial with the absence of that sub-dial than any other. I believe that is because the 6 o’clock numeral fans out towards the center. The Orion has a stick marker. The Tetra and the Tangente models have a boxy Arabic 6, which does not stamp its presence on the dial in the same way. That Roman 6 is a real boon to the Ludwig. In my opinion, it makes this latest Ludwig 33 the pick of the collection, for men or women alike.
A note on evolution…
In the opening paragraph, I mentioned the visible product evolution that NOMOS has expressed via the Ludwig over the past couple of years. I want to just take a moment to outline exactly what I mean by that below. While I haven’t included all of the Ludwig models ever released, I’ve included the key pieces (in two separate strains of evolution) that have resulted in today’s release feeling at once comfortable and fresh:
Ludwig 35 > Ludwig 38 > Ludwig neomatik 41 Date (enamel dial) > Ludwig 38 enamel white
Ludwig 35 > Ludwig 33 > Ludwig 33 duo > Ludwig 33 duo enamel white
Why do I think this is clever? Simply because each step on the road to these releases was small. Those steps felt manageable and organic. But now, if you compare the starting point (the Ludwig 35 in both cases) with the enamel white end results, the difference is palpable. That, to my mind, is how to grow a collection. It is a rare luxury for a brand to have the opportunity to explore these paths with actual saleable releases. NOMOS has done well making the most of this luxury and repaying brand fans in kind.
Spot the difference…
Pricing and availability
These two models (both unlimited) are the latest (and possibly last) watches to be released to mark this very special year in Glashütte. The enamel dial theme has been a welcome departure from the norm. It is pleasing, also, that a couple of these anniversary editions have made it into the regular catalog. Both watches are hand-wound (see above). Both are powered by the brand’s in-house alpha caliber. The Ludwig 33 duo enamel white retails for €1,060 (an amazing price for an in-house creation boasting an open case back and a somewhat special dial). Meanwhile, the Ludwig 38 enamel white commands a price of €1,580.