Monochrome Watches
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The Collector's Series

Perry and his Nomos Tangente Sport Datum 531

Who said the attraction for a watch should be objective…

| By Brice Goulard | 7 min read |

The attraction, the reasons that drive us towards a certain kind of watch, the lack of rationale behind the love for a timepiece… and then the hunt for THAT special one. Behind most watch acquisitions there’s a story, a motivation to go for one particular version and not another, subjective factors that explain why one is drawn to a specific brand, and very often contradictions come into the equation. Today’s instalment of The Collector’s Series is all about that. At first, Perry would have imagined Nomos to be his last choice, for reasons he’ll explain. But still, he’ll try (very) hard for that Tangente Sport Datum 531 to become his next purchase. And here’s why.

What drew you to Nomos as a brand to begin with?

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I feel that Nomos is simply one of the coolest companies around. To my knowledge, they are one of the only fully independent manufactures in Glashütte; they create their movements in-house, sell them at a better-than-reasonable price and have some original patents that are much more than superficial gimmicks. Even before developing their Swing System, Nomos came up with a way of fitting the date wheel around the movement of the watch – thus maintaining a slim profile and simultaneously allowing for a bigger date. 

I don’t think anyone can ever fault you for wearing a Nomos. I remember someone once writing that if they see another guy wearing a Nomos, they immediately know they’re not a douchebag. I think there might be some truth to that statement, though I’m hesitant to underestimate the ability of humans to disappoint, even when they’re wearing a nice watch. Still, it seems Nomos is a brand that only those who are genuinely appreciative of watches know about and care for. And while it’s not that big of a deal for a watch to fly under the radar when it costs, let’s say, a third of the price of a Rolex (as opposed to a Dufour Simplicity, for instance), Nomos nonetheless manages to garner the respect of grandmaster Dufour himself as well, I think, as those who collect his watches. 

Finally, I like their approach, their design language (Bauhaus, Deutscher Werkbund, or however you call it) and the quality of their build.  

Why this particular Nomos?

I first tried on the Nomos Tangente Sport Datum 531 during a trip to Berlin in the fall of 2015. I was already aware of the watch but I always figured I’d go for an automatic Club Date or the Ahoi that had been released not long before. I guess the fact that I had spent the better part of the year wearing a 1960s 34.5mm Omega Seamaster 600 had led me to feel more comfortable with the 531’s 36.5mm case than the bigger alternatives. Anyway, I didn’t buy it at the time.

Flash forward a couple of years, and I was looking for a timepiece to celebrate the occasion of the five-year anniversary of marriage to my lovely wife. Or, rather, I was looking for an occasion to purchase said timepiece. Either way, I was ready for my Nomos. Now, the matter of purchasing German-made goods is no small thing for a Jew, at least this Jew. However, I had already gotten over my unease at buying and owning a watch made in Germany with my Sinn 556. I now wanted its more elegant brethren, the only problem being the 531 was, by then, discontinued.

And it had to be that specific model. Several years as a watch collector have honed my personal tastes to what they are now. I like watches that are elegant and durable, preferably at the same time. But I have discovered this is easier said than done. My vintage Seamaster is elegant to a fault but I shudder at the thought of being caught with it out in the rain. My Sinn 556 is rather thin for a tool watch but that still doesn’t make it refined, at least not by my standards. I adore both watches but was looking for a watch that could be both – refined but not fragile. A watch that could slip under the cuff and into a bathtub all the same. There aren’t many watches like this. The modern Aqua Terra, for instance, while beautiful, is about 13mm in height; I wanted something no more than a centimetre in thickness but still water-resistant to at least 100 metres.

You see, for me, the Nomos 531 has it all: 100m water-resistance in a roughly 8mm tall case; running seconds and a balanced date window; a fine mechanical movement and an exhibition caseback through which to view it; and just the right amount of lume. Truly, it is a go-anywhere-do-anything kind of watch that I’d never have to remove from my wrist. Other than to wind it, and, as I’d discover, it’s a pleasure to do so. How did I end up getting it?

With my wife’s blessing, the hunt was on. However, try as I might, I could not find the exact model anywhere. I had the opportunity to buy one without the date or another with a dark dial, no lume and a solid caseback. But I wasn’t willing to compromise. What I eventually did – something quite Israeli of me but that should not be seen as representative of all Jews – was to write a letter to Nomos of Glashütte. I’m certain I told them that I was looking for that specific reference. I may have also mentioned that I was Jewish, and the grandson of Holocaust survivors, and that I was willing to shamelessly exploit any sense of German guilt they may or may not have. Being the wonderful people that they are, the folks at Nomos took my provocative missive on the chin and, long-story-short, I got the watch. And it’s everything I hoped it would be.

Nomos now has a new Tangent Sport Date – the Neomatik – what are your thoughts on it?

It’s technically accomplished and then some. Perhaps a bit too much by my standards. I’m not sure if anyone really wanted, let alone needed, a 1000 ft. water-resistant Nomos. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that they were able to achieve this with an automatic movement in case barely over 10mm thick – a feat that I think is matched only by the 38mm Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscape. But unlike the Bathyscape, the Tangente Sport does not feature a diving bezel nor a lumed seconds hand and as such, it is not a true dive watch, so 300 metres seems to me a bit overkill. Additionally, while I would have been happy had my 531 been a couple of millimetres larger in diameter, 42mm is just too big for a Nomos, at least for my taste. Nomos watches tend to wear big as it is, and being thin is part of what makes Nomos watches so appealing. 

I was happy to see a recent Hodinkee limited edition featured a model akin to mine, but though their dial was superb, they chose a variant without a date window and with a solid caseback. A shame on both accounts – though it’s a bit of a Hodinkee theme to do away with date windows, I think Nomos do a date exceedingly well: it’s not only that they don’t increase the thickness of the watch or upset the symmetry, in my opinion, the dial is also more balanced with the date window under the small seconds. As for the solid caseback? Not showing off the Beta (or Alpha) calibre – well, that’s just silly.

What’s next then, if not Nomos?

Following my criteria, it has to either be one of Patek’s sports watches or a Bvlgari Octo Finissimo 100m. The market being what it is, the Octo seems more likely.

6 responses

  1. Love these stories, so than you !
    I do have a question,what has happened to the “bezel” on this watch ? Are you a auto mechanic or some kind of person who has the chance to bang your watch all day long ? It appears to have been banged a lot ,if you missed my point here ! lol I have had my seiko sxk for over 4 years now and it has no marks at all , but I work from home, working on computers so not a terribly physical job, but still , 4 yrs and not one mark. My particular watch has the weakness of not having a sapphire crystal, so this surprises me, but it’s the truth. So it really surprises me that a dress/casual watch like yours appears so battered !

  2. You know Ray, I was wondering the same thing as I took the photos for this piece. Beats me how it got so banged up 🙂
    – Perry

  3. An interesting article but is it just me that finds it weird that he felt the need to mention that being Jewish meant the wouldn’t normally buy something made in Germany (apart from the watch he already had, obvs)? Then to make a point of mentioning being the grandchild of a holocaust survivor in an attempt to guilt Nomos?

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems a little tasteless…

  4. You know Andy, I was wondering the same thing as I wrote this. I mean, it’s one thing to shamelessly exploit the unfathomable suffering that three of your grandparents went through via guilting the Germans; quite another thing to tastelessly write about it online. Really, what’s the point?
    – Perry

  5. Beautiful watch – especially with the exhibition caseback. I’ll try to get one as well as soon as I stop being a poor student 😀 warm greeting from Germany

  6. So, the hunt included simply emailing the company and they sent you a watch? Not much of a hunt..

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