The NOMOS Glashütte Autobahn neomatik 41 date watch hands-on
How do you create an item so timeless that can be showcased at the Moma in New York and will still be appealing fifty years later? It is not a trivial challenge, but rather one of the most difficult goals to achieve. Yet every now and then someone succeeds: any Apple product becomes a design object as soon as it has become technically obsolete and for the chaise longue by Le Corbusier, the Porsche 911 or the famous lamp by Flos it seems as if time has stopped. There are consumer goods (durable or not) that represent milestones and that remain in our collective memory by preserving a status of eternity and by resisting passing fashion styles. That is especially important in the world of fine mechanical watchmaking of course: consider the long, patient and constant work of German watch manufacturer Nomos Glashütte focusing on creating icons in the world of watchmaking since their inception.
The basic idea behind the the new NOMOS model Autobahn
The spirit that fueled the Autobahn neomatik 41 date from NOMOS Glashütte is similar to the one that gave life to NOMOS classics like Zürich and Tangente, but with a substantial difference, it is the first time that the brand has so clearly taken inspiration from a different sector. The world of automobiles is omnipresent in the watch-making world and the interpretations carried out are many, some manufacturers have chosen to link themselves to a specific car brand to find inspiration for new collections; others indirectly draw from the industry to give a sporty connotation to a specific watch, but without necessarily adding specific logos and instead creating new stories.
NOMOS Glashütte have always blended their ideas with the Bauhaus philosophy, manifesting themselves as a unique brand of watchmaking in the eyes of the public and the critics. Now, they have turned to another idea of design: Werner Aissingler, the respected designer of the new NOMOS watch Autobahn and owner of my favorite Porsche car, the 928, took inspiration from the tachometers of cars manufactured between the 50s and the 70s.
A glowing dial
The direct reference to a tachometer can be seen in the eye-catching strip of SuperLuminova® on the dial, a circular ring that curiously reminds us of the rev counters of an Oldsmobile car. This intensely and uniformly glows in the dark in full contrast to the small counter of the continuous seconds located at six o'clock and the end-tip of the minute hand (which is so thin that it looks like a central second-chrono hand).
This effect is quite striking and unique when it comes to modern mechanical watches and two months ago our photographer was able to capture it at Baselworld. This is not the only unique trait of this timepiece, because the designer also created a curved dial with a strong gradient that starts from the end to then flatten in the middle. This is clearly visible on the version with the blue dial, or example, where the light is absorbed by the opaque blue color and then reflected near the glass - a perfectly flat sapphire glass coupled with an extremely thin bezel.
The case measures 41mm, because NOMOS Glashütte never exaggerate when it comes to the size of their watches and certainly won't do it at a time when the current trend sees diameters and thicknesses being constantly reduced. The main dial and the recessed sub-seconds dial give depth and breadth to the whole set, while enhancing the readability of the dial which is an essential design element of every NOMOS Glashütte watch.
The in-house built DUW 6101 caliber
Before tackling the mechanics of the Autobahn neomatik 41 date we should focus for a moment on the case, it is made of a single piece of steel (except for the screwed-in back), where the crown is not encased, but rather inserted at the end of a small protrusion towards the outside, on which the crown seems to "rest". It is the anti-thesis of the built-in crown concept and yet another reference to the three-hands-timepieces from the 60s that, except for some specific sports watches, all feature a crown with no protectors rather than a screwed-in one.
The NOMOS logo with its enlarged M is engraved on the crown head. The brand's workshops only manufacture in-house built calibers - a sign of consistency with the motto "Made in Germany" that is printed on the dial, (-in the very same position, where you can usually see the words "Swiss made"). This is also sign of pride and a tribute to the history of Saxon watchmaking as Glashütte is a small town made up of several traditional manufacturers. Not including in-house built mechanics within this timepiece would have made the whole crafting hardly credible, as the brand has its roots in 170 years of watchmaking heritage of this small Saxon town, which incidentally also hosts one of the most important watch-making museums in the world.
The new DUW 6101 caliber is a wide but thin caliber which is why the date window is positioned on the outer ring of the dial. There are more features that make this movement unique, such as the possibility of quickly adjusting the date in both directions a function that shows the extreme care taken in the design phase of the NOMOS calibers. Another important ingredient is the escapement built in the brand's workshops since 2014 which make NOMOS a truly independent watch-making manufacturing company. They call it the NOMOS swing system.
From an aesthetic point of view, Autobahn is not only the most striking watch ever created by NOMOS Glashütte, but it continues the company's special tradition of coming up with at least one technical innovation for the in-house built calibers when a completely new watch is released. The product also shows a meticulous attention to detail, a very light Nato strap with a wide and thin pin buckle that, thanks to the reduced thickness of the case, makes the Autobahn neomatik 41 date very comfortable to wear.
It is clear that the brand's goal is the creation of timepieces that immediately catch enthusiasts' attention. A personal style, great wearability, high quality and useful technical features are characteristics that lead you to keep a watch for a long time and they are also the basis of the creation of a future classic. Consider that NOMOS positions this watch below the €4,000 threshold (the exact retail price is €3,800), you will immediately understand why this timepiece can be considered as a fully credible product (depending on your taste).
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®