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NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39 – standard model and 175 Years version

The NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39 and the Ludwig neomatik 39 – 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte share many elements in common, however, they also exhibit their own unique character. Angus Davies spent several days wearing both models and relays his thoughts herein.

Introduction

NOMOS Glashütte is proud of its roots. After all, its home town forms part of its name. The company was founded in 1990 by Roland Schwertner, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This was a time for optimism with millions of German citizens looking forward to a bright, new future.

Image: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

From the outset, the brand’s identity was clearly defined. The composition of each watch subscribed to the traditions of both the Deutscher Werkbund and the Bauhaus movement. The Deutscher Werkbund harks back to 1907 when craftspeople, artisans and architects espoused the ideals of good design and craftsmanship for mass-produced goods and architecture. Bauhaus, the famous German art school, needs little introduction. Combining both crafts and fine art, the appeal of Bauhaus has never waned.

Image: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

NOMOS Glashütte also celebrates its country of birth. Germany is a nation synonymous with prestigious cars, precision instruments, cutting-edge technology and positive traits such as quality and reliability. Indeed, it is these two latter attributes which are intertwined with the brand’s DNA.

The company’s first models were equipped with Swiss calibres, however, in 2005, NOMOS Glashütte unveiled the Epsilon calibre, the firm’s first in-house movement. In releasing this movement, NOMOS signalled to the world that it was a serious watch brand with a thirst for independence. Over the years, NOMOS has released further in-house movements.

Image: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

In 2014, the German marque unveiled its in-house ‘swing system’, a term employed by NOMOS Glashütte to describe the escapement and the regulating organ. Most watch companies would never dream of making their own regulating organ such is the technical complexity of each constituent part. However, by taking this step NOMOS Glashütte has enjoyed greater independence, protecting itself from potential supplier issues.

The following year (2015), NOMOS Glashütte released its inaugural ‘neomatik’ movement, the calibre DUW 3001. Measuring just 3.2mm in height, this movement displays hours, minutes and small seconds. This is a remarkable feat, especially considering the movement is automatic. Later in this review I will return to the calibre DUW 3001. It is the powerhouse behind both Ludwig models that I have chosen to focus upon herein.

Two watches to appraise

It’s unusual to review two, near identical watches back to back, however, I have always been receptive to a challenge. The NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39 and its sibling, the Ludwig neomatik 39 – 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte, share the same case and movement but the dials of each model are very different. NOMOS recently provided an example of each, allowing me to appraise both models at close quarters.

The dial – Ludwig neomatik 39

When NOMOS Glashütte commenced production in 1992, it unveiled four families of watches, the Ludwig, Orion, Tangente and the Tetra. All these families remain important lines today with the Tangente proving the brand’s most popular model. Despite the passage of time, the face of each watch remains wrinkle free, fresh and relevant to the present day.

NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39, the standard model and the 175 Years version

Image: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

The Ludwig is currently offered in 16 variants, including three limited-edition models. The NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39 is a standard model, albeit this description seems a tad disrespectful considering its impressive array of talents.

NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39, the standard model and the 175 Years version

Image: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

The dial is described as ‘galvanised, white silver’. It is not a brilliant white, but rather a subtle shade, sometimes appearing cream in tone. The hour and minute hands are tempered blue, incredibly slender and exude much elegance. Despite the slim profile of the hands, they are highly legible. Indeed, the slender tip of the minute hand points to the strokes on the minute track with laser-like precision, allowing the wearer to precisely read off the nearest minute.

NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39, the standard model and the 175 Years version

A small seconds display is located at 6 o’clock and features snailed detail. Further examination reveals the display sits below the main dial surface, augmenting the aesthetic allure of the dial. The hour markers comprise of Roman numerals for the even-numbered hours, with slender batons in between denoting the odd-numbered hours. Both types of hour marker are long and slim, heightening the overall feeling of elegance.

The aforementioned minute track hugs the perimeter of the dial and is marked with Roman numerals at 5-minute intervals and crisp strokes positioned in between.

Having worn the NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39 over a number of days, I found reading the time to be effortless. I have appraised the dial on many occasions and contemplated what details would I add or likewise remove. My answer is always the same, ‘change nothing’!

The dial – Ludwig neomatik 39 – 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte

In 1845, Ferdinand A. Lange (1815-1875) arrived in Glashütte, a town once synonymous with mining. Unfortunately, during the mid 19th century, the region was experiencing hard times. Lange received a loan from the state of Saxony on the understanding that he would establish his business within the region. Initially, Lange hired 15 apprentices, but this number increased as his business grew.

Image: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

Soon, additional entrepreneurial watchmakers were drawn to the area. Today, Glashütte is the epicentre of German watchmaking and home to numerous brands. It is 175 years since Lange established his watchmaking business in Glashütte and the town’s watch firms are marking the event. NOMOS Glashütte has released three limited-edition watches to commemorate this anniversary, all based on the Ludwig model.

Where the standard Ludwig neomatik 39 looks modern, the Ludwig neomatik 39 – 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte timepiece has a traditional look.

Image: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

The dial of the limited-edition watch is presented in ‘enamel-white’. It is much brighter than the dial of the Ludwig neomatik 39 and exhibits a pure, chaste appearance. Despite the comparatively modest price of the watch, £2,900 (RRP as at 21.8.2020), it has some exquisite details.

Image: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

At first glance, the hour and minute hands appear to be leaf-shaped, sometimes termed ‘feuille-style’ hands. However, NOMOS has elongated the tip-section of each hand, providing a point of differentiation. The hands are tempered blue, a process that is costlier to execute than chemically blued hands.

NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39, the standard model and the 175 Years version

Once again, the dial on this version of the Ludwig includes a small seconds display at 6 o’clock. This indication sits lower than the main dial epidermis. The small seconds display eschews the snailing found on the standard Ludwig neomatik 39, accentuating the purity and smoothness of the enamel. Again, a tempered blue hand imparts the running seconds.

NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39, the standard model and the 175 Years version

Image: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

Like the Ludwig neomatik 39, the indexes on the limited-edition model comprise of Roman numerals and slender batons. The limited-edition model also features a chemin de fer (railway track). This supplants the contemporary minuterie fitted to the standard model, again infusing this model with a classical appearance.

The case

Both of the aforementioned Ludwig models are housed in the same 38.5mm stainless steel case. The case is of tripartite construction, making it simpler for servicing. A flat sapphire crystal sits atop the dial and features anti-reflective coating on its inner surface. A further pane of sapphire crystal is fitted to the caseback, affording views of the self-winding movement within.

Image: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

I must be honest, I have often shunned the advances of sub-40mm watches. Prior to appraising these models, I would have always erred towards the 41mm case option and probably still would. Nevertheless, the 38.5mm case did proved interesting. When worn it looks larger than its stated diameter. Indeed, subscribing to watch blogger parlance, ‘it wears bigger’. I suspect this is because the lugs are long and supremely slender. Despite being a large chap, the watch never looked undernourished when affixed to my wrist. Certainly, I would urge prospective owners to take look at both 39mm models before considering the brand’s larger watches.

Courtesy of the slender movement, the case height of the watch measures a mere 7.0mm, allowing the watch to sit unobtrusively upon the wrist. Both watches are supplied on a black strap made from Horween Genuine Shell Cordovan, paired with a stainless steel pin buckle.NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39, the standard model and the 175 Years version

The slender in-house movement

Both versions of the Ludwig are keenly priced, despite being endowed with an in-house movement, the previously mentioned Calibre DUW 3001. Indeed, in-house movements are usually the preserve of much costlier watches than the NOMOS Ludwig.

This movement is automatic, obviating the need for manually winding the mainspring. However, one potential disadvantage of automatic movements is that they have a tendency to be thicker than hand-wound movements. The primary reason for this additional bulk is the presence of the oscillating weight which rotates both clockwise and anti-clockwise, energising the mainspring when moving in either direction.

Usually, in order to increase the moment of inertia, the oscillating weight or rotor has additional mass fitted to its outer edge. This invariably increases the thickness of the rotor at this point. However, the peripheral edge of the Calibre DUW 3001 incorporates a channel, termed a ‘trottoir’, allowing the additional thickness of the rotor to be accommodated without increasing the overall height of the movement.

Image: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

Furthermore, to reduce the height of the movement, the mainspring has been made thinner. Ordinarily, this would result in the barrel supplying less energy to the escapement. However, NOMOS collaborated with the Technical University of Dresden, designing a new gear train which is more efficient, losing less energy due to friction and thereby improving the calibre’s efficiency to a remarkable 94.2%.

By having an ultra-slim movement, measuring just 3.2mm in thickness, the overall depth of the watch is minimised, in this case to just 7.0 mm. It is this slender profile that contributes to the model’s impressive wearer comfort.

The movement – rigidity

When making a movement, it is imperative that the structure remains rigid and stable. Any flex may cause parts to impede one another, possibly causing the movement to malfunction or leading to parts becoming damaged. The risk of flex is heightened when a movement is ultra-thin. However, upholding Glashütte tradition, the Calibre DUW 3001 is fitted with a three-quarter plate. Where most watches employ numerous bridges, on this movement a three-quarter plate spans most components, save for the regulating organ. This enhances rigidity and mitigates flex.

The balance bridge is affixed at two points. This provides more stability than a simple balance cock which is only retained with one screw. NOMOS has not doggedly focussed on calibre thickness alone, but also repeatedly thought about reliability and precision.

The movement – precision

The Calibre DUW 3001 is said to offer ‘chronometer-level accuracy’. This prompts the obvious question, ‘why is the watch not supplied with independent chronometer-certification?’ This latter process incurs significant cost which ultimately falls at the feet of the consumer. When value is at the heart of a brand’s DNA it may seem a tad profligate to waste money on a mere piece of paper.

Image: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

Rest assured, having visited the brand’s Manufactory in Glashütte, I have witnessed the company’s watchmakers using Witschi machines to test each calibre. These machines measure the rate accuracy, amplitude and the magnitude of the beat error. Skilled personnel adjust the effective length of the hairspring using an index regulator in order to ensure it achieves the desired ‘chronometer-level accuracy’.

The movement – the swing system

The swing system controls the flow of time. The most critical components of the swing system are the balance wheel and the hairspring. These two components are optimised to work in harmony.

Image: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

In terms of the hairspring, it is made of an alloy. All manufacturers of hairsprings remain tight-lipped regarding the composition of their alloy. It is always a closely guarded secret. This alloy, normally supplied on a reel in wire form, is passed over a series of rollers and through various dies in order to reduce its thickness. The diameter of the wire must be uniform as any variation will impair precision. Typically a hairspring is just a few microns in thickness made to precise tolerances measured in nanometers.

Once the wire is the right thickness, it is cut into ‘blades’ and coiled. These coils are baked in an oven. Again, the temperature and cooking time are trade secrets.

There are infinitesimal differences with each hairspring and each balance wheel. They are paired together based on their individual characteristics. The spring is affixed to the balance wheel’s collet using a laser, the length of the hairspring is cut to length if required. The balance needs to be poised, similar to balancing the wheel of a car, fixing weights to the wheel rim as necessary. In this instance, the underside of the balance rim is usually drilled.

The hairspring needs to breathe concentrically in order to deliver precision. A skilled worker will make manual adjustments using a microscope to ensure the hairspring breathes properly. Ultimately, the hairspring is joined to a stud using a laser and the stud is fitted to the balance bridge.

As mentioned earlier, most companies purchase regulating organs from specialist third party companies, hence the NOMOS is very unusual. Indeed, few watch brands have the necessary skills to make their own regulation organ. NOMOS has chosen to differentiate its hairspring by presenting it in a tempered blue finish.

The movement – the finishing touches

The three-quarter plate and balance bridge are embellished with Glashütte ribbing, the mainplate is adorned with perlage and thermally blued screws abound. The oscillating weight is openworked and, along with the three-quarter plate, is engraved with golden text. Every element of the movement is beautifully presented.

Image: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

Closing remarks

The basic tenet of Bauhaus is ‘form follows function’. When I look at the Calibre DUW 3001, I can see it admirably fulfils its technical remit and its resultant appearance is fabulous. However, close examination of this movement reveals it to be so much more.

Firstly, the German brand has worked closely with the Technical University of Dresden and spent vast sums of money, running into many millions of Euros, in order to create its own swing system. Secondly, NOMOS Glashütte has also worked with the same academic institution, developing its supremely efficient gear train.

With its thorough approach to movement design, the German marque has created a remarkably slim calibre, free of compromise and yet surprisingly affordable.

Having worn both timepieces, I can attest they are incredibly comfortable. Indeed, I often forgot I was wearing a watch, thanks to each model’s diminutive size and comparatively low mass.

This leads me to the dials of each model, the only aspect which differentiates one model from the other. The NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39 is a contemporary watch, whereas the limited-edition model, the Ludwig neomatik 39 – 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte, has a more classical appearance. However, both watches are simple to read, possess clean lines and, consistent with the brand’s ethos, promise lasting appeal. Indeed, it is the longevity that NOMOS infuse into each design that attracts discerning consumers to its products again and again, something that is apparent from the brand’s remarkable sales growth.

Based on the immense eye-appeal of the Ludwig neomatik 39 – 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte, I would urge NOMOS Glashütte to explore the idea of making additional models encompassing classical design codes. These should never supplant the brand’s existing contemporary creations, but they would provide interesting additions to the company’s product portfolio. Moreover, having worn numerous NOMOS watches over the years, I know these additional watches would be stylish, offer a timeless allure and incorporate a high quotient of technical merit.

Further reading

https://nomos-glashuette.com

Technical specifications

NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39, the standard model and the 175 Years version

  • Model: NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39 
  • Reference: 250
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 38.5mm; height 7mm; water resistance 5ATM (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front; exhibition case back.
  • Functions: hours; minutes; small seconds
  • Movement: Calibre DUW3001; automatic movement; 27 jewels; power reserve up to 43 hours.
  • Strap: Black strap made from Horween Genuine Shell Cordovan, paired with a stainless steel pin buckle
  • Price: £2850 (RRP as at 26.8.2020)

  • Model: NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig neomatik 39 – 175 Years Watchmaking Glashütte
  • Reference: 250.S1
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 38.5mm; height 7mm; water resistance 5ATM (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front; exhibition case back.
  • Functions: hours; minutes; small seconds
  • Movement: Calibre DUW3001; automatic movement; 27 jewels; power reserve up to 43 hours.
  • Strap: Black strap made from Horween Genuine Shell Cordovan, paired with a stainless steel pin buckle
  • Price: £2900 (RRP as at 26.8.2020)

 

Images: Copyright: NOMOS Glashütte

 

 

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