Based in the German watchmaking town of Glashütte, Nomos has been creating fine mechanical timepieces since 1990. While not a long time frame horologically speaking, the brand has certainly established itself as a strong player in the watch world by creating watches that offer a strong value proposition in the entry-level luxury watch market. Revolving around the Bauhaus design principles a majority of watches from Nomos are designed to be aesthetically simple and elegant with good attention to detail. But beyond the charming and rather conservative elegance of the Tangente’s, the Ludwig’s and the Orion’s there is also a quirky side to the brand which has led to the creation of watches such as the Nomos metro and the more recent Autobahn which I had the pleasure of spending some good time with. So let us have a look at how this automotive-inspired watch fared on the wrist.
Autobahn is the federal access controlled highway system in Germany. Conceived as an idea during the late 1920’s the German autobahn network today ranks among the densest and longest controlled access systems in the world. But what makes it really special though is that German Autobahn does not have any speed limit restrictions for some classes of vehicles. This presents driving enthusiasts or should I say speed nuts a unique opportunity to feel the adrenaline rush by pushing down that gas pedal challenging the limits of their fancy sports cars and have a time of their life. So, it comes as no surprise that Nomos decided to name their automobile inspired watch after the haven for free-spirited high-speed driving, the Autobahn.
Strange is the word that came to mind when I first held the Autobahn in my hand and looked at its dial. Now, don’t get me wrong it’s not a bad a looking dial or something, but it quite unusual and unlike the Nomos, we all know, and can easily be called the most daring design from the brand till date. Created as a result of the collaborative efforts between Nomos and German product designer Werner Aisslinger the dial on the Autobahn is inspired by dashboard instruments of cars from yesteryears and has some intriguing design details. To start with the dial starts out flat at the center but then curves slightly towards the outer periphery which contains the minute track. This gives watch an extra dose of character and also makes it easy to read the time at least during day time (more on this ahead). Moving on we have what gives this watch its unique identity, the lume application. To mimic the speedometers of cars from the past thick curved patches of lume have been placed between 8 and 4, which actually looks quite cool aesthetically speaking. But in case I was to talk about the practicality I would say it’s a mixed bag, as while it does glow brightly I personally feel that the glow is a little restricted which makes it difficult to read the time in dimly lit situations.
Talk about reading time and that brings us down to the handset which showcases the Nomos DNA but also happens to be one of my major gripes with the Autobahn that. While I did find the relatively thick line filled hour hand to be just fine, the minute hand simply put looks confusing and out of place. I have always been a great admirer of the classic and dressy pieces and love the use of a baton style handset in them as it adds to the elegance of those watches. Sadly though that is not the case here and the slender minute hand which has purposely styled to mimic the needle style hands on vintage cars looks disproportionate on this dial. When I first glanced at this dial it was difficult for me to decipher whether this was the minute hand or the second’s hand. Further to that and coming back to the legibility issues I talked about earlier it is also hard to tell the time in the dark because the minute hand is too slender and has not been applied with any luminous paint making it a little hard to spot in dark.
Now that we have that small little quibble of mine out of the way let’s get back to the rest of the dial. All Nomos timepieces feature a running sub-seconds register at 6 and the Autobahn is no different. The sub-dial has been rendered in a bowl shape to complement the curve of the main dial adding a lot of dimensionality to the dial and the seconds can be read using a bright red baton which adds an extra splash of color that can also be seen on the top of the minute hand and the Neomatik text on the dial. Finally, to complete the dial there is a curved date window at 6 which displays 3 dates at a time with the current date at the center. While I do like the execution and placement of the date window, in my opinion, keeping the aperture small to display only a single date would have just fine and would make the dial look cleaner. But I do understand that Nomos has made an effort to do something different out here and I really appreciate that effort.
A bold dial like the one found in the Autobahn needs to make its presence felt on the wrist and to achieve that Nomos has placed it inside a relatively large case (by Nomos standards). Measuring 41mm wide and 10.5mm thick the stainless steel case on this watch is well sized and wears a little larger than the dimensions might suggest primarily due to the thin bezel. The case sits quite comfortably on the wrist which can be attributed partly to its thinness and also to the curved lugs. The watch that I reviewed came attached to a nice textile strap which further added to the wrist comfort but it was a little short in length. As for the finishing, akin to all other Nomos watches all you see are finely polished surfaces, which is not a particularly a bad thing but at this price point and especially for a sports watch I was expecting a little more. As mentioned before there is a thin bezel on top of the case which securely holds the sapphire crystal on the front in place, whilst the sapphire exhibition glass at the back gives a nice view of the drive train behind this watch. Before we move further I would like to make a brief mention about the crown. While it has been nicely executed and is quite smooth and sturdy in operation, I felt that it was slightly smaller in size compared to the overall proportions of the case. And even though the crown does not screw down, the case is still water resistant to 100 meters which makes it capable of handling some light swimming lessons should you wish to do so with the watch on your wrist.
Powering the Autobahn is the brand’s new self-winding caliber DUW6101 which happens to be their 11th in-house movement. It has a three-quarter plate on the back which covers most of the area only leaving a few parts exposed and has been beautifully decorated using Geneva stripes as well as blued screws. It comes equipped with the Nomos swing system and has been adjusted in six positions to attain a high rate of accuracy offering a power reserve of around 42 hours. The movement also supports bi-directional winding and while it was not easy to pick up in the hustle and bustle of daily life, the rotor noise was quite evident in a quiet environment. But what makes this movement special is the fact that it is the first Neomatik caliber to feature a quick set date mechanism, which is a breeze to use. All one needs to do in order to change the date is to pull out the crown in the date change position and rotate it clockwise or anticlockwise to set the desired date. This is a big difference compared to a mechanism where the date can only be set in one direction.
To conclude I would like to say that the Autobahn is an intriguing looking watch that is built to a high standard and showcases the experimental side of Nomos. Yes, it is not perfect and is also not meant to please everyone, but it does manage to make a bold statement and I would definitely love to add one to my collection soon. There are 3 different variations to choose from: Silver dial with white lume segments (Reference 1301), midnight blue dial with white lume segments (Reference 1302) and silver dial with blue lume segments (Reference 1303). All models come equipped with a textile strap and retail a price of EUR 3,800. Visit Nomos Glashütte here.