Working with renowned furniture designer Werner Aisslinger, Nomos has announced a new model in its collection: the Autobahn. It is the brand’s first foray into the world of “motoring watches”, and it is as unconventional in that regard as you might expect.
By Chris Hall
The Autobahn continues Nomos’s adventures in bolder, bigger, sportier watches. In 2017, it released a somewhat convoluted, but emphatically confident, array of casual sports watches in the form of the Club Campus and Aqua ranges. The Autobahn draws on some of the same design language with its use of bold block colours – particularly in the blue and grey references – and the size, which at 41mm is large for a Nomos.
Let’s get into the design in a bit more detail, before we talk about where this sits in the crowded genre of motoring watches. The case is a simple 41mm of round polished steel, with lugs that flow smoothly out from the body; the majority of Nomos watches favour a clean join between lug and caseband.
The dial looks to have a pronounced concave shape; the brand says the rehaut evokes the banking of racing circuits. The same is true of the small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. While it’s nice to have a bit of dial texture – an area in which Nomos is traditionally quite flat – let’s hope all that curvature doesn’t add too much overall thickness to the watch.
Along the rehaut is a simple minutes/seconds scale, with hour markers at 12, 2, 4, 8 and 10 within that. The type looks to be using a new typeface developed for the Autobahn collection; despite being a very light weight, as you would expect from Nomos, it looks a lot like the typeface used on the actual autobahn – we’ll find out if this is the case.
In line with the hour ring – in fact, slightly out of line, which is a little awkward – is a triple date window. Nomos has used these before, on the Tangomat, but at 3 o’clock. As a personal preference, I’ve never warmed to this idea – you want to know the date today, at a glance, not see three numbers for no real reason. Nomos mentions that the date window has “three lanes”, like an autobahn, but doesn’t really explain any further. As a design feature, that doesn’t say ‘motoring’ to me, it says ‘unnecessarily large date window’. But that’s just my take.
Inside the hour ring, you have the Autobahn’s most distinctive feature: a 2/3 circle of thick blocks, raised up from the dial surface. These, if we’ve followed the press release correctly, are Super-Luminova. Which is pretty cool. We don’t know what colour lume it will be, or whether that varies across the three models, but the Aqua collection had some very strong lume game going on, and it’s nice to see that making a return. Nomos bills it as an evocation of a dashboard instrument – there is filled luminova on the hour hand, but not the minute hand (which is instead orange-tipped, for a racy feel all of its own).
Let’s talk colours. Conventional ‘driving’ watches hew conservatively – but often successfully – to the time-honoured combination of red, black and white. Sometimes there’s yellow or orange thrown into the mix, usually in association with a particular car brand like Lamborghini or McLaren.
But we have none of that here. Nomos is offering the Autobahn in three versions: white, blue and grey. The white (actually off-white) has orange accents, while the blue and grey models add sky-blue and orange hour hands, respectively, as well as getting some high-contrast lume configurations. The overall impression is a lot more nautical than it is automotive, but there’s no denying they’re cool-looking watches.
It’s not a typical motoring watch in another sense either: it’s not a chronograph. We quizzed Nomos CEO Uwe Ahrendt a few years ago about his ambitions for the brand, and he was at pains to dispel the idea that Nomos was working on a chrono. So far, he’s been true to his word – but you might think that with a motoring watch in its ranks, the question could re-surface. Watch this space.
In fairness, Nomos describes the watches as something that “transcends clichés: it’s not racy but rather subtle.” It might transcend your typical watches-and-cars clichés, and thank goodness, but we are going to reach for a few well-worn German stereotypes to place this watch in a motoring context. Hopefully the good people of Berlin and Glashutte can forgive us.
We’ve drawn comparisons between Nomos and Kraftwerk before; more than sharing a nationality, there is a sense of minimalism, clarity of purpose, freshness and modernity that the watch company has in common with the band.
And here of course, the name takes you straight there, as does the blue of the details on the grey model. Kraftwerk’s fourth album, Autobahn (shown below in both its German and UK releases), was released in 1974. And we think that’s a pretty good touchpoint for this watch in terms of relating it to the motoring world.
It was a good time for German cars. The Porsche 911 Carrera RS had been released the year before – but Nomos is not the ’73 RS of watches. We need something a bit more modest, less of a garage queen. 1974 saw the launch of the VW Golf – a momentous moment in car history – and the VW Scirocco, and while we could happily pair this watch with the latter, it wasn’t a roaring success and the Golf is just a little bit too ubiquitous.
Instead we’ve found two cars that we think sum up the kind of experience that both Nomos and Kraftwerk touch upon in their respective Autobahns. The Volkswagen Karman Ghia (which finished production in 1974) and the BMW 2002 Turbo. Behold, two pieces of lustworthy, yet not unattainable, automobilia that are totally becoming of a Nomos Autobahn owner:
There is a postscript to this story. You will probably notice that we haven’t said anything about the movement inside this watch. That’s because Nomos is remaining uncharacteristically tight-lipped. We know that it’s an automatic, and we know that the watches are set to retail at £3,800 – quite a bit more than your normal Nomos automatic (more even than a 200m water-resistant Ahoi, or the Tangomat GMT).
To look at the watch’s functions and size, we’d guess at it using the DUW 5101 calibre, but the brand has hinted that there is something more to this, and there must be for it to justify that price. We’ll add more info here as soon as we have it.