Holding a NOMOS Glashütte watch in real life for the first time can be an odd experience. I remember years ago before I’d ever had the pleasure, I didn’t find myself too enamoured of the brand. I found it a bit too clean, a bit too plain, a bit, if I’m honest, boring.
Then my boss brought a couple of models into work and my opinion quickly changed. The beauty of the brand is in its faithful manifestation of a creative vision that the designers and manufacturers manage without adding too many three dimensional distractions to what began life as a very simple sketch on paper.
Here’s the key to the brand (and I used to roll this line out on a daily basis during my three years travelling the world training NOMOS Glashütte’s retail staff): What NOMOS does, perhaps better than any other brand, is to place the emphasis entirely on execution, rather than embellishment. It is a simple idea, realised in the best possible way. And yes, there is plenty of “design” in it. Anyone who thinks that they could do better just because the design is maturely pared-back really doesn’t get that minimalism and simplicity are not the same things.
There are goodness knows how many brands who take the kitchen sink approach to watch design: A sub-dial here, an unnecessary indicator there, three case materials, and GPS link-up, which can only be used in conjunction with your phone, which – surprise, surprise – has a GPS link-up itself. NOMOS, perhaps influenced by the sleepy Saxon town it calls home, is anything but. It is a quiet brand. And the watch we have in for review today is perhaps one of the quietest the brand has ever produced.
The NOMOS Glashütte Orion 38 White is about as tranquil a dial as you’ll see.
The silvered surface (which is unexpectedly nuanced in natural light, and particularly attractive by candlelight) has a subtle texture that makes the dial appear a shade off-white in real life.
This has, in my experience, confused some online purchasers of not just this, but any “white” dial NOMOS. It is, therefore, very much worth getting to see the watch in the metal if you’re thinking of adding one of these German beauties to your collection.
In-House Orion Movement
Inside, the Orion 38 White has the in-house alpha calibre. The alpha is one of the last NOMOS movements to not feature the brand’s proprietary escapement known as the swing system. For that reason, it does not have the blued hairspring that has become something of a calling card for the brand in recent years.
This model also predates the release of the slimline automatic movement the DUW 3001. As a result, the brand had no choice but to make this a manual wind option in order to retain the necessary slimness of the Orion case design. This is no bad thing as interacting with one’s watch daily should be seen as a joy rather than a chore.
The alpha caliber is a hand-wound movement with a 43-hour power reserve. It actually has a slightly higher power reserve than the rest of the collection (all other NOMOS movements are listed with a 42-hour run time) thanks to it not having to power the date jump (which takes a touch more power from the mainspring at or around midnight). The operating speed is the typically slower than average 21,000vph you’d expect from NOMOS, which is justifiably employed on a practical and philosophical basis. Practically speaking, the mainspring in the minute alpha calibre is very thin so it cannot generate a huge amount of power. Keeping the operating frequency low consumes less power (as the watch is literally ticking less) and thus extends the power reserve. Philosophically, this is a dress watch and a higher operating speed is not essential for riding out shocks to the system as, theoretically at least, this watch should not be subjected to such physical trauma.
I own a very similar model to this piece – the Orion 38 De Stijl special edition produced with Ace Jewelers of Amsterdam in 2017 – and it has been my faithful companion on many of my travels. As someone who routinely spent weeks on the road living out of hand luggage, it was important to me that my watch was versatile enough to be worn with both smart workwear and casual clothing. The proportions of the Orion 38 models are more than satisfactory on both fronts. The professionalism of the face is an undeniable attribute of the watch, while its incredibly slim bezel, edge-to-edge sapphire crystal, and exceptionally low profile against the wrist make this watch appear much bigger than it actually is (it looks at least 40mm, maybe closer to 42 if you’re used to wearing a tall diver for instance).
Another great aspect of the neutral-toned dial is its ability to pair well with any strap you can imagine. In fact, this is really the underrated advantage of reference 386 over the more classic 384(Orion 38 with gold indices and blued hands – a very beautiful watch but far more limited when it comes to strap selection). I would advise, as I have done with my own Orion, to buy the excellent fold-over clasp from NOMOS and wear it with this watch. It was a long called-for accessory and it did not disappoint when it finally hit the shelves.
In summary, the NOMOS Glashütte Orion 38 White is one of the most classic, versatile watches in the whole catalogue. Given its manual movement, it is also one of the most affordable with the retail price set at USD $2,020. It is a great way for a budding fan of German watchmaking to buy into the country’s craftsmanship or a great weekend option for a more experienced collector looking for something that’s just as happy cutting deals in the boardroom as it is sipping champagne on the beach.
To view all of Nomos Glashütte’s offerings visit their official website here.