Thoughts on the NOMOS Tangomat GMT
I’ve been fascinated with German watchmaking for over five years now. Like many things German, many of the watches from this region are well made, engineered to the max, and offer a simple sensibility that reinforces why the Bauhaus movement started in Germania.
The NOMOS Tangomat GMT watch I review in this post is mine. I’ve owned it for over five years. And while I don’t regular wear it, it counts amongst three watches I often take with me on business travels; as I did this last trip in early fall 2018 to Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and France.
In what follows I take an in-depth and critical look at a watch I use often and that I generally like. I also discuss what could be done to make it perfect.
NOMOS has been a darling brand with collectors for a while. It is often recommended to those new to mechanical watches. And to anyone wanting a simple, well made, and affordable watch. For collectors, it’s an easy entry to Glashütte, Germany watches, which should easily find a spot into any collection.
I took the plunge early, as my interest in watches increased. Unless you hate Bauhaus designs, it is hard to avoid being attracted to NOMOS and it’s watches. For me (and surely many fans of the brand) two things have helped me gravitate toward their watches.
First is that with NOMOS you seem to get more with less. My visit to the manufacture tried to explain this seemingly paradoxical statement. The easiest way to understand this concept is to realize that NOMOS, for the most part, creates watches that have a consistent Bauhaus look and feel with a common color palette and aesthetics.
The watch I review here is a perfect illustration of this idea. NOMOS have varied their designs over time, as with the Autobahn introduced this year, however, the majority of their watches share the same design ethos, movement and finishing DNA.
Second is that with NOMOS you get a complete package. A beautifully design watch but also an equally beautiful engine that they manufacture almost entirely in house. while I don’t want this review to be about the merits or not of in-house movement (there will be a different time for such discussions) it’s important to state that as a factor.
Suffice it to say that for me, besides having some of the most beautifully decorated watch movements I have handled, NOMOS does so at a fraction of the price. For that, they fight above their weight and this is an important part of the value you get when you buy a NOMOS.
However, instead of talking in general about the brand, let’s instead dive deeply into my thoughts and experiences with a specific model: the Tangomat GMT.
This is the second GMT watch I acquired and I have owned it for over 5 years. It’s been with me in various settings and trips. As a business travel watch it is great but not perfect. And as a casual watch it does even better. Let’s explore my views and justify my opinions.
The simplest way to understand the Tangomat’s position in NOMOS’s lineup is to realize that it’s a larger automatic version of their flagship Tangente models. It was the first automatic watch from the brand.
Overall, with the Tangente, the Tangomat constitutes the design most associated with the brand. A perfect round dial in a simple white to off-white color, thin blued hands, and complemented with simple thin markers and indices in a consistent black colored font.
As with all Tangente and Tangomat models, NOMOS only uses markers for the even numbers. This allows the cardinal positions (east and west) to be used for other things, or as in the model here for the hometime (3 o’clock) and the GMT indicator (9 o’clock). More on this later.
The other common aspects of these two models is the cylindrical case. It seems to come directly from a cut of a hollow stainless steel cylinder with lugs welded in order to convert it into a watch.
Of course, the reality is a bit more complex as you can see on close inspection. The case is composed of actually three parts, a middle cylindrical ring that is closed on top with a thin round bezel that holds the sapphire crystal.
The bottom part is secured with screws and also includes another (smaller) sapphire crystal to allow full view of the movement. NOMOS offers models without the back sapphire crystal which reduces the price of the watch and allows it to be engraved.
On NOMOS’s online store we can see five different references for the three models of Tangomat. Two models are essentially the same but with two different colored dials: a silver white (like the one here) and one in black ruthenium. For each of these two models there is one with date and one without date.
The reason for five different references is that the no-date model is also offered with the option of no sapphire case back. In my view the beauty of the NOMOS movement and its finishing is worth the $300 difference in price. The final model is the GMT, and is the one I review here.
The Tangomat GMT is unique in the collection of Tangomat in that in includes a complication. It’s the first complication besides date that the brand offers in their collections. Using the DUW 5201 movement, the complication is a GMT with a quick change.
In simple terms using the pusher at 2 o’clock you can quickly rotate the hour hand around the dial to show various timezones as you travel. You do so also without affecting your other time: the hometime.
The hour hand only moves in one direction, forward. This makes the watch perfect when traveling east. For instance as I travelled to Europe recently, I only had to click three times once I arrived Atlanta from San Francisco and again five times when I landed Paris.
The eight total clicks represent the 8 hours difference between the US west coast time and Paris. To make it easy to know where you are, NOMOS has a GMT indicator at 9 o’clock.
The brand offers two models of the Tangomat GMT. Each indicating the GMT offset in a different way. The one I am reviewing here shows the offset using a three letter code that mostly represents airport codes for representative cities in the timezone.
So for instance, for the San Francisco Bay Area (my hometime) the city and code is LAX for Los Angeles. NYC for the US east coast representing New York City and LON for London which also matches the Parisian timezone.
The other model, which seems discontinued as there are no links on the online store, simply indicates the offset as a positive or negative number. So for instance US east coast would be represented as -5. The offset is centered around the GMT (offset 0) which is also equivalent to London time.
This model, unlike the one I am reviewing here (reference 635), has the advantage of quickly letting you know where you are relative to GMT as an offset whereas this model shows the city or airport code — implying your own geographical knowledge of that city or airport for its timezone.
For the hometime you have a cutout at 3 o’clock. This is done in the aviator style for dates where the time before and after is also shown. The hometime changes slowly by the hour and only the even 24 hours numbers are shown. By having a cutout that shows more information, if the current home hour is odd, the two even hours are shown making the current time more legible.
Without the longer cutout, NOMOS would have to include all hour markers which might make the resulting cutout confusing as a date indicator… The red arrow on the dial (the only touch of color) clearly indicates the current home hour.
Changing the hometime requires you to use the flat pusher at 8 o’clock. This allows you to synchronize the hour hand when the GMT matches your home timezone with the hometime hour. This is something you only need to do once. Otherwise, to change the time you pull the crown to the only position and rotate. At position zero, the crown can be used to wind the watch.
Wearability and Details
Like many of the watches from NOMOS the wearability is excellent. Weighing only 71 grams the NOMOS Tangomat GMT falls well within the range of watches that disappear on my 20 cm wrist. The shell cordovan strap that NOMOS uses also helps in the wearability.
The strap is soft and subtle and quickly takes the form of your wrist and develops a patina. The black color on mine started fading a bit but at $110 from NOMOS online store it’s an easy thing to update.
Also, since the strap has a standard 20 mm width at it’s largest point, it’s a strap you can use for other watches too. While there are a few color options to help adapt to your mood, I wished NOMOS includes the easy retractable pins on these straps. In any case, the drilled lugs on the Tangomat make changing the strap easy with a tool.
At 40 mm in diameter, the bezel-less Tangomat and its 11 mm height gives the watch presence on my wrist and I imagine any normal-sized wrists. The flat crystal means it’s a watch that requires you to flip your wrist to admire and check the time. However, I imagine at some angles the white dial with it’s contrasting dark black indices are still quite readable.
Like many NOMOS watches, an unexpected magical view is waiting for the wearer when they flip the watch over. While there are no functional information on the case back, the beautiful view of the DUW 5201 movement with decorated skeletonize rotor, that include Glashütte ribbing and sunburst, NOMOS perlage, as well as blued screws. The resulting view is just a joy to see.
It never fails to elicit this sentiment every time I take a peak or show it to anyone who is discovering the brand’s watches for the first time.
On the dial, as I mentioned before, the thin blued hands make the visibility of the Tangomat superb, but only in day time or when you have ample ambient light. At night or in the dark, it’s pretty much useless.
Which leads into the first quirk I have with my Tangomat GMT. There are no luminescence material application to help visibility. This is not a watch for those needing to check the time at night when traveling, or during long flights in a dark cabin, or discretely during a presentation. I guess it’s the price you pay for simplicity.
Another painful quirk are the long lugs. While the lug-to-lug for the watch is acceptable and within normal range at 50 mm, the design of the 3 mm lugs on each side of the case results in a larger watch than one whose lugs would curve down and better wrap my wrist.
I consider myself to have a pretty average wrist size (again, 20 cm or about 7.9 inches) so I’d recommend you to try the Tangomat and similarly the Tangente watches at your local dealer to see how they fit you. The long straight lug design can be disappointedly large for some. Took a while to get use to it.
The final quirk I want to mention is an important one but one NOMOS could fix with an update of the watch without having to change much of the design. When cycling through the GMT city codes, you will notice a series of codes that do not match IATA airport codes but rather are three letter abbreviations of cities. For instance, the codes: NYC, RIO, and TYO do not correspond to the airports but rather the respective cities.
While, perhaps easier for most wearers, since some airport codes can be confusing (JFK for the late president John F. Kennedy is the code for NYC’s main airport) it also deviates from the purity of the design. I think NOMOS should have kept the real codes instead of sprinkling city codes here and there.
And if the worry is the obscurity of some airport codes then they could use the back ring around the case back sapphire glass. For instance, to include a translation table or some additional clarification info to the wearer.
Who is it for? What activities?
Obviously the NOMOS Tangomat GMT is best designed for the business traveler. Taking it over Europe was perfect, even though since I did not have to jump over many timezones, I did not make full use of its offered value. In the past I have taken this watch to Asia from USA and from Europe which allowed me to circle the dial as I travelled.
Of course, the aesthetics of the Tangomat, and by proxy the Tangente, make these flexible watches that are also perfect for the casual occasion. It fits different styles and will work equally well with jeans and t-shirt as much as a nice suit or even leather jackets. You cannot go wrong with the Tangomat’s design and style for a wide variety of outfits.
Importantly, for me during my travels, it’s a day-to-day watch that also does not attract much attention. This last part is crucially important and the reason I don’t take my Rolex Explorer II during many business trips.
With the NOMOS I am never worried about attracting the wrong attention while waiting on the platform for the next high-speed train in Paris or Frankfurt. Or while moving from one terminal to the next. And believe me there are lots of shady activities on these platforms to be worried about.
I lost a small bag (stolen) last year in such an exact scenario. Rushing from one gate to the other moving bags and trying to make the next train. Traveling light and removing attention on yourself is likely the best passive recourse.
Since the Tangomat GMT is a bit more than a simple GMT watch and a bit less than a world timer it competes in both segments. At a relatively hefty retail price of $4,920 it has lots of competition.
First from NOMOS itself is the Zürich world time watch which uses the same DUW 5201 movement but an entirely different case and way to circle through the timezones. The world time has been one of NOMOS’s crowd pleasers, especially the dark one (midnight blue).
At $6,100 for the Zürich world time you are paying a premium over what appears to be a more complex and certainly a more elaborated dial. I like how the Zürich world time’s case feels on wrist and if its price was closer to the Tangomat GMT it would have been my preferred NOMOS travel watch.
Other true world timers (indicating the time simultaneously in all the timezones) that are in the same range as the NOMOS Tangomat are the Frederique Constant and Montblanc world time watches. Specifically the stainless steel models introduced a few years ago.
At a retail price of a bit less than $4,200 the Frederique Constant is a bargain but also includes a more complex dial and in-house manufacture movement. The Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum world time is priced a bit higher at $5,300 but uses a base Sellita SW350-1 movement with a manufacture worldtime complication. I prefer the Montblanc dial styling.
In the category of plain GMT watches there are many alternatives around and under the price of the Tangomat GMT. While these are pure GMT watches with rotating bezels to show the second timezone, they are functional, less complex, yet offer a busier overall look than the Tangomat GMT.
Worth mentioning in that segment that are within a few $100 dollars of the Tangomat are the new Tudor Black Bay GMT ($3,900) and the Bremont MBIII GMT ($5,795). Both make for solid alternatives and the Tudor coming at under the Tangomat price also includes an in-house movement is perhaps the best value of the bunch.
There clearly exist many alternatives to the NOMOS Tangomat GMT. Some at cheaper prices and also offering more value. I am however, overall happy with what the Tangomat GMT has offered me over the years. The simplicity of the dial and design and its low key look are the primary values for me.
While no longer in the range of affordable GMTs, it has a unique Bauhaus design that none of the others in its class offers. These characteristics are not necessarily appreciated by all. Some might even find the Tangomat design to be sterile or too simplistic.
But for me herein lies the primary value of this GMT and in general of NOMOS watches. Being able to do more with less. I hope NOMOS never deviates much from this philosophy, the unique style they have developed, and their overall design ethos.
I don’t necessarily strap my NOMOS watch on my wrist for all traveling occasions; however, there are some occasions, even if I could pick any watch in the world, nothing else would do. And that is the rare value that my Tangomat GMT affords me every time I travel with it. nomos-glashuette.com