In 2015, German watchmaker NOMOS thrilled the horological world with a home-grown automatic movement using a patented Swing System escapement. They christened the new range of watches the Minimatik. At €3,000 ($3,800), the NOMOS Champagner is the most expensive model in the collection. Worth it?
The Champagner’s case consists of three parts: a slim, non-stepped bezel (seated in a three-dimensional midcase flank), a dynamic midcase and a snap-on caseback. NOMOS’ designers claim their “tripartite” case combines the functional aesthetic of Bauhaus with a bit of Avant-garde.
Unlike many other NOMOS designs, the Minimatik’s integrated lugs drop downwards from the case. The lugs are short, their curved taper is sharp and they’re only 17mm wide – all designed to emphasize the dial. While their form is pleasant, they look slightly out of proportion on an otherwise elegant case.
The Champagner’s dial sits under a domed sapphire. The crystal’s sweeping lines extend deftly into the curvature of the lug forms. The case is also curved downward. When viewed from head-on the NOMOS Champagner’s case is practically invisible.
There’s a curious cutaway in the lug and case flanks. It serves no practical purpose – other than providing a character line. I assume it’s meant to make the watch look finer and more delicate than it actually is. If so, mission accomplished.
NOMOS polishes the Champagner’s entire case. The curved surface treatment and high polish make it appear richly lustrous. At just 9mm thick, the watch almost disappears on the wrist. Because everything’s so slender and slim, the Champagner appears larger than its 35.5mm size. It wears like a 38mm watch.
The Champagner’s flat, champagne-colored dial is the most subtle of the three available flavors, and also the warmest. It imposes a soft femininity on the galvanized metal base. Its sun-kissed complexion almost looks as if the watch just came back after a day at the beach.
The Champagner’s countersunk seconds subdial is adorned with azurage (concentric circles), providing the dial’s only noticeable texture. The rhodium-plated, polished, tapered and rounded stick hour and minute hands are funky fresh. The seconds hand is more traditional – save the fact that it’s bright neon orange. As are the minute indices.
The design ideas clash, even if they are presented well. Well at least the end result is highly legible, right? Not really.
Unless you angle the watch so that most of the light entering the crystal is incidental, the time remains a mystery. The domed sapphire crystal is highly reflective; the hands offer little contrast against the dial surface. All you notice are the grey printed numerals and index dots and the bright orange seconds hands.
Flipping the NOMOS Champagner over, the flat sapphire caseback reveals the 27 ruby in-house caliber DUW 3001. NOMOS’ inaugural automatic movement is just a tenth of an inch thick. The watchmaker claims “outstanding accuracy” – and nothing more. Our watch ran one second fast per day.
Developing an entirely new movement in-house isn’t easy. Nomos’ ability to produce an automatic movement that’s so thin and accurate for the price is nothing short of amazing. Of course, compromises must be made . . .
There’s perlage on the DUW 30001’s mainplate, a striped three-quarter bridge plate and a hollowed-out rotor, but that’s all you see. There are no finely-polished bevels, no chamfered jewel sinks, no angled bridges – just straightforward, minimal, cost-effective machining.
The polished winding crown is on the same diet as the NOMOS Champagner’s case and movement. It’s hard to grasp but the winding action is positive and fairly smooth. There’s play in the hands, but it doesn’t prevent precise positioning.
NOMOS sells the Champagner on a nude-colored matte-finished cowhide strap that tries to match the color of the dial. Wrong answer. The Champagner’s dial deserves something punchier. I threw it on Camille Fournet’s bright orange Ostrich skin to match the neon seconds hand (as seen in these photos).
NOMOS designers were trying to have a bit of fun with the Champagner. To me, the exuberant color scheme feels a little too juvenile for a watch trying to evoke the austere spirit of Bauhaus. But there’s no mistaking that the Champagner’s a seriously high-quality watch offering excellent value-for-money.
Model: NOMOS Minimatik Champagner (Ref. 1204)
Price: € 3,000 ($ 3,800)
Case material: Stainless steel
Case diameter: 35.5 mm
Case height: 8.9 mm
Case back: Transparent sapphire crystal
Case finish: polished
Front crystal: Sapphire crystal, domed
Movement: NOMOS DUW 3001, automatic winding
Water resistance: 30m
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * *
Bauhaus meets Avant-garde in a fun package with strange proportions.
Legibility * *
Legibility? What legibility?
Comfort * * * * *
Very comfortable, thin and small. Suits my 7-inch flat wrist.
Overall * * *
Well-made watch with German charm and a great in-house movement for a youthful audience yet to graduate to finer watchmaking.