When Nomos unveiled the Metro at last year’s Basel World, it was met with such adoration from both the press and replica watch enthusiasts that it must have made all of the other brands feel put out. Not only did this deceptively simple and all together quirky little replica watch get praised for its slightly odd design, it was also the harbinger of Nomos’ independence from the Swiss. As Mark eloquently explained back in March of 2014, with the Metro, Nomos also unveiled their Swing System; their in-house escapement.
The most costly and complicated part of the movement (barring additional complications), the escapement includes the balance, balance spring, escape wheel and pallet, and has no room for error. One might assume that all brands that claim to have in-house movements would all have their own version, but it’s actually something few brands have the capacity to make, especially the balance spring. For a relatively young and, at least in the US, small brand to make their own is a massive deal… Compound that with Nomos’ relatively affordable prices, unique designs and superb finishing and you have a recipe for something incredible.
Slowly but surely, Nomos will be converting all of their movements to use their Swing System, which is marked by a change in naming style from Greek letters (alpha, beta, etc…) to DUW (Deutsche Uhrenwerke) plus a serial. While the naming convention might have taken a step into the generic the idea of celebrating German manufacture is clear and understandable. The first replica watches to use the new naming were actually in their luxury series ($20K +), the Lambda and Lux, and were named the DUW 1001 and DUW 2002, both of which feature extensive finishing, gold Chatons (screwed in jewel holders) and 84 hour power reserves, though oddly, not their Swing System. As such, the Metro, which is powered by the DUW 4401, debuted their full in-house movement.
And, as said before and will likely be repeated like a mantra throughout this review, the Metro was quite a unique place to start. It’s a concept that uses simple elements to make a striking and almost disorienting design. It’s immediately appealing, yet slightly off in ways that are hard to describe and, more importantly, interesting. It has an awkwardness that is relatable; a subtle tension to it that gives it a personality. In Nomos’ collection, it stands out from the strict, symmetrical designs of its older siblings, the reserved precision of the Orion, the playful elegance of the Club, the classically correct Tangente and Tangomat.
The Metro is a thoroughly modern replica watch with its own look and feel, a comment that is hard to make about most timepieces. It’s meant to appeal to a new, younger audience of replica watch collector, one that is less attached to the classical vocabularies of heritage brands. To achieve this break, Nomos did something that few replica watch brands do… they went outside their walls to an independent industrial designer. Mark Braun, who has a studio based in Berlin, has a portfolio of contemporary furniture, lighting and home accessories. Objects that explore form, color, materiality and playful relationships. The Metro clearly speaks to his style while respecting the feel of Nomos, creating a timepiece that can be widely enjoyed.
As with all Nomos’, the Metro is well-priced for a Glashutte-made replica watch with a manufacture movement, though it’s by no means inexpensive. At $3,780, it’s in the accessible luxury range. It’s priced quite below other manufacture replica watches (though frankly there isn’t anything much like this), though it’s a price that will be unobtainable for some. It’s the kind of replica watch to covet, save up and perhaps sell other replica watches for… Though it’s not alone in that category (even within Nomos’ own offerings… I’m looking at you Orion 38 Datum) so its eccentric design really needs to grab you.
The Metro features a new case design for Nomos, that is a nice addition to their line up. Measuring 37 x 43 x 7.9mm, the replica watch sticks with Nomos’ general trend towards smaller sizes, but being an all dial design, hardly looks as small as it is. The use of wire lugs, a first for Nomos, is a nice change of pace too, putting more emphasis on the dial.
Nomos’ cases are always pretty simple, perhaps deceptively so, with subtle details that make them interesting. The Metro case is essentially a thin polished cylinder with wire lugs protruding out. The case back and crystal add some elegant curves. First, the sapphire crystal gently domes and then flattens out in a way I’ve not see on another replica watch. The result is a very fluid surface that, especially at an angle, gives the replica watch a higher end appearance. One odd thing I have noticed though is that the crystal, where it transitions from a curve to a flat surface, actually casts a shadow on the dial. It’s quite noticeable when you first put the replica watch on, though eventually my eyes adjusted to it, making it invisible.
The case back reflects the shape of the crystal, creating a very smooth, bowl like surface against the wrist. It’s all polished with no writing save the word “Metro”, putting focus on the sapphire display window in the center. Strangely, the case back appears to be pressure or snap fit as there are no grooves or screws indicating any other type of attachment.
While the case is overall quite plain, the crown is quite nicely detailed. It’s wide and thin at about 5 x 2mm, with a studded texture. At a glance, it might appear knurled, but up close you can see that there are little half spheres acting as the grip. The top and back surfaces are then slightly curved, giving it an overall soft look. On the outside surface “Nomos” is very lightly etched in.
I’ll be totally honest, when I first saw the Metro at Basel, I wasn’t as taken with it as I am now. The dial is, well, odd. There are aspects to it that push my design-buttons. The spacing of one index to another, the size of the numerals, the sea-foam green’s contrast with the pale silver surface… there is discord that I found challenging. It’s only after living with it for sometime that I now feel, whether this was the intention or not, that it’s those idiosyncrasies that make it work. Its personality emerges through imperfection, thus resonating more with people and the metropolitan environment it takes its name from. What it doesn’t feel like is that sort of stereotypical German design of precision and utter practicality… then again, neither does Nomos as a brand.
Getting into it, the dial of the Metro features a galvanized white silver surface. It’s a pale metallic color that can look white or light grey, depending on the light. We’ve seen this same surface on the Orion 38 we reviewed and liked both then and now. It adds a depth that is different from white or cream. On the surface are two indexes. On the periphery is a minute index of dots and numerals at intervals of 5. The ratio of the dots to the numbers is a bit curious, either the numbers feeling a bit large or the dots too small. This is where the discord kicks in. It’s not necessarily off, as you would know it for sure if it was, it’s just a strange proportion.
Stepping in, there is an hour index of bolder dots in sea-foam green at 12, 3 and 9, alternating with slightly smaller black dots. There are a few quirky things going on here. First, the sea-foam green is a very unexpected choice. It’s pale and minty, not really contrasting with the silver surface below. As such, in a glance, 12, 3 and 9 almost appear as gaps, only to be revealed a moment later. The spacing of the dots to the minute index also creates tension. Is it too wide, too narrow, just right? In the end, it works, which is what matters.
At 6 there is a large, trapezoidal date window, showing off Nomos’ bigger than average date wheel. The date is a fine typeface in black on a white surface, matching well enough with the silver dial surface. As I noted in my review of the Orion 38 Datum, the window shape is great. The top and bottom lines both curve, responding to the overall round shape of the replica watch, while the sides taper out, likely projecting from the center of the dial. This all just makes it more visually harmonious.
Above the date wheel is a sub-seconds dial. It’s slightly recessed and has concentric circular graining for texture. I’m a huge fan of sub-seconds dials (perhaps this is part of the draw to Nomos as they all have sub-seconds) and this one is particularly eye-catching. The sudden drop in elevation, the use of texture and a linear index make it dense, drawing the eye to it. The seconds hand is also bright red, and while its not the only red on the dial, it does really pop out, feeling fun and playful.
But perhaps the most eye-catching feature is the power reserve display, oddly located between 12 and 1. Nomos’ patented power reserve doesn’t work like any other out there. Clearly, it’s not a sweeping hand measuring from zero to max, but rather an aperture though which there is a surface, here in minty green, and a second aperture. The second aperture is shaped like a small arc, getting taller towards one side; this is where the actual information is. Inside, there are two colors, white and red. The more white that is visible here, the more power the replica watch has. When you wind the replica watch, the red/white ratio doesn’t just change, the whole surface above it spins.
So, there’s a lot going on in this little space. There is color, there is texture and there is useable information. But it’s really the location that is most striking. Up until this point, everything has been pretty much symmetrical. Now you have this large off-center window that is sort of floating, almost as though it’s in orbit of the sub-seconds. While this is all due to the layout of the movement rather than the replica watch design (it’s in the same position on the Tangente Gangreserve), it does feel emphasized by the use of color. It also pushes the logo out of its normal home below twelve, over to around nine, which too gives it a feeling of floating.
Finishing off the dial are solid black hour and minute hands. There shape isn’t quite like any I’ve seen before, being thin sticks that at about two thirds the way out, become extremely thin. Both terminate exactly at their respective indexes making them easy to read at a glance.
The important thing is that all of these elements, when discussed individually, might sound disparate, but they work together. The various slightly awkward moments resonate with each other, creating a landscape of interesting details that make the Metro very enjoyable to wear and look at. The end result is youthful, but sophisticated. It’s reserved, but far from boring, truly having more personality than most replica watches do.
Powering the Metro is their new DUW 4401 movement. The DUW 4401 is manually wound and features sub-seconds, date, Nomos’ patented power reserve indicator (as discussed in the dial section), 23-jewels, hacking seconds, 42-hour power reserve and a frequency of 21,600 bph. At its core, the movement appears to be the same as its predecessor, the simple alpha, though with date and power reserve modules, and of course, the new Swing System. As with all of Nomos’ movements, it has been adjusted in 6-positions for accuracy.
Looking at it through the case back, you can see it’s beautifully decorated with classical techniques. It features rhodium plating, a Glashuette 3/4 plate with Cotes De Geneve, perlage under the balance, sunbursting on the ratchet and crown wheels and blued screws throughout. The Swing System itself is “invisible” in the sense that they didn’t change anything aesthetically. So, it’s there, but it’s not called out visually.
Nomos’ date mechanism is patented and functions well, though it does have a quirk. It’s a peripheral design, meaning that rather than stacking on top of the movement, it goes around it, keeping the movement thin. This also allows them to make the date a bit taller and clearer, as seen in the Metro. The quirk, and I’d go so far as to say a downside, is that setting it can be a pain. Rather than the now fairly standard system of being set through the first crown position, it features “rapid shifting” which is what you’ll find on replica watches from mid-twentieth century. Essentially, to set the date you have to cycle between 9pm and 1am, back and forth, until you reach the desired date. This is really only annoying if you have to go through many days, so it’s a slight inconvenience overall, but an inconvenience nevertheless.
Straps and Wearability
The Metro, like most of Nomos’ replica watches, comes mounted to a Horween Shell Cordovan strap (read our primer on Horween Leather here for more info). It’s black with black stitching, tapering slightly towards the buckle. Their straps have a standard, classic design that is refined enough for dress circumstances, but simple enough for casual wear. The strap on the Metro has a slight modification, in that it features quick-change spring bars, making swapping straps easier with the wire lugs. They also offer a brown straps with the same system through their shop. As I say every time I mention them, Nomos’ cordovan straps are only $90, making them a great deal for shell, whether you have a Nomos or not.
On the wrist, the Metro is very easy and comfortable to wear. It’s 37mm, which might sound small, but it looks and wears a bit larger thanks to the expansive dial. At the same time, it’s wonderfully thin, and the wire lugs make it wear almost lugless, sitting comfortably on top of the wrist. The proportion of the case to my 7″ wrist is ideal as well, not too small, not too big, takes up about 50% of the surface.
And, it’s simply great looking. At a distance it’s quiet and almost formal, the hints of color maybe only slightly visible. Closer up, the wonderfully peculiar little details come through and it immediately engages. It’s reserved enough to be worn in dress circumstances, but fun enough to be worn casually as well. The minty green and red are used sparingly, so while you can play off them with clothes, I wouldn’t be concerned about any clashing. The silver dial is very versatile too, working great against grays and blues.
As with every other Nomos I’ve review or handled, the Metro is fantastic. It’s interesting, challenging, attractive, perfectly built, well finished, etc… It’s the kind of replica watch you can wear all the time and keep appreciating. In the few weeks I had with it, I really couldn’t stop looking at it. All of the little things I pointed out just keep pulling you in… and of course, when it needs some juice, winding the crown and replica watching the power reserve spin around is a unique and almost guilty pleasure.
Of course, its also costs $3,780, so it better be extremely satisfying. This isn’t a replica watch most of us would buy on a whim, even if in the distorted world of replica watches it’s on the affordable side. But the price is backed by the fact that it has a genuine in-house caliber, made in Glashütte, now with an in-house escapement. If you’re looking at buying a Nomos, you aren’t just buying it for design, you are buying it for the mechanics, which simply comes at a price.
Apart from the object itself, what I really like about this replica watch is the direction it suggests Nomos. Working with Mark Braun as a designer, Nomos is looking forward and taking design risks to create a brand that is modern and personable in an generally cold and anachronistic industry. The Metro is something few other replica watches are, which is whimsical, as is Nomos as a brand. Do yourself a favor and go to their site, read their copy, look at their images… you might find yourself laughing from time to time at an odd joke, enjoying a replica watch that has been setup to look like a tie or sailboat… What other brand does that? Hopefully in the coming years we’ll continue to see them grow in this way, and I know I’m excited (and saving) for it.