Made in Germany, Found at WEMPE, the NOMOS Glashütte Connection to Art and Design
A NOMOS-inspired tour of the most influential German art, architecture and design in New York.
When most people think watches, they assume that Swiss is best. But timepieces from Germany are also amongst the finest luxuries money can buy. The tiny town of Glashütte alone is home to nine different manufacturers, including today’s focus, NOMOS Glashütte.
Not only does German watchmaking challenge the Swiss status quo, the country’s design aesthetics have had a huge impact in New York’s “Big Apple.” All over town, you can find amazing examples of disruptive art, architecture and design. We thought it would be fun to organize a Teutonic tour of five such destinations.
Anselm Kiefer’s “Ureaus,” Rockefeller Plaza
Anselm Kiefer is a German painter and sculptor. He studied with Joseph Beuys and rose to fame in the 1980s and ’90s. His works are generally confrontational and comment on the darker side of culture. This month, Kiefer unveiled a 20- foot-tall statue titled “Uraeus” was in Rockefeller Center.
The sculpture references ancient Egypt, the myth of the phoenix rising from the fire and classical knowledge in the form of an open book carried on eagle wings. As Kiefer himself explained on the Today show. “A book doesn't respect any border, any walls. It goes around the world."
The statue is also highly Instagrammable, making it the perfect place to grab a wrist shot with your NOMOS Metro. The hands on this collection of slender timepieces recall the classic Art Deco architecture of the Empire State Building and 30 Rock. But the design of the dial (available in four different colors), by Mark Braun, is very forward facing.
Marcel Breuer's Met Breuer, Madison Avenue and 75th Street
The Breuer building was designed by Hungarian-born, Bauhaus-trained architect Marcel Breuer. Bauhaus was a German art school that had a profound effect on everything from modernist furniture design to typography to buildings. And the Met Breuer is one of the finest examples of Brutalist architecture in the world.
Originally the home of the Whitney Museum of Art, the building was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Regardless of who owns it, this granite clad, inverted triangle was always meant to stand out from the rest of Manhattan’s museums.
Breuer himself said this of his 1966 masterpiece: “Its form and material should have identity and weight ... in the midst of the dynamic jungle of our colorful city. It should transform the vitality of the street into the sincerity and profundity of art.”
Students of Breuer’s work will appreciate a watch from the NOMOS Tangente collection — the new NOMOS Tangente neomatik 41 Update has an understated look but also features sublime details such as a one-of-a-kind ring date. Date can be set bi-directionally. Unlike other watches where you are forced to complete a 31 day cycle to get to your required date. Powered by NOMOS’s new in-house super slim automatic caliber DUW 6101. This important new movement plays a central role for the brand in 2018. These slender 41mm pieces integrate perfectly to almost any wrist.
Dieter Rams at MoMA, 11 West 53rd Street
Germans have always been associated with functionalism — the principle that products should be designed based solely on their purpose. And industrial designer Dieter Rams is one of the most celebrated proponents of this bold yet clean aesthetic.
Best known for his work for the German company Braun, Rams’ “Less is More” approach is timeless —products that he designed in the 1960s are still in production today. The calculator icon on your iPhone? An homage to Rams’ 1980s ET66 Calculator.
One of the best places to take in the way that Rams radically elevated the everyday object is at the Museum of Modern Art. There are so many examples of his work in the permanent collection of the MoMA. NOMOS’ Orion neomatik 41. Refined all of the elements of time to the barest of essentials: fine line markers and hands; a slim, slightly curved case; thanks to by the new DUW 6101 slim automatic caliber. The NOMOS Orion neomatik date 41 is a perfectly proportioned and elegant watch.
2nd Ave Subway Mosaics
New York City’s subway shares a few common threads with Berlin’s U-Bahn transit system. Both are famed for providing a platform for street artists and musicians. And aesthetically, they both love tile.
When Manhattan’s Second Avenue Subway opened on January 1, 2017, the quartet of stations also unveiled mosaic tile artworks by esteemed artists Chuck Close, Sarah Sze, and Vik Muniz. The Berlin underground and the New York metro opened up two years apart — in 1902 and 1904, respectively. The tradition of decorating stations with mosaics dates back to those days.
Speaking of colorful squares, for 2018, Nomos has added a beautifully hued quartet of timepieces to their Tetra collection. Called the “Petit Fours" series, these square watches also stand out because of their angles.
A word about NOMOS Glashütte
One principle that all great German design shares is one of reinvention. Situated in the former East Germany, Glashütte’s long history of watchmaking was interrupted by not just by World War II, but also decades of the cold war. The Russians packed up the old watchmaking equipment and sent it back to their homeland. The manufactures not only had to rebuild from scratch but also memory.
And then there’s companies like NOMOS Glashütte, which was born in 1990, just two months after the fall of the Berlin War. Their high end mechanical movements tip the hat to Glashütte’s history and their modernist styles (created in the company’s Berlin design studios) draws a direct link from the function- over-form principle of Bauhaus design.
Yet the company is making waves by working with today’s design stars. NOMOS’ latest hit, the Autobahn, was created with noted industrial designer Werner Aisslinger. The Autobahn features the best German engineering in the form of the new slim automatic Neomatik caliber DUW6101, along with an eye-catching, sloped and curved dial and minimalist case. And speaking of function, a luminous ring of large SuperLuminova fields literally lights the way to the future.
Test Driving the NOMOS Glashütte collection at WEMPE
The best place to test drive the groundbreaking Tangente neomatik 41 Update and the sleek new Autobahn is at the boutique of another humble brand manufacturing watches in Glashütte, the German retailer WEMPE, located on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. If you are curious, sales associates would be more than happy to talk about and further explore the importance of German design, and watchmaking with you. Below, we present all the ways you can interact with WEMPE.
(Photography by Liam O’Donnell)