Nomos Club Campus 38 Ref. 735 (Review) – Best entry level luxury watch you can get! + Nomos History! (Long version)

Oh my, I’m starting the 2021 with some exciting watch, right? When I started writing about watches 5 years ago, my main goal was to find the small brands and to show the world that you have more choices in the affordable range, you don’t need to always buy Seiko, Orient etc. I also wanted to help people choose their first watch and I have helped a lot of you actually to choose your first watch. On my Instagram I daily get about 5 messages to help choose a watch. But 5 years ago, I never thought I would get to this point where I’m now. Back then I was a big fan of Nomos, and I’m still am and it is probably the brand I like the most when it comes to non sports watches brands. But I never thought I would be reviewing one of their pieces, so because of that I’m super grateful to Nomos Glashütte and their marketing team, especially Katrin for this opportunity! I know for most of you and other big reviewers it isn’t much, but for me these small things are what makes my day. Before we start the review I will tell you about the history of Nomos!

Nomos is an independent German watchmaker, based in Glashütte, Saxony, Germany. The small town of 7,000 is located in a valley about 2 hours to south of Berlin, and has almost a dozen watchmakers and manufacturers, including A Lange & Sohne and Glashütte Original. While A Lange has the highest revenue of the Glashütte manufacturers, Nomos delivers the most watches which I guess is because of the price range and availability. Today, Nomos is a member of the Deutscher Werkbund, an association of German artists, architects and designers. Founded in 1907, it helped give rise to the Bauhaus movement and associated design ethos of the early- to mid-1900s.

Nomos was founded by Roland Schwertner in January 1990 just two months after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Mr. Schwertner was a photographer for Mode Magazine just as he spent time as IT consultant – two seemingly opposing crafts and skill sets, but nonetheless found in the same man. In 1990, Schwertner was set on building a German watch brand and acquired the rights to several then defunct German manufactures, including Nomos – which was indeed a German watchmaker in the early 1900s, and the word itself spoke to him – it is Greek for “law.” Mr. Schwertner set up shop with just three watchmakers in a rented flat in Glashütte. With the help of German designer Susanne Günther, Nomos designed and produced their very first four watches after two years of research and development – four models that still exist today. It was also founded at the same time as the modern A Lange & Sohne, and Glashütte watchmaking began to experience a renaissance that persists to this day, even as the Swiss watch industry has struggled at times. While A Lange has been owned by Richemont Group and Glashütte Original has been owned by Swatch Group since 2000, Nomos remains an independent manufacturer — one of the few true independents in the watchmaking world, and perhaps the only independent making watches at prices accessible to the general public. Like A Lange, the Nomos name had existed before, but only for a short run in the early 1900s. As you can see from the pocket watches below:

The Nomos headquarters — home to most of the company’s 300 employees — is a converted train station in a small place in Glashütte, adjacent to A Lange, Glashütte Original and not far from the town’s other watchmakers (you can walk across the entire town in about 15 minutes). The rest of the company’s employees work at the brand’s in-house creative studio, Berlinerblau, in central Berlin.

For a watch to stamp itself with the coveted “Glashütte” name, at least 50 percent of its value must be produced locally, a feat that Nomos took years to achieve as it worked to move its movement manufacturing in-house and stepped away from ebauche movements.

Nomos launched its first collection in 1991, featuring the Orion, Ludwig, Tetra, and Tangente. All were designed by Susanne Gunther and featured a similar aesthetic: clean, minimal, Bauhaus. All of the models also hit a size sweet spot for both sexes: 35mm for the round models (the square tetra is 29.5mm), feeling almost reactionary to the gaudy two-tone watches that defined the eighties. Here though, Nomos proved ahead of its time: making watches that either sex could just as comfortably wear, with gender-neutral marketing to boot is a formula that some brands still have yet to master. And in my opinion they predicted the future with unisex watch era with women wearing Men’s watches like Rolex Daytonas, Submariners or any other watch that was meant for men. And also their designs in my opinion are timeless, they haven’t aged a bit, the Tangente is still produced with the same look, but looks like it was designed just last year!

The collection’s success was led by the Tangente: a 35mm round watch with the most classical Bauhaus inspiration of the group. The watch was heavily inspired by the first Bauhaus watches of the 1930s: the first Stowa Antea (Stowa is still making this model by the way) and the first Bauhaus-style watch from Lange were both released in 1937.

In the early stages of the brand, Nomos took an investment from a German retailer. With the investment, Nomos developed their own in-house movement. By 2003, Nomos bought back the shares it sold to the partner and again became an Independent watch brand!

From its launch in 1992 through early 2005, Nomos used Swiss ETA and Peseux movements. The movements were based on the Peseux 7001, but with some Nomos finishing in the Glashutte style: Solar grinding on the crown and barrel wheels, “Glashütte stripes on the bridges, and blued screws. The plates were also rhodinated to become resistant to oxidation and later blasted and gilded.

Due to these modifications, ETA requested that Nomos not use their name on the movement as early as 1997, so Nomos began re-working the movements even more. In March, 2002, the company gave this modified calibre a new name: Nomos 1 T. This calibre replaced the plate and balance cock of the Peseux with gold plated pieces decorated with perlage at the Nomos facility. Regulation was now done using Triovis fine regulation, thus the “T” in the name. The next major shift was the introduction of the Nomos 1 TSP and its descendants, which featured Glashütte style three-quarter places. Finally, in 2005, Nomos released its first watch with an in-house movement: the Tangomat. At the same time, the Tangente’s manual movement was also converted to an in-house manufacture. Nomos was finally doing much greater than 50 percent of its watchmaking in Glashütte, and could justifiably join the ranks of genuine Glashütte manufacturers. The Nomos Epsilon was the first self-winding movement (in the Tangomat), and the Nomos Alpha (in the Tangente) the first manual movement:

Both movements feature three-quarter Glashütte plates, hacking seconds, Glashütte stripes, tempered blue screws, rhodium plated surfaces with stripes and “Nomos” perlage, and the “Glashütte” sunburst around the crown wheel. The movements still used an externally soured escapement and would continue to until 2014. In 2013, Nomos introduced a new line of calibres, called “Deutsche Uhrenwekre” (DUW), meant to signify Nomos’ increased capacity as a manufacturer in its own right. Then, in 2014, Nomos announced a completely in-house escapement: the Nomos Swing System. Nomos introduced its completely in-house movement at Baselword 2014 with the launch of the Metro. Manufacturing the Swing System is an incredibly precise process, and to this day, only a few watchmakers at Nomos are capable of properly executing the process. Not only was the movement a noteworthy achievement for the brand, the design itself was lauded by watch enthusiasts and designers around the world. Designed by legendary industrial designer Mark Braun, the Metro was a colorful break from some of Nomos’ more staid designs. It somehow conjures up images of the 1930s just as well as it does the 2330s.

Today, Nomos produces 13 movements in house (6 manual winding and 7 automatic). In addition to the original alpha and epsilon movements. Like the original in-house Alpha and Epsilon movements, all of Nomos’ calibres are highly decorated with Glashütte stripes, rhodium plating, perlage, sunburst decoration.

Right now Nomos in my opinion is in the same level as such watchmakers as Omega, Breitling, Tudor, IWC and many others. Nomos is one of those rare brands that are relatively new, and somehow made it in the luxury watch club! And it is very cool as most of the luxury brands like Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, A. Lange & Sohne and many others have been known since the early 20th century. I remember that I discovered Nomos when I was in Berlin in 2010 and saw the Tangente in the showroom and fell in love with that design and brand as a whole.

So let’s get to the review! The Nomos decided to send me the Club Campus 38 Reference 735 which was released back in 2017 alongisde with Club Campus 36 Reference 708. These were the first ones to come with California dials, meaning there are Arabic numerals up top and Roman numerals down below which back then was suprising, as Nomos always stayed simple with their watches, but this kind of gives it a playful look. The previous models were with arabic numeral dials. Overall there are 18 variations of Club, they come with different sizes from 36mm, up to 42mm and with different dial layouts (california, arabic, with date at 3 or 6 o’clock, differnt dial colours an styles.). So there will be a version for everybody.

The Club Campus came in a rectangular black wooden box. Inside the box you will find of course the watch itself, warranty card, instructions manual and cleaning cloth. I love how the packaging is kept simple yet it give you a pleasant unboxing experience! And also it was interesting to compare this box to watches that cost 2-4 times less as sometimes those watches have much more impressive packaging as Nomos has. The first impressions were amazing, it was everything I hoped it will be and more! The watch as you understand from the title of this review is 38mm in diameter so it is rather small, but a very contemporary size in my opinion! I also like that it has some weight to it! Already when I picked it up first time from the box it felt like a well made watch, the machine work of the case, high polished finishing, the dial and hands are very well made! This particular watch is a press sample so it has some signs of use so don’t mind the small scratches on the case.

The case of the Club Campus is made of 316L stainless steel which is very widely used in watches starting at just 60euros and up to 5 digit prices. The case is very well manufactured with nice flowing lines, just like a German watch should! They truly are masters when it comes to precision machine work! The watch features a high polished finishing which is done exceptionally well! The diameter of the case is 38,5mm (but they call it 38 which I guess looks and sounds better so we will use it as 38mm too), the thickness is 9mm and from lug to lug it measures at 49mm. On the paper the watch seems small, but If you’ve ever tried on a Nomos Club, then you may well be aware of the unconventional fit brought about by the slightly longer than common lugs. So basically a 38mm watch wears on the wrist more like a 40mm watch. I have actually heard that many have had issues when getting 38mm and it has been too big and so they swap it for 36mm and then it sits as they wanted. But 38mm variant for my 18cm wrist is just spot on! Essentially, the design of the case is fairly classic 20th century watch design, with a cylindrical body and tapering lugs protruding out. Unlike most watchcases which feature a three part assembly (bezel, case, caseback), the Club is what Nomos refers to as “bi-partite”. The bezel and case are one piece, allowing for a perfectly smooth transition from the case side to the rounded bezel. The bezel is also fairly fat for a watch this size, which adds some needed meat to the case, making it more robust and I could even say sporty. At 3 o’clock is a no-nonsense push/pull signed crown measuring 5 x 3,5mm. Proportionally, the crown is fairly large for the case, but doesn’t betray the design. The crown is very easy to manipulate and it has nice action to it. The Nomos logo on top is laser etched and is barely visible actually. The sapphire crystal on the Club has a very slight dome to it, but more interesting is how it sits on the watch. Rather than the edge of the crystal being flush with the case it sits ever so slightly above, creating a little lip. It’s a subtle but nice detail that adds a bit of vintage appeal to the design, which fits right in. The case back is solid and features just the name of the watch, water resistance which is 10ATM (100m) and case number.

Nomos have flipped the California-dial on its head here, with Roman numerals in the lower half of the dial and Arabic in the upper. That alone doesn’t seem like anything too outrageous, and I’ll admit that if you had asked me to describe a California dial before this model was released, I might have been hard pressed to tell you with much confidence which half of the dial contained which style of numerals as California dial traditionally has roman numerals on top and arabic numerals on the bottom part of the dial. So there are six baton hour markers, three Arabic numerals, two Roman numerals, and one hour marker missing altogether. Does it even make it a California dial? Despite Nomos going it’s own way, the dial layout just works! All of the dial markings, save for the branding and minute/second tracks, are filled with a gray/green/blue colored lume and outlined in red. The red outline is so fine that the indices tend to look pink at a glance, which I actually quite like! At 6 o’clock we have the small seconds dial and it featured a very bright orange hand, which I love, I like when a watch looks simple and elegant, but has some playful detail, although I read on some forums and blogs that it looks ugly, but I don’t think so! The high polished index hands are filled with lume in the middle and are rhodium plated. As I work at a full service watch center, I have option to look at the watch under microscope and the finishing of hands and printing crispness surprised me as it has the same level of finishing as much higher end of spectrum watches! The hands and hour markers are filled with blue luminova which give the watch nice lume shot. The lume is applied very well although it doesn’t last that long, around 1-1,5hours until you can’t see it anymore.

The movement that is ticking inside the Club Campus is their in-house hand-wound Alpha caliber which is one of their first in-house movements. And it is no surprise that they chose this movement as the watch sits very much at the entry level of the brand. The movement has 43h power reserve, 17 jewels, it features a tempered blue screws and Glashütte ribbing, and Nomos perlage. The ratchet and crown wheel is decorated with Glashütte sunburst. The movement accuracy is pretty good. I used the Lepsi watch scope that I use for all my reviews to measure accuracy of the movements. Mine example was ticking with +2 to +3 seconds a day which is really good, but not surprising as Nomos adjusts it’s movements in six positions. The movement in my opinion is really good, but I’ve heard that they are quite fragile. After reading 2h worth of reviews from Nomos owners it kind of depends if they are fragile. So how do you tell of a watch has a fragile movement? Well the thinner the watch, the more fragile is the movement as it gets thinner too. But I just think that many of the people who say that the watch has a fragile movement just takes their opinions based on how the watch looks. I have heard many stories where people daily weared their Nomos for 2 years every day and no problems. Of course if you drop the watch or do sports with it on the wrist, it will cause these problems, but so as if you have any other dressier watch from any other luxury watch company.

In the watch world there is a saying that no one makes better straps than Nomos, and in all honesty, it is true! I have heard that many people who have other watches are even ordering straps from Nomos to put on their watches as they are so good! And finally when I experienced the strap, I can surely say that it really is a great strap, especially their suede ones! The strap on my Club Campus sample is dark brown suede with grey stitching and with beige leather underlining. The strap is signed with Nomos Glashütte on the underlining and with stamp that says that all the straps are handmade in Germany. The suede leather is super soft and the strap is very supple and hugs the wrist nicely and wears comfortable.

Overall the watch is just amazing! And I’m not saying that because I get a free watch or getting paid, no, this is a loaner and Nomos isn’t paying me or giving any discounts. The watch really is amazing and I always suggested it to my friends and readers as the best entry level luxury watch. Fun fact by the way, I watched an interview with Philippe Dufour (the best independent watchmaker in world right now) and he said that the two best brand he suggests is the Rolex and Nomos! If such high level watchmaker says it, then you must trust his opinion!

Price: 1200€ @ nomos-glashuette.com

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