Full disclosure: The NOMOS logo never did it for me. Not that the Glashütte-based watchmaker (or any brand for that matter) should be judged solely by the lettering on their dials. But I somehow found myself judging a watch by its branding—I’ve been guilty of worse. So with no prior hands-on experience with the brand, I recently unboxed two NOMOS testers: a 40mm Ahoi Atlantic Date, and a 36mm neomatik Atlantic, both with sapphire crystal backs.

First off, NOMOS’ packaging sets the tone for the brand’s aesthetic to a tee: A minimalist, woven box housing a supple, full grain vegetable-tanned leather travel pouch which holds the piece down using thin leather snaps. Once I got past the discreetly well-designed packaging, I ate my words: the watches were arresting in their simplicity, intriguing in their detailing. I’m usually not a fan of date windows, especially on minimalist watch dials, but NOMOS’ 6 o’clock window (with slightly smaller lettering) blends the date number in beautifully. Handing over the smaller piece to my wife, I tried the 40mm on for size.

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There’s something wonderful about a design that it draws you in with less, not more. The color scheme makes subtle nods to nautical themes, which the watchmaker describes as blue-black like the Atlantic Ocean, bright blue like the sky, as red as buoys bobbing in the sea, silver white like the seagulls circling the harbor. Forgive the marketing excerpt, but the hues—particularly the face’s cool black tint, begs you to squint into its inky darkness. The non-serifed numbers are slender but easily legible, and details like the lugs and crown guard speak the same Bauhaus language as elements like the crisp indices and the thin, precise edges. A textile strap plays counterpoint to the polish of the stainless-steel case. Thin but textured, its blue-black hue is well-suited the face color. Rotating reveals NOMOS’ clean-but-color-dotted DUW 5001 in-house caliber. Despite the modernist face, the movement packs enough detailing and texture to suggest a tension between the sides; it’s almost as though by displaying the intricacy of the mechanical components with their Côtes de Genève finishes, the brand is emphasizing that they could design a more complex face, but resist to do so. Incidentally, the 567 reference with the 36mm case uses a DUW 3001 movement that’s just 3.2mm high, approximately the height of 9 stacked postage stamps.

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Just as I found pleasant surprise in the Ahoi’s visual presence, so did some of my non-horologically inclined friends. Unlike the ubiquitous minimalism of everything from Daniel Wellington to Skagen, there’s a sharp visual pop here thanks to NOMOS’ delicate balance between restraint and statement. Throwing the 40mm Ahoi on was a pleasure; a quick flip of the buckle tongue and a tug of the strap, and the watch feels comfortable and natural on the wrist. Interestingly, the Ahoi’s strap received more attention than I expected, perhaps due to its surprisingly thin, casual ease. Its anti-strap-like nature made it all the more intriguing.

My automotive work led me to an afternoon test drive of an incredibly charismatic Meyers Manx, an open-air dune buggy that flaunts its 1960s roots with flair. In a sense, the Manx’s groovy shapes and unfettered air-cooled engine seemed hopelessly detached from the Ahoi’s rigorous design language. At least the textile strap made sweating in the summer sun an act of zero consequence, as it was when I piloted my 1963 Land Rover Series 2A while evaluating the piece. Closer to the NOMOS in style was a new Mercedes-Benz C-Class I was also testing that week, whose natural grain black veneer with aluminum lines offered a somewhat simpatico complement in tone and texture: sophisticated, but simple.

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Though more sporty than dressy, the Ahoi might be wearable in more formal settings with the right kind of confidence despite its textile strap; though not quite suited to a tailored blazer, there’s just enough refinement in its design touches to elevate it beyond the commonplace or casual. A slightly more proper look comes with the optional sport bracelet, which delivers a 1960s feel with 145 conjoined stainless-steel ribs and a NOMOS-designed deployant clasp. Wearing my loaner for a Sunday dip in the pool on a hot summer afternoon brought a sense of occasion to the swim, making the $4,660 Atlantic Date and the $4,120 neomatik Atlantic feel more like a nicer, more sophisticated casual watch than a dress-up piece that condescends to leisure activities.

Sometimes reviewing watches feels like work; when you’d rather be wearing a beloved watch from your personal collection, strapping on someone else’s timepiece for the sake of evaluation can be a bit of a task—yes, I know, first world problems. Other times, you vibe so well with a review piece that you don’t want to give it back. As you might have been able to surmise by now, that’s exactly how I felt about NOMOS. With its platonic ideal of proportion and delicately executed design, the Ahoi’s simplicity makes a stronger statement than many more heavily ornamented watches. Add the attractive sapphire back and the fact that NOMOS has been producing its own movements exclusively since 2005, and the watch with the funny logo suddenly seems like a piece I wouldn’t mind adding to my collection.

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