When I think of Nomos, elegant, minimal watches in the 35 to 39mm range come to mind. Watches that are rich in detail, yet modest in attitude and timeless in style. Watches meant for people – well, like me. People with an affinity for design, an appreciation of mechanical watches, and needs that don’t really go beyond the modern urban experience. To qualify this last statement, I mean watches that are meant to be worn to the office, but aren’t too fussy to be worn to a beer garden. Watches that look great with jeans, and with formal attire too. Watches that aren’t rugged like a dive or tool watch, but don’t need special care either. With watches being sorted into more and more sub-categories, it’s easy to forget that the everyday watch was once a simple thing. Nomos watches are the modern version of that idea.
So in 2019 when, at Basel World, Nomos released a series of 42mm “sports” versions of their Tangente and Club watches with 1000ft water resistances that built on already ever-increasing diameters, I was a bit perplexed, and frankly disappointed (something I didn’t hide in our podcast.) To be fair, the watches themselves were attractive, as all Nomoses are, but I didn’t get the why. Why is this brand I associate with subtle, sophisticated, design-driven watches playing the diameter and depth game? If it’s because they are trying to satisfy customer demand, which is entirely plausible, then why not develop a new line, rather than inflate the Tangente and Club once again? I mean, at 42mm with 1000ft (or 300m) water resistance, you’re in modern dive watch territory, and who doesn’t want to see what Nomos would do with a bezel?
There was another issue, and that was the price. While Nomos has never made “cheap” watches, part of their appeal always was the value they offered. Starting around $ 1,500, you could get into Nomos’ in-house horology with a hand-cranked Club (that’s what I did), and then make your way if you chose to the top-tier Zürich Weltzeit, an automatic worldtimer for (now) just over $ 6,000. Over the years, their watches have slowly but surely crept up in price, which has coincided with the development of their thin in-house “neomatik” calibers, but with these new sports watches, they lept. At $ 4,980, the Tangent Sport is now officially quite expensive, and compared with the competition that has popped up over the last few years, I’m looking at you Black Bay 58, of less clear value.
But that was 2019, and now, a year later, I’ve cooled off and decided that I should put my assumptions aside, and actually try one of these watches out. After all, the designers at Nomos are very talented, and up to this point, I don’t think I’ve tried a Nomos that hasn’t charmed me in the end. So, I’ve strapped one on – well buckled the new bracelet to be exact (more on that later) – and wore it for a few weeks. What do I think now? Read on.
Review: Nomos Tangente Sport
42 x 52.6mm
I’m going to start with a point of confusion. Several years ago, Nomos released the highly regarded Ahoi collection. A sporty take on the Tangente model (sound familiar?), the Ahoi boasted 200m of water resistance, a 40mm case based on the classic Bauhaus design, and extra lume. Since then they’ve added colors to the line, and once the Neomatik movement became readily available, a smaller 36mm model, still with 200m water resistance. While the Tangente and the Ahoi share significant design DNA, the Ahoi had one feature that easily distinguished it apart and signified its sportier intentions – crown guards. Seemingly welded to the right side of the case was a piece of steel that ramped on both sides, giving the crown some suggestion of added protection – you know, for sports.
So why do I bring this up? Well, I can’t tell you why this is a Tangente model and not an Ahoi model. The similarities continue to the dial as well. This isn’t necessarily relevant to the case design, so much as branding, but it is confusing. That’s not even taking into account that there are now Tangentes at 33, 35, 37.5 (called 38), 38.5 (called 39), 40.5 (called 41), and 42mm!
Nevertheless, the Tangente Sport features the same basic case design as others in the collection, though sized up and reengineered for more water resistance. At 42 x 52.6 x 11.2mm (to the top of a very wide domed sapphire) this is a big watch. Sure, 42mm isn’t a huge diameter, but this is an “all-dial” design, so it wears larger than its diameter suggests. At 35mm and other smaller diameters, it gives the Tangente an unexpected amount of wrist presence. At 42mm, it dominates the wrist.
The 52.5mm lugs then extend to the very edges of my wrist. Because they stick straight out of the case before kinking over, they also feel quite high and frankly a bit precarious, like they could get caught on something as I pass by. While this harsh style works on a smaller case, here it feels a bit dangerous.
In terms of thickness, 11.2mm to the top of the sapphire is well proportioned for the width. Sure, the watch uses a notable thin movement at 3.2mm, but had this watch been much thinner, it could have felt too flat, and perhaps fragile. Plus, it does have the “sports” moniker which if nothing else would suggest some greater bulk, and at 300m likely needed it as well.
This is all to say that, yes, the Tangente Sport is indeed a large watch, and I’m not sure if it works as one. Throwing out what I expect from the brand, who really cares anyway, when a case is designed to function at 33, or 35, or even 38.5, it doesn’t necessarily work at 42mm because the proportions just scale up. While the mid-case is just a cylinder, which would work at any diameter, it’s the lugs that really cause an issue here. Unless you scale the wrist the watch is meant to go on proportionally, they just aren’t meant for large watches. They are blunt and harsh, which gives them a distinct and appealing look, but an equally distinct lack of ergonomics.
Flipping the watch over, the underside features a large diameter display window showing off the DUW6101 caliber inside. It’s a great looking movement and considering that it’s in-house and fully decorated not surprising that they’d want to show it off. That said, when you build a watch that boasts water resistance (even if not exceptionally high) a solid case-back would be more reassuring.
The upside to a larger case with an all-dial design is, well, a lot of dial. With an aperture diameter of 38.5mm, there really is a lot of it to enjoy, and in true Nomos style, what’s there is very appealing. The dial consists of a single flat surface in pale, near-matte silver, making it look paperwhite at some angles, slightly gray at others, and occasionally even a touch warm as it picks up different light sources. It’s a gorgeous surface that speaks to the level of watchmaking Nomos is known for.
If you’re familiar with the Tangente – or, the Ahoi, rather – the dial markings will come as no surprise. There is an index of large numerals for the even hours in an elegant typeface, alternating with thin, long, black lines. Around the outer edge of the dial is then a minute index with small, thin black lines and square lume plots at intervals of five in a warm, khaki lume (I’m hesitant to call it fauxtina as the watch is not trying to come off as vintage or aged in anyway). An element that used to be exclusive to the Ahoi, the lume plots, which add a pleasant contrast to the otherwise delicate black lines and type, are part of that sporty storyline.
In addition to the indexes, at six you’ll find 1000ft in red, calling out the depth rating the design has achieved. While 1,000 is a large number, it’s in feet and not meters, which is a bit odd to have on its own (and not as impressive as 1000m). Sure, I’m American, so I use feet (unfortunately), but unless you’re from the US, Myanmar, or Liberia (yes, I looked this up) meters is your standard. Perhaps this points to the Nomos’ intentions on making this watch for the US market, or perhaps they thought 1000 was just a much better number than 300. Either way, aesthetically it sits well on the dial and is a nice pop of color.
Just above this type is a large sub-seconds dial. A complication I’m always happy to see, this sub-seconds is quite massive to match the scale of the dial, giving it visual prominence. The sub-dial is stamped down, giving it a clean edge, and has concentric circle graining for a touch of texture. While featuring a stripped-down index, Nomos did fit 15, 30, 45, and 60 numerals in, giving it a technical and sporty look fitting with the theme.
At three is a date window that suits the watch rather well. While not a necessity on a sports watch, I think it was a good choice to include here as the large dial can take complications without seeming busy. Because of the DUW6101’s design, the date is also quite large and far away from the center of the dial, once again working with the watch’s overall size.
For the hour and minute hands Nomos once again borrowed from the Ahoi, utilizing its larger, lumeier, format for obvious legibility reasons. An appealing design, the hands have a monolith shape that allows for generous lume fill that glows well. Rather than matching with the khaki lume from the dial, here it’s a pale teal that adds a cool and attractive new color to the dial. Combined with the matte silver surface, warm lume plots, and that singular hint of red, the dial has a light and refreshing look that speaks to it being a warm weather watch meant to take in the water.