Long Term Review is a series through which I take a closer look at a product that I’ve used for an extended period of time. Because of my experience using these products, I believe I have a unique and more detailed perspective on it. This allows me to provide insight on the product that would not be illuminated if only given a week or less with it.
The Nomos Tangente 35 is a watch that I fell in love with ever since my first encounter with it. As a shameless wannabe minimalist, I’ve been drawn to its bauhaus-inspired aesthtic and ‘form follows function’ marketing mantra. I mean, look at all those kids with their fancy pourover coffee setups and I-just-got-out-of-bed hairdo. It’s not wrong wanting to be them, right? I thought, y’know, if I had one of these here hipster watches I could be cool!
Anywhos, I’ve worn this watch for an extended time and I’ve developed a lot of thoughts about it. Like 3000 words a lot. So here’s my take on this wonderful little watch!
Model Number: Nomos Tangente 35 Reference 139
Movement: Nomos Alpha (modified ETA/Pesaux 7001)
Case Material: 316L Stainless Steel
Glass Material: Sapphire Crystal
Caseback Material: Sapphire Crystal
Lug Width: 18mm
Diameter/Height: 35 mm/6.6 mm
Water Resistance: 30 meters
Price: $2180 including free 5-day shipping
Where to Buy: Nomos Store
The Tangente 35’s case is 35mm in diameter, slighly less then 7mm in height and made from 316L stainless steel. The case itself is very svelte and sits very low to the wrist, an aesthetic I’ve come to enjoy among the sea of giant watches. The case is light on the wrist and very comfortable to wear for an extended period of time.
As seen in the picture above, the case is a three-part construction (tripartite) that consists of the top case (bezel and crystal), middle case (case flank and lugs) and the sapphire caseback. This construction style means that there are two seams on the case between each of the parts. The seam that goes around the case plays the role of breaking up the visual mass of the case and and adding a detail on the case, but the tolerance on the seam is not great. Running my fingers along the seam from bottom to top, I found that there was an obvious bump. This means that the top case is ever so slightly larger than the middle case. I’ve never actually seen a tolerance problem on a watch I’ve handled ever so this is quite worrying.
The case is finished in high polish all over. This makes the watch stand out on the wrist despite its size as it reflects light very easily from the case flanks. However, because the whole thing is polished, the watch attracts micro-scratches very easily that tarnishes the polishing. The relative softness of 316L steel does not help this either.
The lugs are a twice-angled affair with the first part sticking straight out from the case and the second bending downwards to better fit the curvature of the wrist. Because the lugs extend far out from the case and are finished in high polish, the Tangente looks much bigger on the wrist than its 35mm diameter would indicate. The two separate angles of each lug also means that they reflect light in different ways from different angles, making the watch stand out despite its small stature. However, the long and slim lug design means that the lugs may bend easily when a force is applied on them. That has not been my experience, but it’s something to be wary about.
The simple, thin, and bezel-less design of the Tangente makes it adapt to different strap options very well. It’s near-Daniel Wellington (and I mean that in a good way) ability of matching with any strap you put on it makes it a very versatile watch to wear. Want a hipster aesthetic? Put a suede strap on. Need it for business? The black cordovan strap is perfect for that. Want to look like you’re wearing a Daniel Wellington? Put a nato on that. I kid, but this aspect of the Tangente is very useful, especially if this watch is your only watch. I’ve personally worn this watch in many occasions but I’ve never felt the watch was out of place.
Speaking about straps, the Tangente’s lugs use a pin hole spring bar system that makes it easy to change straps on the fly. All you need is a toothpick (or similar tool) to compress the spring bar from the outside to get the spring bar out. No need to fuss with a spring bar tool that may scratch up your lugs. This feature helps a lot when cleaning the dust off the crevices between the case and the lugs (which you will be doing a lot of if you want to keep your watch clean). However, this spring bar system means that there is a small hole through each lug which ruins the visual coherence of the lugs. Not that big of a deal for me — I take strap changeability over that minor aesthetic gripe any day — but it could be for you.
Because the lugs and the case has that sharply-angled aesthetic, their edges (of which there are many) are easy to ding and nick. I’m usually very careful with my watches, but my Tangente has already developed a few nicks on the top case bezel. Chamfers or rounded edges which would fix this issue would look out of place in a watch like this. It’s just something Tangente (and Nomos in general) owners will have to live with.
Overall, the case while plain, has just enough detail to make it attractive. Durability is an issue though, and you can only polish that thin of a watch so many times.
The Tangente’s dial base is made out of galvanized steel plated in silver, which gives it a sparkly texture when viewed from certain angles. Looking at the dial closely, I don’t see any flaws to the plating; the texture is consistent throughout the dial. This choice of dial is much welcomed compared to a plain white dial found on many dress watches as it creates a visual interest on the dial base. I find myself rotating my wrist to see how the Tangente reacts to light in different angles. I don’t get that same enjoyment from other white dials like the one on the Rolex Explorer II. It’s an excellent dial base that the rest of the dial builds upon.
The silver dial base is printed with a nice and glossy black for the arabic numerals and stick markers. The typography on both the numerals and text is generally excellent, with all the printing well-spaced, well-sized and well-centered. You can tell that significant thought was put into designing every part of the dial to make it aesthetically pleasing, and aesthetically pleasing it sure is.
All three of the hours, minutes and seconds hands are also real heat-blued hands and not the chemically-dyed kind. The hands have a nice shade of blue that adds a dash of color to the otherwise monochrome dial. It’s also nice knowing that the Nomos watchmakers went through the effort to heat blue the hands as it adds value to the watch. A completely superficial reasoning, but I like knowing that a lot of time was spent on making my watch.
The hands also have just the right length, being just long enough to pass over their respective glossy black markers, but not too long as to obstruct them. This makes it easy to make out the time at a glance and shows that the minor details were not afterthoughts even on a budget-friendly watch like this one.
The thin and flat crystal is low to the dial, making enjoying that wonderful dial from at angles distortion-free during the day. However, there is no lume on the dial and the hands do not reflect light so reading the dial in the dark is practically impossible. This is not a big deal for me because I have a phone for that, though it may be a feature that is sorely missed for some folks. Come to think of it, I have a phone for daytime time reading too. Why do I wear a watch again?
Existential crises aside, one thing I would say about the dial design is that it is a distinctly Nomos one, unmistakable for any other brand and instantly recognizable by watch geeks the world around. While not an original Nomos design, Nomos has done a good job designing then marketing this dial to make it their own. It’s an iconic dial design that is timeless and will stand the test of time. Bravo, Nomos.
In my opinion, in determining the aesthetic qualities of a watch, the dial is the most important part. This is even more true in the case of the Tangente where the dial is 90% of what you see in the watch headon. Thankfully, while sterile, the dial is well thought out, iconic and detailed enough that it’s worth staring at from time to time. I’m a big fan of the dial design (if you can’t tell already from this strangely positive section of the review).
On a manual watch like the Tangente, the crown is a very important part of the watch as it is the part you will interact with the most. As such, the combination of good size and comfortable ribbing of the crown has to be just right to make it a fun daily experience.
In the case of the Tangente, the crown is very small. It is just big enough for me to to grip the crown and wind it, but any smaller and that would be too difficult of a task. I would have preferred if the diameter were slightly larger, but too much that it ruins the minial aesthetic of the watch. This is a serious issue though. They claim to be a company that abides by the ‘form follows function’, bauhaus-esque philosophy, but the crown size is clearly not that.
Another (albeit small) complaint I have with the crown is that the Nomos signature on the crown is laser engraved in a way that disappears in certain lights. At this price point, I would have preferred a stamped signature instead of the laser engraving we have on the Tangente. If other brands in this price range like Oris, Sinn, Tudor and Longines can do it, why can’t Nomos?
The ribbing on the side of the crown, on the other hand, is very nice. It’s sharp enough to create a grippy surface, but not too sharp that I hurt my fingers winding the watch. No complaints here.
The stock strap is a black Horween shell cordovan strap that tapers from 18mm at the lugs to 16mm at the buckle. The buckle is a tang-styled one with a laser engraved Nomos insignia. The strap is stitched together with a matching black thread that blends in with the strap’s black color. While nice, the stitching is a bit too tight as some points, but that’s not too big a deal.
Shell cordovan is well-known (and overhyped) in the shoe collecting community for having superior toughness, nice aging and a high-shine look. The application of cordovan here is a welcomed one. The strap is soft, pliable and molds to the wrist very easily like a suede strap would, while still holding its structure unlike suede. The leather loops are also not too thick as to add pressure on the underside of the wrist. A watch’s strap plays a huge part in the watch’s wearability and comfort, and Nomos did it right with this one.
The glossy black shell also makes for a nice business/dress strap that would go well in more formal occasions. In more casual settings though, I found the strap to be out of place and incompatible with many kinds of outfits. Thankfully, the Tangente wears other straps well (as mentioned in the Case section of this review) and will fit other occasions besides the rough and tumble if need be.
Once the stock strap is worn out, you can purchase a new one with the Nomos signed buckle for 80 Euros on Nomos’ web store, which is not expensive by any means relative to OEM straps from other brands. I would even go so far as to recommend this strap as a replacement strap for other slimmer profile watches as I love this strap a lot.
The movement under the hood of the Tangente 35 is the Nomos caliber Alpha, a glorified ETA/Pesaux 7001. I’m not knocking the movement though; it’s a solid movement that should be easy to service by any watchmaker worth the candle. What I am knocking is the terminology used by Nomos to describe the movement. While the movement is made in-house by Nomos, they’re not clear about the fact that the movement is not one of their own design. While some parts were redesigned by Nomos, it shares the same basic design as the ETA version. It’s one of those things that a lot of brands with ebauche movements do, but that does not make it right. A consumer may be misled into thinking that they’re getting additional ‘value’ over the competition by having an in-house designed and manufactured movement.
That aside, Nomos has done some pretty good work on the movement, especially for the price. It is supposedly adjusted to 6 positions through the Trivois adjustment system, which to my calculations is a lot of positions. More accurately, it’s one more than 5 positions. More is better right?
Anecodotally, the watch was accurate enough that I didn’t notice much time shift day-to day. For me, because I don’t wear a single watch every day for an extended period, an accuracy better than +/- 20 – 30 seconds a week is good enough. This watch definitely surpasses that in my testing, running well within COSC specs throughout my ownership of it. Nomos’ claim of a 43 hours power reserve also holds true, which is nice.
Hacking seconds is present which is nice. Better than Patek Phillipe confirmed? Winding action is also nice enough. It’s not the smoothest winding experience nor the nicest tactile response, but it’s about average for a manual watch at any price.
In terms of servicing, Nomos recommends the Tangente be serviced every 5 years. Nomos offers a complete overhaul of the watch for 220 Euros. It’s an above average price to pay for servicing such a simple manual winding watch, but when compared to the competition the price is very reasonable. I would still use my go-to watchmaker for this though to save some cash.
The caseback has a slight convex shape to it that goes against the curvature of the wrist. This is not my preferred caseback shape as the caseback adds pressure to the wrist when strapped down tightly, but a curved caseback is probably too much to ask at this price point.
The movement seen through the caseback is also very small relative to the case. This is another pet peeve of mind especially for movements that claim to be in-house. A movement that’s that much smaller than the case speaks ‘compromise’ to me. The newer movements that Nomos has been putting out do a much better job at that, which is nice. I hope to see those newer movements proliferate throughout their product line, even on the smaller watches like this one.
In traditional Glashutte fashion, the movement has a 3-quarter plate construction that covers everything but the escapement and a bit of the going train. The finishing on the movement is nice for the price. Looking through the caseback, we see Glashutte ribbing on the plates, perlage on the base plate, swirled sunbursting on the power train wheels, heat-blued screws, chamfers on the edges of the bridges and countersunk screw/jewel holes.
The well-decorated movement is kind of a novelty feature, though. It’s something nice to show your non-watch friends to explain why mechanical movements are a cool thing, and you may get a kick out of it for the first few weeks of owning it. I would look at the caseback quite a bit at the start, but nowadays I find myself staring into the dial more instead. I would still recommend the $280 sapphire case back upgrade
because I’m a normie, but I don’t think it’s a necessary feature if you’re strapped for cash.
Because of how thin the case is, the ticking sound coming from the pallet fork/escapement interaction can be heard from as far as 14 inches away if unobstructed. I would be working on something on my computer and I would hear the ticking sound eminating from the Nomos. I kinda like the sound when working so it’s not a big deal for me, but have this by your bedside table and it will be a problem.
Buying the Watch
Outside of Germany, Nomos has a relatively small retail presence which makes it difficult to just drive down to an authorized dealer to get a feel of their range. Nomos works around this issue by offering a 14-day no questions asked refund when ordering from their online. This means that potential buyers can try on Nomos watches and return if it doesn’t work for them. This is an awesome thing to see, so PLEASE DO NOT exploit Nomos’ graces as it would increase their cost of operation.
Buying through the store is also a very simple process. After placing the order, it took the watch 5 days to reach my doorstep from Germany. Impressive.
The inherent value contained in this watch is way higher than its price tag would indicate. The Tangente packs a super detailed and well-designed dial, true heat-blued components, a well-finished and well-regulated movement, all for under $2500.
Nomos has since moved up the value chain, releasing watches in the Omega/Tudor/Tag price bracket instead of the Longines/Oris/Baume price bracket it used to occupy with the Tangente/Ludwig/Tetra generation of watches. With Nomos releasing new watches at that higher price bracket, Nomos has placed itself in competition with those more premium brands in the eyes of the consumer. This continued association with higher end brands makes Nomos seem like a more premium brand, making the Tangente even more of a steal.
In the secondary market, though, the Tangente doesn’t fare as well. With prices for one with full box and papers hovering between $900 – $1200 (as of 2018), that means the Tangente takes a huge hit in its resale value when worn. But, that also means that getting one preowned is a ridiculous value play — in my opinion the best out there at or around the $1000 mark. Compared to other semi-dress/casual watches at the $2500 retail/$1000 aftermarket range, the Tangente 35 takes the top spot.
When it comes down to it, the only thing that seperates a buy and a no-buy decision on teh Tangente is the look. It’s a polarizing design that may not sit well with some. There are some downsides to the watch like the crown design, case tolerances and durability, but I can look past those at this price. So, if you dig the aesthetic, and boy do I dig it, the watch is a no brainer at this price point.
So, if you’re looking for a watch with ridiculous value under $2500, an iconic dial that will stand the test of time, a modern look yet with vintage proportions and a versatile wearability, the Nomos Tangente is the watch for you.
You can pick one up from Nomos’ web store here.