Nomos Glashütte’s Berlin Design Agency, Berlinerblau

An in-house studio driving watch design forward while holding true to the brand's signature elements

In Kreuzberg, Berlin—set high above the banks of the Landwehr Canal—German luxury watch brand Nomos Glashütte maintains their in-house design agency: Berlinerblau. The long, open-concept office extends from one side of the building to the other, with large windows filtering in plenty of natural light. For years now, staff designers (and guests such as industrial designer Mark Braun) present their vision for future collections here. Decisions receive approval and are sent along to Nomos’ production house in Glashütte, Germany—the historic birthplace of German watchmaking. A visual appraisal of any Nomos timepiece reveals very modern design elements including use of vibrant colors and contemporary fonts. But there’s a minimalism underlying every watch that employs classic, relatable attributes. There are thousands of watch brands out there but nothing is quite like Nomos and it’s that dual German identity at its core.

In an industry where a half-millimeter matters—or a sharper curve, heavier lug or a degree of color—Berlinerblau represents Nomos’ commitment to design. As they make clear, however, “Design is very important to the brand, but so is caliber and mechanics.” The internal components undeniably impact the structural language of each piece. But one of the most telling portions of Berlinerblau happens to be a wall unit with drawer upon drawer of watch faces. In search of perfection, the design team produces face after face with slight variation in color, font and font sizing. Indicators vary slightly. And the design team is quick to point out the final product in each drawer. One small tweak begets a substantially different end result. Here, these drawers are used as reference points—designers can simply rise from their desks and look back at what worked—and what didn’t.

From a color swatch Tetra poster to 3D mood boards, inspiration can be found in every corner. Regarding the latter, there’s an intention to convey the essence of future watches, from leather to metal and more. Watches in different stages of production linger just about everywhere. As with most creative studios around the globe, people are not afraid to stand up, seek something out or ask a question. It’s definitely possible that this atmosphere also weighs upon the playfulness of Nomos’ design.

In September, Nomos announced a new colorway across their Neomatik range. Nachtblau (or midnight blue) now adorns four timepieces: the Metro, designed by the aforementioned Braun; the Minimatik; the Tangente Neomatik; and square-shaped Tetra Neomatik. This carefully considered dial treatment reflects a years-long movement in watch design embracing the color blue as a new classic. This particular blue lends each piece a vibrance, kept in check by the smaller millimeter sizes of each watch in these lines. Altogether, there are 12 different watch series falling under the Nomos banner—and eight movements divided up between them all. With prices starting around $1,900, these also aren’t entirely out of reach for those committing to an out-of-the-ordinary dress watch.

While design extends from Berlin, the role of Glashütte means a lot to each watch, so much so that it factors into the brand’s very name. This is due to Nomos’ commitment to in-house movements since 2005. Almost 10 years later, Nomos released its own in-house escapement—the Nomos Swing System. From its inception in 1990 until its 10th in-house calibre unveiled earlier this year, the brand has proven to be more than Bauhaus-inspired costume jewelry. These are refined, manual-winding and automatic timepieces. In a conference room flooded with light, a small model of the Saxon town rests in a corner—a constant reminder of production’s gravity.

Within Berlinerblau, a gatekeeper exists. Her name is Judith Borowski. The former journalist now maintains the title of Creative Head at Nomos Glashütte. Her “yes or no” determines whether or not a design fits within the brand—and if it moves forward “I think this not such a big deal,” she explains to CH. “It’s more like a feeling, that everything fits together well. I think we are doing the things we like and it’s our lives that we are putting into this brand. We make watches for ourselves and our friends. There’s no big secret behind it.” From the cohesion of each collection, and in turn, those collections with relation to one another, it’s easy to spot a Nomos on someone’s wrist. For us, it’s just as easy to love them when we see them.

Images by David Graver