These days, only a handful of specialists know how to build one—their knowledge is either highly guarded or has simply been lost over time. There is no literature, no mathematic formula recorded, there are no tools to buy. Glashütte watchmakers of yesteryear used to have the expertise needed; however, the advent of the quartz revolution in the 1970s and ‘80s made the skills and equipment for the production effectively vanish from the town.
Those days are long over, people now once again appreciate the technical mastery and the beauty of mechanical watches—but many who once knew how to construct an escapement are no longer around to impart their knowledge. So NOMOS Glashütte decided to swing things around: Together with the Technical University of Dresden the company set out on the herculean task to develop an escapement of their own. And to become truly independent in the process.
Escapements are incredibly fine components; no other part within a mechanical watch reserves such a small margin of error. The balance and the balance spring must operate flawlessly in relation to each other’s individual properties; the escape wheel teeth must be perfectly concentric—the tiniest miscalculation means the entire escapement will not function at all. In short: many years of intense studies, elaborate experiments and failed prototypes lay ahead.
But giving up was never an option. The final escapement—called the NOMOS swing system—was unveiled at Baselworld in 2014, powering the NOMOS watch model Metro. NOMOS Glahütte was now officially capable of something that hardly any other company in the world was able to do: an in-house escapement, produced in series. “Managing to do this feels a little like landing on the moon” said Uwe Ahrendt. FAZ, the popular German newspaper, suggested that “even Apple were keeping a close eye” on the small watchmaking company from Glashütte.
Metro was only the first model powered by the NOMOS swing system. Since then, NOMOS has begun to equip all its calibers (all of which are of course built in-house) with the its swing system. Soon enough all NOMOS watches will have this tiny motor inside.