The Rise Of Ultra-Thin Calibres (And Why You Should Care) Part 2 of 3
Beavering away in a quaint corner of Saxony, NOMOS Glashütte – one of the industry’s faster-growing independents – made waves in 2015 with the release of the DUW 3001. This latest in-house movement was unlike those that had gone before it. Rather than being based on the ebouche kits NOMOS used in its earliest days, the DUW 3001 is a totally new calibre. It is also 3.2mm thick, which, for a production calibre, is staggering. Furthermore, the movement has chronometer-level accuracy, performing between +6/-1 seconds per day.
As a German brand and a company keen to make quality horology accessible to a wider audience, NOMOS Glashütte have never had their timepieces ratified by COSC in Switzerland. Aside from nationalistic pride, the cost of such a test is an exorbitant one that always falls at the feet of the end customer. Just to make sure, though, NOMOS put the DUW 3001 through the same testing, in-house.
I was curious as to how NOMOS has managed to produce a calibre of such slimness, with such accuracy, at such a price: The explanation comes down to design – design and patience.
NOMOS have been working on the DUW 3001 for eight years. In conjunction with the Dresden University of Technology, the calibre was designed from scratch. Early on it became apparent that in order to produce an accurate slim-line calibre, the components, most notably the mainplate and bridges, would need to be robust. The downside to that is that the space for the wheels and their respective end-shakes was crunched, meaning the wheels themselves would need to be thinner. That meant the material of the wheels needed to be changed to avoid the teeth being stripped as soon as the mainspring was wound. On that subject, it’s probably also worth mentioning that the level of friction placed on the wheels meant the pitch of teeth also had to be altered to stop the gear train from locking up.
Therein lies the true nature of watchmaking: A finicky craft that endlessly demands new concepts that must then be brought to life by the successful navigation of a series of self-generating problems. If that kind of puzzle excites you, a career behind the bench might be your calling!
Even if this protracted creation process doesn’t make you want to don your very own loupe, it’s certainly something to appreciate. The DUW 3001 and the other slim-line movements like it will be the starting points for their respective brands’ future developments. Shrinking the necessary core of a mechanical watch leaves room for the gimmicks and gadgets we’d grown tired of, but will no doubt hanker for again one day. Whatever follows immediately will probably take inspiration from the past, from the 20s to the 50s, from the heyday of classic wristwatches. But when the appeal of 35mm three-handers starts to dip, these super-fine movements will afford us a little bit of eccentricity without a return to the obscene.
Classicism and craziness… Bring on the future.