Merlin Schwertner, vice-president of Nomos Glashütte in North America, wants to build on the successes of the 80 stores that stock the brand’s watches in this country, but understands he needs to break down resistance to German watchmaking in general in order to get his message heard.
Nomos Glashütte has almost 80 stockists in the United States right now, a community that appreciate the German watchmaker’s build quality, minimalist styling and affordable luxury positioning. It is a bit of a cult brand around the world, and has a particularly strong fan base among journalists — a fact that keeps Nomos watches in the public eye without the business needing to pour money into advertising.
“We are not a brand that invests heavily in marketing; rather, we believe in steadily increasing our brand awareness by having customers discovering Nomos Glashütte and sharing their enthusiasm by word of mouth — with families, friends, and at work. The media coverage we are enjoying thanks to recent awards, as well as famous Nomos fans such as [architect] Daniel Libeskind and [novelist] Gary Shteyngart, help to raise the profile of our brand,” says Merlin Schwertner, vice-president of Nomos Glashütte in North America.
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Potential partners rarely like to hear that brands do not invest in marketing, particularly watchmakers like Nomos that have very little public recognition, but Mr Schwertner insists that the watches speak for themselves and create their own buzz.
“When approaching retailers, we have one consistent message to share: Nomos watches represent a well-crafted and designed product positioned at the entry level price point for luxury timepieces. Furthermore, we are very easy and reliable to work with as a brand since we are relatable — as a family business, just like many of our retailers,” he suggests.
Nomos also has to overcome a lack of enthusiasm for German watchmaking in the United States. WatchPro has even heard of retailers asking another German brand to remove the wording “Made in Germany” from its dials because it lacks the cachet of Swiss.
“The North American market is one of our most important, which is why we have focused our efforts to grow steadily and consistently,” says Mr Schwertner. “Aside from Nomos Glashütte as a brand, German watchmaking does not yet enjoy the strong reputation that it has in Europe. That said, our presence is increasing with almost 80 retail locations in more than 20 different US states. The strength of our retail network is thanks to the openness with which we have been received and the quality of the products we are offering,” he adds.
Some of the country’s most powerful stockists work with Nomos including Tourneau, London Jewelers, Hyde Park Jewelers and Shreve & Co. It is even working again with Wempe after a resolving a disagreement last year that led to the brand being pulled from Wempe stores worldwide.
These are reference accounts that the brand can use to encourage additional retailers into the fold.
To plug the gaps in the 30 US states that do not have representation, Nomos has a modern ecommerce store serving customers and promoting the brand. “We are a mid-sized German company, and do not yet have a global retailer market that is extensive enough to reach every potential Nomos customer. For them, and especially our younger customers, an online retail presence is essential,” Mr Schwertner suggests.
2019 is a big year for Nomos and many other German watchmakers that are disciples of the Bauhaus design movement because it is the 100th anniversary since its birth. “The core Bauhaus principle that form follows function is also fundamental to the design approach at Nomos Glashütte,” Mr Schwertner explains. “The straightforward aesthetic of Tangente, for example, gives the watch a clear legibility—allowing it to fulfil its primary function of time-telling. The result is a timepiece that is both useful and aesthetically pleasing with an iconic design that has retained its appeal for over twenty-five years,” he adds.
This year the company is promoting a new range of sports models, not an obvious category for a watchmaker specializing in Bauhaus minimalism. The trick, says Mr Schwertner, is to bring a Nomos interpretation to classic design categories such as racing and diving.
“When our design team is considering a new sports model, the starting point is a series of questions: What is the essence of this timepiece? What is essential for the wearer, and what could they do without? Take Tangente Sport, for example, which offers exceptional water resistance to 30 atm but does not feature a rotating bezel. The result is a robust sports watch with the unmistakably minimalist aesthetic that customers have come to expect from Nomos Glashütte,” he explains.
Waterproofing a watch does not make it a dive watch, most would argue, but a microscopically small number of dive watch wearers will ever use features like unidirectional bezels counting down the time they have been underwater. What Nomos is aiming at is the boardroom to beach customer that just wants to strap on a steel watch and forget about it.
“Customers that are looking for a robust watch that is also elegant enough for the office. The new sports watches are true all-rounders, in that they are built to cope with challenging environments but won’t look out of place with a suit and tie either,” Mr Schwertner describes.
Nomos is a true manufacturer with its own movements produced in the eastern German village of Glashütte. All its watches are mechanical, and Mr Schwertner believes are the perfect gateway timekeeper for younger customers looking to move from no watch or a smartwatch into the more traditional mechanical watchmaking world.
“We believe that the demand for high quality mechanical wristwatches will remain—and that young people of today will become the luxury watch consumers of tomorrow. Although smartphones, smartwatches, and other electronics have noticeably impacted the younger generation’s lifestyle, the usage of such devices is also changing. There is a noticeable trend towards digital detoxing and sustainability, a desire for privacy and security, and a high appreciation for handcraft and tradition. At Nomos, we create watches to be worn for the decades to come and will continue to do so; these characteristics are integral to our brand,” he concludes.