In this business, everyone has that one timepiece they’ve wanted but somehow has alluded them, the grail watch as many call it. For some the grail watch is a million dollar masterpiece from Patek, for others it could a vintage Speedy from Omega and still for some it could a limited edition G-Shock. Whatever your grail watch may be, you can certainly appreciate the thrill of the chase and ultimately the attainment of your dream watch. Collectors spend lifetimes searching for a piece that speaks to them only to be stymied by financial constraints and rarity or both. Whether you spend $100 or $1 million on your grail watch it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the time, research and above all else how that watch speaks to you as a collector.
From window shopping at boutiques across the East Coast to checking the brand website daily, this particular watch spoke to me in a way no watch has done before. Seeing this watch over and over again proved to be a motivating force behind my passion for watches. From awards to headlines in some of the most prestigious publications in the world, this watch was constantly in my face but out of reach. Just shy of the blog’s one year anniversary I had the opportunity to review my grail watch from a brand I have come to love, Nomos Glashütte. For those Ivy Time faithful, this should come as no surprise that Nomos is one of my favorite brands without question. What Nomos has managed to do with 200 employees tucked away in the eastern Ore Mountains is nothing short of amazing. If you don’t believe me let’s look at the facts. Nomos has won over 120 awards for their designs, created over a dozen in-house movements and an in-house escapement. That is just the tip of the iceberg, Nomos has accomplished so much more. As a point of reference, there are less than 20 companies in the world that produce in-house movements. It goes without saying that this relatively young company is in rarified air when it comes to the watch industry and they keep pushing the envelope.
For a brand that produces some of the most stylish Bauhaus inspired timepieces in the world it is an unlikely departure that my grail watch has maritime roots- the Nomos Ahoi. The Ahoi is the quintessential example of how well-thought-out design marries everyday functionality in its purest form. From the design of the strap, the movement, the crown and even the legibility of the dial- this watch is magnificent. There is so much to say about the Ahoi and I will try to do my best without writing a dissertation on the benefits of German watchmaking. If you couldn’t tell by now this review was my “Rocky Moment.” It was the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work and reader support, so thank you not only to Nomos but also to the many readers that have made the blog successful.
I truly believe that the Ahoi is everything one could ask for in a watch. At first glance, the strikingly handsome dial of the Ahoi captured my attention. Both dial variations, the Atlantic blue and the white silver-plated have a certain amount of depth that to be seen firsthand. “Depth” is a term that I use pretty frequently when talking about dials that capture and maintain the attention of the human eye. As with my last review, I mentioned the depth of the Dietrich OT-4 dial. Dietrich achieved depth by creating four separate layers on the dial however, Nomos didn’t need to go that far to accomplish this task. Nomos true to their minimalist roots kept the dial as simple as can be. Outside of the two dial variations, the Ahoi is available with and without a date window. I was able to spend some great on-wrist time with the non-date window white dial configuration. Now that I have sufficiently set the stage let’s dive right in and see what makes this watch great.
Dial- As previously stated, I was fascinated by the dial. The white silver-plated dial is galvanized and extremely high quality. While there are a few examples of white dial dive watches, they certainly aren’t the norm. Nomos could have easily stuck with the Atlantic blue but I think they took a risk here and it paid off. Personally, I find the white dial to be a tad more formal than the blue. In addition to the actual color of the dial itself, the overall color scheme of the indices and sub-dial really compliment the whole minimalist aesthetic. The small seconds sub-dial while highly legibly, blends seamlessly into the rest of the face. Outside of the red seconds hand, there are no visual outliers which makes the Ahoi highly legible.Simple put, there is nothing to distract your eye from reading the time.
Hands- The hour and minute hand are really strong elements of the dial especially when it comes to size and color. They are both rhodium-plated with superluminova inlay in light blue. All elements of the Ahoi design are truly functional. While I personally find the soft hue of blue as yet another hint at the Ahoi’s maritime roots, its purpose is not just aesthetic. The superluminova inlay glows impressively in the dark as expected from a dive watch of this caliber. Outside of color, the hands are ample enough in size to not confuse hour and minute hands. This may be such a minor detail but the size of watch hands can make or break legibility.
Case- Nomos spared no expense when manufacturing the Ahoi and the design of the case is yet another example of this universal truth. The 40mm stainless steel case on the wrist was notably larger than expected. Other reviewers have noted this phenomenon so let’s explore a number of reasons why this happens. Right off the bat, any wearer will notice the very small bezel and general flat presentation of the dial. Both of these factors contribute to the vast majority of the watch face being pure dial rather than dial and bezel. In the world of dive watches, bezels make a break a piece but I think Nomos managed to pull off the small bezel design pretty well. An additional factor that may cause the Ahoi to wear larger on the wrist is the height of the case. Coming in well shy of 11mm, the case which contains the Nomos in-house Epsilon movement is relatively thin which contributes to the flat wear on the wrist. For reference, the Rolex Submariner 114060 (the gold standard for dive watches) has a 40mm case but the case height is 13mm. The little details matter especially with the Ahoi. Just because the Ahoi felt larger than expected on the wrist doesn’t mean the watch was uncomfortable in anyway. Grail watch or not, comfort is huge for me. You could give me the most expensive watch in the world and ask me to wear it but if the size doesn’t feel right on the wrist, all is lost. I mean that as a slight exaggeration but true watch enthusiasts can attest to the importance of how the watch wears on the wrist. Whether it be case size, thickness or lugs, the right combinations of these elements are essential for a watch to earn a place on the wrist. If I were to go based on feel I would say the Ahoi wears like a 42-43mm watch which is perfectly fine. Usually that would be on the upper bound of what I prefer to wear daily but Nomos spent extra time making sure the case of Ahoi was done just right and we thank them for it.
Caseback- For true students of horology, the caseback may be the most impressive element of the watch because it showcases the movement. The sapphire glass crystal caseback exposes the Epsilon movement in all of its grandeur. Nomos designed the automatic winding Epsilon movement with an incredible amount of precision as they do with all their movements. Featuring a 43 power reserve, bidirectional winding rotor and 26 rubies, the Epsilon is by far one of the best in-house movements you can buy for the price. Visually it does not disappoint.
Crown- I enjoyed the design of the crown because of its tactile nature. In conjunction with the sloping crown guards, the overall presentation of the crown is very attractive and best of all functional. Personally, I found the crown guards to be really impressive. Both guards crest at the crown and slope back down to meld into the case. The unobtrusive nature of the crown and the crown guards show the immense amount of care Nomos put into the design.
Bezel- The bezel is almost non-existent. I didn’t measure it but I would say it is no more than a few millimeters thick at the very most. The subdued bezel is another reason why the dial stands out so much. Visually the dial doesn’t have to compete with a large bezel that would otherwise capture your attention.
Lugs- The angled lugs do the job and maintain the overall slim profile of the Ahoi. I can’t say much else without being repetitive.
Strap- The 20mm wide textile strap is certainly an homage to a fisherman's net and fittingly so. Breathable and light the strap is comfortable on the wrist. I put this watch through its paces on a very hot day with light physical activity and the strap held up fine however, there is one thing I should point out. The strap seems light almost to a fault. After finding just the right spot to puncture the netting, the strap lost some elasticity which was a bit surprising. In the aesthetics department the strap is right on the money but in terms of functionality I could see the strap leaving something to be desired after repeated everyday wear. With all of this on the table, I still haven’t made up my mind on what kind of strap would work best on the Ahoi in terms of function. Stainless steel is definitely out of the question, it just doesn’t jive with the Nomos ethos however, a high quality rubber might do the trick. I would definitely like to see Nomos go back and review the strap quality to make this amazing offering even better.
My grail watch did not disappoint in the least. The overall quality of Nomos products continues to leave me baffled and the Ahoi was no different. A true maritime watch at heart, the Ahoi blends attractive styling with function. The Ahoi is the only sport watch that Nomos manufactures and that distinction carries with it some weight. A departure from its younger and more collegial brother, the Club, the Ahoi is a matured and accomplished sibling. Behind the Ahoi is one of the many in-house movements that Nomos has gained international fame for. If the in-house movement didn’t bring you to at least consider the Ahoi, you probably were attracted to the design. A restrained combination of colors on the dial maintain the subdued personality of the Ahoi while remaining a competent on wrist companion. The Atlantic blue variation is just as handsome if not more than the white dial variation. At home on any wrist during the summer months, the 200m depth rating will ensure that this watch can accompany the most adventurous among us who take this watch beneath the surface. Although I would like to add that I don’t think the Ahoi is in the same category as some dive watches from big name brands like Omega, Tudor and Rolex. In the durability department I wouldn’t consider the Ahoi a pure dive watch although it has that capability. Outside of my grip with the textile strap which I would like to say is very comfortable on the wrist, the Ahoi was perfect. For those seeking a sporty watch with pedigree, this watch is for you without a doubt. While still out of my budget, the Ahoi is certainly affordably priced for its high quality. Slightly over $4k USD, the Ahoi is not cheap by any means but then again in-house movements aren’t cheap either, you pay for what you get and then some. To be one of twenty companies in the world that produce such technology is truly astounding. This wasn’t a paid advertisement, I didn’t benefit from singing the praises of this German brand to the masses. I gave what I believe to be a honest assessment of one of the finest watch brands in the world and my favorite watch on the market. Guys this is my grail watch and I am proud to say that. Some have Patek, others may have IWC, but for the moment I have Nomos. If I haven’t convinced you take a look at this brand, see for yourself. The proof is in the product.
For more information on the Ahoi, check it out here- http://www.nomos-glashuette.com/the-watches/ahoi/ahoi/
Nomos Ahoi (No-Date) Watch Specifications
Case- Stainless steel, bipartite
Case Dimension- 40mm diameter, 10.64mm height
Crystal- Sapphire crystal glass
Case-back- Sapphire crystal glass
Dial- Galvanized, white silver-plated, hour indexes with superluminova
Features- Minute, hour, small seconds
Movement- Epsilon (in-house built Nomos caliber)
Strap- Textile strap black with winged clasp, lug width 20 mm
Water Resistance- 20 ATM
Retail- $4060 USD