Defending the Nomos Club Campus:
How Do You Do, Fellow Kids?
By: Fred Nicolaus
You guys remember the Omega Beatmaster right?
Designed to capitalize on the rise of EDM culture, the Beatmaster was launched at Baselworld 2006 with a mini-rave DJed by Tiesto. Omega made a short promotional video starring Moby, demonstrating how the chronograph functionality could be used to time beats per minute. Tents were sponsored at Ultra, and the brand took out full-page ads in SPIN and URB. It was a full-court marketing press to make the Beatmaster the watch of the molly generation.
Dumb watch, right? You’d never buy it, right?
Of course, the Beatmaster never existed. That’s just a Speedmaster in the image above. So why did I waste twenty minutes of my day photoshopping it into a fake ad? To make a point about the degree to which marketing shapes the way we think and feel about a product that has very few tangible inherent qualities, i.e. watches. Which brings me to what I really want to talk about: The Nomos Club Campus.
Released at Basel 2017, the Campus is an extension of Nomos’ Club line, the German brand’s entry-level collection. The basic stats: an in-house manual movement (the “Alpha” caliber), two size options (36 and 38mm), 100M water resistance, and a “California Dial” that mixes Arabic and Roman numerals, all for a starting price of $1,500. In short, you have a quality piece of German engineering, a design that exemplifies Nomos’ playful minimalism, and a (relatively) sane price.
On paper, the Nomos Club Campus is a lovable watch. Why then was it greeted with a relative shrug of indifference by the watch press, and much grumbling in the all-important comments section? Well, let’s meet Aaron.
The Nomos Club Campus’ marketing gimmick is implied by its name: this is a “graduation watch.” To drive the point home, Nomos offered free caseback engraving (the sample messages are all of the “Congrats Emma! Way to go! – Your Parents” variety). On their website, they even provide “case studies”: three well-dressed German youths who will be wearing their Club Campuses while doing wholesome, vaguely artsy postgraduate activities like studying architecture or biking through the Alps.
Now, clearly, all of this is aimed not at the kids themselves, but at parents who have the Euros to shell out. They would prefer to think of their progeny wearing a fancy watch to a fancy job rather than the more common European postgraduate activity of living on the dole by day and throbbing to dubstep/ketamine by night. But even so, all of this “sup kids, you down with mainsprings right?!” marketing for the Nomos Campus rubbed many in the #watchfam the wrong way.
Positioning a watch as a “graduation watch” is a risky proposition. For one, nothing inherent to a watch’s design can plausibly relate to the depressing process of leaving school and walking out into the cruel cruel world. No bezel can help you sort through job listings, and no chronograph can help you find a halfway clean roommate. So the association of a particular model with the concept of “graduation” is always going to feel strained at best.
The other fallacy of the “graduation watch” that the Nomos Campus brings up is more philosophical, but no less important. Watches signal adulthood and maturity. There is a very short time in a person’s life when wearing a “kid’s watch” is desirable, and it ends roughly at age eight. From then on, you’re wearing grown-up watches to come across more grown up. Marketing a timepiece explicitly “for young people” is misguided and oxymoronic. It overlooks a weird truth: watches are one of the few products young people use to feel older.
Which is all too bad, because I really really dig the Nomos Club Campus. I’m a low-key Germanophile (my Dad is german, I speak a little of the language, love Berlin, blah blah) and so as long as I’ve been into horology, I’ve been intrigued by Nomos Watches. There’s something undeniably cool about this upstart band of Germans in black sweaters and round glasses, building their own movements in a little rural village. However, some of the brand’s minimalist masterpieces, to my philistine eyes, just come across as “sorta expensive white watches.”
The Club Campus is different. It has the typical Nomos-ian restraint, but with its “bilingual” dial, its bright orange accents and its slathering of superluminova, it’s….well, it’s just showy enough. And though the Campus is literally Nomos’ cheapest piece, it falls about at the exact upper tier of what I can conceivably spend on a watch without feeling insane.
So I bought one, direct from Nomos. It arrived a couple of weeks ago in a wooden box with a handwritten note: “Greetings from Glashüttte!” I’ve worn it every day since then, and love it more with each precise, German-engineered tick of its neon seconds hand. In short: fellow kids, don’t let bad marketing get in the way of a good watch.
Please Note: 2nd, 3rd, and 4th photographs are sourced from: https://nomos-glashuette.com/en