NOMOS Orion 1989 Long Term Review

An Important Watch which Commemorates One of Modern History’s Most Defining Moments

On February 28th, I wrote an article titled “When Wrist Shots Matter: an open letter to the #WatchFam community to continue their habit of photographing their watches and do so mindfully.” It was in reaction to the severe level of depression that we all felt with the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces that started a few days earlier. Droves of the wristwatch enthusiast community, myself included, were understandably despondent. I had altered what I posted, most of which gravitated away from wristwatches, and so did many. It was not until I reached for my NOMOS Orion 1989 that my perspective on the matter shifted. This NOMOS was initially released to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I will not go over its historical significance, its importance and how it was not lost on me as a child, and how this photograph by Josef Koudelka during the invasion of the Czech Republic by the Soviet army, for that is an entire article in itself.


However, we will go over how this NOMOS wears, the current state of the brand and its offerings, and whether you should entertain buying the older Alpha movement models from the beloved brand from Glashüette, Germany.


On the Wrist

As tempting as it is to summarize this entire section into one sentence saying that “it wears incredibly well,” I’ll expand on how it does, and if it does not, how NOMOS has you covered. First, as NOMOS’ decidedly most formal dress watch, the Orion hugs your wrist, and due to the compression of tightening the strap, it has a wrist-to-crystal height of negative 2mm. This can, of course, be even more if you have a particularly meaty wrist. This is possibly the best watch I have ever worn for formal dress shirts with skin-tight cuffs. The only issue I have heard from others is that they are not fans of the long lugs on the Orion and most watches by NOMOS. This does not pose an issue in practice on my 6.75″ wrist and that of others whose wrists are larger. NOMOS dedicatedly makes a smaller version of the Orion with a case width of 33mm for those with smaller wrists. Such knee-jerk judgments on a timepiece’s proportions do not hold up in reality. I made a trip to a NOMOS authorized dealer to compare the lugs of the various models, the finishing levels, and how they vary amongst the rather hefty price range that NOMOS occupies. Many of the models on offer now have shorter or ordinary wire lugs. The Tangente retains the longer and exaggerated lugs, but this criticism certainly does not apply to every NOMOS, especially the Orion.


The classical design proportions of a watch’s lug width being half of the diameter of the case is why these lugs work well when worn and handled in person. First, they allow for the taper needed to accommodate the necessary clearance for the strap. Second, these appropriately sized lugs permit the gradual and elegant thin lugs to flow unobtrusively from the case to the strap. This makes the lugs essentially disappear when worn on a busy day. This criticism of the long lugs may be more appropriate for other models in the brand’s line up which have straight lugs, such as the Tangente as mentioned earlier or Ahoi. I have never had an issue with any of the models from NOMOS regarding their long lugs. However, the major attraction to this specific model may provide a challenge in certain environments, and that is the dial.


NOMOS Orion 1989 Specs

Case Width




Case Thickness


Lug Width


Water Resistance



Velour Strap









Dial Details

The “November Grey” dial on the Orion 89 is gorgeous. What makes it beautiful and distinctive amongst the many Orion skews on offer also makes its legibility in some environments challenging. The specific pigment of grey was chosen to represent the dark concrete on the Berlin Wall and the repression it inflicted upon East Germany. However, when looking at the dial, there is a fine texture that deadens the impact of incoming light. This has two contrasting effects. In dim environments, the gold indices (hold on to that thought for a moment) can not rely on the dial for any assistance to reflect much light to the wearer’s eyes. The absence of any anti-reflective coating also makes this worse. In environments such as the outdoors on a sunny day, the excess light will overwhelm the muted dial, and the thin indices and hands will disappear on most viewing angles. NOMOS proudly mentioned in their marketing material at the timepiece’s release that they had used twice the amount of gold on the hands and indices. Though they look striking in person, they suffer from the same legibility issues that plague the other Orion models.


On the other hand, when in mixed lighting conditions with multiple light sources, the indices and hands brilliantly glimmer, thus catching your eye from every angle. When not overwhelmed by a single light source, such as the sun, the Orion 1989 is very legible. Besides the gold indices at every five-minute interval, the minute makers, small-seconds subdial markers, and logo are all printed in fine silver. The silver printing will also either be highly visible or tend to disappear depending on your environment.


After owning and wearing this watch for many years, the only thing which I would ask for is for the sapphire crystal to have an anti-reflective coating on its underside. This would aid legibility, but admittedly it would also diminish the watch’s mission statement, which is to be a dress watch and thus as far on the jewelry spectrum as possible.


Case, a Special Note About the Straps, and Movement

This jewelry theme is carried over onto the very finely polished and finished stainless steel case. Every surface is polished, and transitions are kept to a minimum, thus making this high level of finishing on this watch possible for this price point. This brings us to an important topic about the brand: its history and value proposition. We will go over this in more detail in the final thoughts section of the review, but the brand’s success can be traced back to some clever marketing and its Alpha movement, which is still in use today.


The 17 jewel Alpha movement is derived from the Peseux 7001. The Peseux is a movement used in watchmaking schools for students to practice and is generally considered a very basic and entry-level movement. This led many people to undermine the movement and not give credit to NOMOS. This was not only due to some malice of unknown origin; it has to do with the term “in-house” and its many vague interpretations. NOMOS builds these movements and added many refinements to the base Peseux. These improvements include hacking seconds, a German three-quarter plate, blued screws, and a well-finished movement with Glashüette strips.
In contrast, the back of the movement is finished in a fine Glashüette solar grinding. This finishing of this rhodium-plated movement holds up under a high-powered loupe and is a joy to watch during life’s quieter moments that allow the wearer to take it off and admire the simple and refined movement. The simplicity of this entire watch allowed NOMOS to achieve this level of refinement, typically reserved for watches that cost twice as much.


NOMOS built its brand on “democratic pricing” and on bringing “fine watchmaking” at a more affordable price. They certainly succeeded at this, and many years later, NOMOS offers watches that greatly range in price and capabilities. I have had this Orion for more than five years, and though it was only worn a handful of times every year, it is still accurate to -3 to +5 seconds a day. Vibrating at 21,600 vibrations per hour, the simple ticking noise of the moment provides a calming acoustic experience.


The well-proportioned crown has the NOMOS logo etched on it and is shaped perfectly. As a manual wound watch, the crown’s shape, contours, and size are paramount to the enjoyment of the timepiece. Its winding motion is tactile, smooth, quiet, and refined in its audible and physical feedback. The jewel-like knurling is spaced out and dull enough to provide more than adequate grip and not shave away layers of skin from your fingers.


Overall, I can not find any fault with this movement, and any animosity enthusiasts may hold over brands for using the term “in-house” in a manner that does not align with their definition should be forgiven in this specific case. NOMOS changed their phrasing to “in-house built” if that helps those of you who still hold a grudge against the brand.

However, one aspect of their marketing and how watch review outlets reported it deserves great scrutiny. First, no one has mentioned that all of the brand’s leather and velour straps suffer from flimsy minders. They are not flimsy enough to fall apart, but they feel cheap when putting the watch on your wrist and do little to help when attempting to loop the tail through the minder. These straps have two minders, one which is fixed and one which is floating. The fault lies with the floating keeper. The floating minder tends to warp and contort away from your efforts making the experience less than ideal. I had bought three of the shell cordovan straps in black, brown, and black with brown stitching, and they, along with the extra grey velour strap I purchased, suffer from this flimsy keeper.


Second is the praise and adoration that outlets and owners give the shell cordovan straps. The marketing from the brand, which has been echoed ad nauseam, is that the oils of this kind of leather make for an extra durable strap that retains its clean finishing for years. This is not true. All it takes is one drop of water, or worse, sweat, to fall on the strap. This results in a large matte mark on the otherwise shiny finish. I wore this watch on a shell cordovan strap at a wedding where I had man duties, and the strap was ruined by the night’s end from sweat. On another occasion, another strap was ruined by some soap splashing onto it when washing my hands. I kept one of the ruined straps, and all of the shiny luster, which looks brilliant when new, are gone. As a consumer, you should know that shell cordovan straps are beautiful when new or if never exposed to sweat or direct moisture. They are possibly the best straps to wear for a black-tie event, but they are far from durable and as indestructible as NOMOS and the media have made them out to be. The velour strap that this Orion 89 comes with is also very delicate, and after more than five years of owning this watch, I am on my third velour strap.


Final Thoughts

Over the last couple of decades, NOMOS has found its way into the hearts of watch enthusiasts and has managed to live there rent-free. This was accomplished with quirky and dry marketing to design aesthetics that are unapologetically German and a rising from the ashes Phoenix story that tugs on all of our heartstrings. As East Germany and Glashuéutte came out from under the Iron Curtain, the region started seeing a return of traditional industries. Brands such as A. Lange and Söhnne and Galshüette Original returned, while haute horologie brands such as Moritz Grossmann began to fill in the many warehouses in the small German town. NOMOS and the quirky single-handed watch brand Meistersinger also came into being at the lower end of the mass-luxury market. NOMOS focused on Bauhaus and simple designs while offering a value proposition in terms of refinement and finishing.

Over the last few years, NOMOS has expanded their line up with new in-house automatic movements, a new swing-escapement system, watches with depth ratings of 300m, and even their take on affordable haute horologie with their Lambda and Lux models. Most of the brand’s offerings now come in at around twice the price of this Orion and other Alpha-powered timepieces. NOMOS built its brand on the back of these beautiful watches, which are the industry’s darling, but not all is well and as intended.

On many occasions, I have heard people say that they are not willing to pay the prices of the newer automatic models, which range from $5000-$7000 and above in Canadian dollars. Many enthusiasts are attracted to these watches, like their Alpha-powered siblings; they are handsome and refined. I have had the pleasure of handling these models, for NOMOS has, over the years, expanded its support for brick-and-mortar authorized dealers. If customers do not live in or near a major city or do not bother to visit any of these dealers, it is incredibly difficult to shift their perspective towards the brand and accept these higher price points. Brands from larger corporations such as Swatch Group use such a price range to fill different market segments with its various brands. Where Swatch Group has Longines and Omega to cover the $3000-$10,000 price range, NOMOS occupies the entire space.

From the perspective of someone who owns a NOMOS and has handled most of their new offerings, I can say with the utmost confidence that you are getting your money’s worth at every price bracket, especially the cheaper Alpha models. These more affordable timepieces do not have the same level of heft and substance as the more recent and higher-priced models. The level of detail and effort put into the dials of the more expensive models, for instance, is an example that is only apparent when handling the watches in person. Still, I’d argue that the Alpha-powered Orion is a better dress watch than the more expensive automatic Orions and Zurichs. Where the Tangente and Ludwig Alpha powered movement feel like cheaper versions of their more expensive stablemates, the Alpha Orion holds up well against the Orions with the neomatic automatic movements. With better and more understated dimensions, the traditional Orion is still the dress watch to have in NOMOS’ lineup.

This fact cements the Orion as one of the best traditional dress watches below $4000. Sure, its simple design may confuse onlookers that it may be a fashion watch such as Daniel Wellington that can be had for less than $100 on Amazon, but in today’s climate of armed rampant luxury watch robberies, this is not a bad thing. Besides the odd strap issues, this watch comes highly recommended.

Check out more NOMOS reviews at The Watch Clicker here

Check out the NOMOS website here

More Images of the NOMOS Orion 1989

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