Non-native speakers of the English language will often tell you that there are words and expressions in their own tongue that they always struggle to fully convey when speaking the former. It’s not a case of these individuals being less fluent in English. Very simply, the English language often falls short when held parallels to much more ancient and richer languages.

One such example, is the German word for home: Heimat. I encountered the word recently when I sat down with Thomas Höhnel of Berlinerblau (Nomos Glashütte’s design arm) and Martina Etti, Head of International Sales, Nomos Glashütte.

Thomas Höhnel of Berlinerblau (Nomos Glashütte’s design arm) and Martina Etti, Head of International Sales, Nomos Glashütte
(From the left) Thomas Höhnel of Berlinerblau (Nomos Glashütte’s design arm) and Martina Etti, Head of International Sales, Nomos Glashütte

Both were in town, in Singapore, for the formal announcement of the Nomos Red Dot. The limited-edition version of the Zürich Weltzeit that the German watchmaker has created to celebrate the two-year milestone of their partnership with The Hour Glass and Watches of Switzerland in Singapore.

We were discussing how the Zürich Weltzeit, on top showcasing Nomos’ superb skill for executing pristine typography, also, very cleverly, incorporates iconography. A little home icon next to the 24-hour home-time disc, that visually reminds the wearer of home.

And it was here that Martina stopped to correct me.

The Nomos Red Dot
The Nomos Red Dot, created in partnership with The Hour Glass and Watches of Switzerland in Singapore

“Do you remember, Sumit, in the first models of the Zürich Weltzeit, when it was announced back in 2007, it wasn’t this little hut that was there? It was a German word that was there. It was the German word for home, Heimat. I think we changed it to the little hut about 2-3 years ago.

“I was already with Nomos, back in 2007, when we introduced the world time. At that time, we were quite well-known in Germany, but on the global front we were a sort of best-kept-secret of the watch world. So, it’s not hard to assume that our international business was not very developed.

“When we had the multiple timezone complication introduced in the Tangomat GMT and soon in the Zürich Weltzeit — both of which use the same movement, just that they are expressed differently on the dial side — these weren’t simply the most complicated watches we had made, but at the same time we used these to really get our name out to the world.”

The Nomos Zürich Weltzeit in 2007
The Nomos Zürich Weltzeit in 2007
The Nomos Zürich Weltzeit with the "hut" icon
The Nomos Zürich Weltzeit with the "hut" icon

Adds Thomas to the conversation, “It was a big decision for us when we set out to swap the initial German word there for an icon. It was a way for us to make the watch a lot more global, but the seemingly small change, brought on a lot of going back and forth for the team.

“In German, Heimat is very nice word. Its connotation is… Well, you know what? I don’t think I can find the absolute translation for it in English. It’s not only home, it’s more than that.”

Martina helps Thomas out here, “It’s a mixture between home, home-country — it’s where you grandma bakes the best warm apple pies in the whole world.”

The replacement of the word, Heimat was obviously an emotional challenge for the brand. But it was just as much a design challenge. Because Nomos had the Zürich Weltzeit’s dial design balanced to a tee thanks to the dexterity that the brand has demonstrated with their vast experience in typography.

To bring an icon into that could mean throwing the entire design off balance. Plus, Nomos were also afraid that in their pursuit of internationality, they might end up with a decision on the Zürich Weltzeit that would cause them to lose their German identity.

But, as we now know, the home icon was eventually incorporated into the dial, with careful consideration for its size and exact execution. For Nomos, it was pertinent that it should communicate the idea of home to whoever happens to be checking for the time back at home on the Zürich Weltzeit. At the same time, the icon was kept open enough for interpretation such that it holds the potential to trigger whatever memory of home the wearers’ subconscious might conjure up — be that for someone the thought of their grandma’s warm apple pie or for someone else the thought of their grandma’s steaming hot dumplings.

The Nomos Red Dot with a white dial
The Nomos Red Dot with a white dial

The story goes that in 2016, during the retail house’s inaugural German watch fest, Kelvin Lim, Deputy General Manager of The Hour Glass, who is in charge of Watches of Switzerland in Singapore, caught a hold of Nomos’ CEO Uwe Ahrendt, his product manager (and wife) Heike Arendt and Martina over a glass of champagne and struck up a conversation about doing a special watch, with Singapore in mind, to celebrate their partnership’s second anniversary.

The watch decided upon was the Zürich Weltzeit and at that early phase it was naturally ascertained that they should replace the name of the GMT+8 city with that of Singapore’s on the city disc. In due course, there was a request from Michael Tay of The Hour Glass that the Nomos team should attempt a version of the limited edition to be made with a salmon colored dial.

The Nomos Red Dot with a salmon dial
The Nomos Red Dot with a salmon dial

It was Thomas who was charged with the task of the special edition’s design and finding the correct shade of salmon to be used on the watch. Thomas says that he’s always sought to inject a little story to tell, within the limited-edition timepieces he has created thus far. And he wanted to, likewise, do the same for the Singapore edition.

“We thought about many elements — the flag of Singapore, the color red — but at Nomos we’re always trying to be minimalists and subtle with our executions. Everything we decide upon at the end of the day, must have its own reason and purpose. We don’t want to just print things on the dial,” says Thomas.

“While I was researching for the watch, I came across this term — the Little Red Dot — that seems to be quite widely used to refer to Singapore. I must admit I wasn’t familiar with the term until this point. But the deeper I dug into the story, the more confident I was that I had found the story that needed to be incorporated: A little red dot to symbolize Singapore as home in the Zürich Weltzeit. It was done.”

In true Nomos fashion, there was yet more decisions to be made about how large or small the dot was going to be. But once the point of balance was found, the 50 pieces (15 with the salmon dial and 35 with the white dial) were as good as snapped up.

The Nomos Red Dot with a white dial
The Nomos Red Dot with a white dial