Mechanical Watches for a Humanitarian Cause

NOMOS Glashütte, the boutique watchmaking company from Glashütte, Germany, is producing limited-editions of classic mechanical watches to support Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and their relief operations worldwide. 

What if they were our neighbours, our friends, or our relatives? Whether they are in Syria, Afghanistan, Haiti, or a host of other nations; whether they are fleeing conflict or an epidemic, or dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster or a complicated pregnancy—millions of people around the world are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

The town of Glashütte, the centre of fine watchmaking in Germany, is by contrast a peaceful place. So what does any of this have to do with watches, and more specifically with the watches NOMOS painstakingly crafts? It’s a fair question. The answer is: NOMOS Glashütte believes that it can use its watches, carefully produced timepieces born of the company’s commitment and tradition, to support the work of Doctors Without Borders—providing people with life-saving services they would otherwise not receive.

This is why NOMOS Glashütte initially launched a campaign to support MSF in Germany, producing an initial batch of 2,000 watches in spring 2012. Now the successful charitable initiative is being repeated and going international at the same time; limited-edition models of the NOMOS Tangente benefiting Doctors Without Borders are now available for the first time in the United Kingdom and the United States. There are also two new models being produced for Germany.

Only 1,000 of each special model to support MSF will be made—namely the NOMOS classics Tangente and Tangente 33 in the UK, Tangente 38 and Tangente 33 in the United States, and the Tangente 33 and Tetra 27 in Germany. These fine mechanical watches are lovely, whether classically proportioned, or just a little more dainty. Each and every one is handcrafted in Glashütte, and their design is based on classic models from NOMOS Glashütte—timepieces that have already won a number of international awards for their design and quality.

What makes these hand-wound watches extra-special is a red twelve and the words “Doctors Without Borders” on the white silver-plated dial and engraved on the back. In addition, these models have black oxidized hands instead of the Tangente and Tetra’s usual tempered blue ones. And you can watch the NOMOS Alpha movement at work through the sapphire crystal glass back of the limited-edition Tangente models.

The red twelve on the watches’ dial alludes to the Nobel Peace Prize winning emergency aid organisation—as red is the color of Doctors Without Borders. However, highlighting the twelve in red also has its origins in watchmaking tradition. Many watchmakers used this marking to denote timepieces of a particularly high quality. So the beautiful detail is not only a discreet reference to the emergency aid organisation, but also to the fine watchmaking craft of NOMOS Glashütte which makes the watches tick—the Alpha movement, developed and handcrafted by watchmakers in Glashütte.

The price for these limited-edition timepieces is the same as it is with regular versions of the award-winning NOMOS models. The main difference is this: both NOMOS Glashütte and the retailers are waiving a share of their margin, so that 100 dollars, pounds or euros respectively for every watch sold is given to the Nobel Peace prize-winning organisation. Customers purchasing these limited editions will have a watch to last a lifetime—along with the enjoyment of looking at a fine timepiece whenever they check the time. And still they will pay no more than they normally would for a regular Tangente or Tetra.

“We’ll be delighted if a large number of watch enthusiasts opt for the best of both worlds: to help and, at the same time, enjoy an excellent timepiece,” NOMOS General Manager Uwe Ahrendt says. “Every look at your watch will also remind you of the people around the world in need of help and who just might get it, thanks to you.”

How is the donation that NOMOS Glashütte is giving for every watch transformed into aid for those who need it? It buys wool blankets to protect displaced people from the cold. It buys emergency food rations for use in a crisis or natural disaster, or life-saving treatment for children suffering from malaria. It ensures clean water supplies after natural disasters by providing chlorination equipment, or sets of emergency wound dressing supplies for treatment in the field. These are not just medical supplies, either; this is life saving humanitarian aid. For individuals who by chance were born in places where these things are much harder to access—and far more crucial to their survival—than they are where we live.

Whether for warm blankets or life-saving treatment for young children, private support is what allows MSF to operate independently and to respond at a moment’s notice to urgent emergencies, often in countries that are customarily ignored. Without funds, there would be no medicines, no food rations, no flights for doctors, nurses, logisticians and other staff members to reach crisis regions.

This is why NOMOS Glashütte has built the limited-edition Tangente and Tetra models to help the helpers, providing medical care wherever and whenever possible. With the aim of raising over one million dollars in total for Doctors Without Borders around the world, it is fair to say these very special timepieces are watches for life, in more ways than one.

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