Every Watch Geek has criteria by which they collect. Be it dress, sport, colorful, outrageous, classic, etc. One of mine is innovation; I find the quest to reinvent the wristwatch endlessly fascinating. Is there yet another way to show the passage of time within the constraints of the mechanics and portability of the wristwatch. The moment I first encountered Nord Zeitmaschine (Nord meaning “North” and Zeitmaschine meaning “Time Machine”) that bar had been easily met.
Over the time that I have publicly discussed watches you may have heard one or the custom work that boutique brands bring to the table. Of all boutique brands, the one I’ve been asked to review the most is the Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve. I will begin this review with a full disclosure. I’m a huge fan of this brand and its creator Daniel Nebel. His work is among the most innovative I’ve ever seen. That stated, I will endeavor be as objective as possible as we look at his creation named Variocurve.
Daniel capitalized on his background of prototype machine development and tool building to begin developing his wristwatch concept. Part of what drives my enthusiasm is that he literally invented a new way to illustrate the passage of tine. We all know that almost every watch on the planet has at least two hands radiating from a center axis, moving around this axis at a fixed speed to show the time. The Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve shows you the time with a single hand. Not on a center axis, and moving at different speeds throughout a given hour. Short of witnessing one of these creations in person it’s unlikely you’ve seen anything like the Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve before. To get a solid illustration of how brilliant these production builds are, I highly recommend checking out this animated overview.
The Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve is currently available in the following options. Please click on any image to enlarge and view it in greater detail. And for those of you Watch Geeks out there that are fans of the case backs, the beauty, precision and attention to detail does not stop on the dial side of the watch! You’ll find the same exacting and demanding Daniel Nebel custom build quality there as well. Please have a look at the images below and feel free to click on any of them to get a larger size with more detail.
Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve By The Numbers
For those interested in one of the most innovative and groundbreaking wristwatches on the planet and are good with the price tag, there is no reason not to acquire a Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve immediately. This is a boutique watch you will never regret owning.
Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve: Design
The Nord Zeitmaschine designs of Daniel Nebel favor a case and finish combination of industrial contrasted with silky brushed. The interior white surfaces are finished in rhodium while colored areas feature a finish choice of black gold, rose gold, yellow gold, or PVD blue. The Variocurve finds a beautiful balance between what some might consider an outlandish innovation and presenting as an overstatement. The finished example balances beautifully on the wrist with no slide at all. Please have a look at a wrist shot below. Our model? None other than the designer and master watchmaker himself…Daniel Nebel.
There is not usually an “innovative” category in a watch review. But if there were, I’d list the Variocurve as a solid 10. This watch is a radical departure from the usual, telling time via a single hand initially appearing to be set as a pendulum. Not that a pendulum would do as they tend to move from a stationary axis, giving it the functionality of a retrograde dial, which of course had been done, and it was Daniel’s intent to avoid that. Plus a retrograde, while aesthetically beautiful, pivots across a fixed area and the only way to get back to the starting point is to use the “snap back” capability. Again, a feature that had been used in this capacity.
The Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve reinvention of how to tell time is ingenious, taking the retrograde concept beyond where it has ever been. It does so by solving the inherent problem of using a single hand pendulum architecture to smoothly illustrate the closed infinite circle of the watch dial. And not just twice a day (12 to 12); the Variocurve does it once every hour. So how can a pendulum restricted to a single plane illustrate a closed uninterrupted circle? The answer is to the move the axis of hand and fulcrum so that it travels through one set of numbers from left to right and then in lieu of a snap back motion travels back from right to left through a second set of numbers on a lower trajectory. The single hand shows passing minutes only while a synced disc at the traditional 8 o’clock position shows the hour (another disc at the traditional 4 o’clock orientation shows the date). But this idea encounters another problem, as the hand tip moves at a slower speed on the ends of the travel cycle during the transition of the fulcrum axis. To attempt to label the minute numbers on those crowded corners would at best prove an illegible jumble. Again the solution is brilliant. Since the static dial does not allow room for the minute scale you move the dial, or more accurately replace the two “transition” sections with moving precision cogs that rotate the correct corresponding minute under the slowed hand. Note the included image below showing the path during a single hour. And, again, I encourage you to watch this build in action via the included video. It’s worth noting that when setting the time, you will rotate the crown in the opposite direction that you are likely used to in order to advance the minute and hour.
As the included illustration shows each dial (and the entire watch!) is painstakingly created in-house by Daniel Nebel himself (see the image below). This is very different from many brands which often farm dial creation out to a vendor). The detailing and resulting light play is absolutely beautiful. The artistry further continues across the reverse of the watch, where the exhibition back showcases a beautifully finished movement with a full frame custom rotor as well, color matched to the dial color selection. Legibility will be a negative to some, though it certainly isn’t to me in this instance. This watch does not show the time in the conventional way, so if that is important than this build may not work for you. The numbers, which are presented crisply and very legibly, are not the issue. Rather it is reading the single hand innovative method which may prove challenging. It’s worth noting that lume fans may be disappointed; at the time of this writing no Variocurve has a luminous feature.
The limited edition number is presented via a plate installed into the dial. While not numbered as a limited edition in the traditional fashion it is my understanding that only 97 pieces will be built per color. If they wish, the client may select a number (assuming availability) rather than receive one in sequence.
The strap on the Variocurve is a very nice grade leather model and comfortable on the wrist right out of the box. For the vast majority of you, no break-in period will be needed. I would point out that a larger wrist might have an issue. I wear an 8” and there isn’t that much room beyond that. Maybe 8.5” or so, but that would be a little more on the personal side and how loose or tight you prefer your watch on the wrist. One could also make an argument that an exotic strap could either be included or offered as an option. But that, of course, comes down to personal taste. Given that almost everything on the Variocurve is produced and manufactured in-house, you will need the custom tools to change out the strap. So be sure to locate them in a pocket on the underside of the watch box pillow as shown in the image below.
Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve: Overall Quality
The overall quality of the Variocurve? In a word; stellar! Given that it’s a complex build custom made dress watch, it wouldn’t be my choice to wear into the jungle or while participating in an athletic outing. But worn in the context for which it’s intended, this is a rock solid piece that will provide a lifetime of enjoyment. For any that may doubt this (and also for the enjoyment of viewing them), please do take a moment to go through the numerous images below that show the complex and intricate hand built components that go into all Nord Zeitmaschine timepieces.
Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve Movement: NORD N2
The movement inside of the Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve is the Nord N2. The base or tractor of this movement is the 25 jewel ETA 2824 automatic. The “magic” occurs within the custom module but, unlike most tractor situations, the jewel count doesn’t increase with the addition of the module. This is due to the use of custom precision ball bearings in lieu of jewels, as the standard ruby jewel cannot perform the required task within the patented mechanics. The patented Nord N2 movement (Patent Number CH 704 094) features the following:
- Double minute segmented display
- Decentralized day/date displays
- 25 total ruby jewels and five (5) integrated precision micro ball bearings
- Symmetrical 306 degree winding rotor with integrated winding weights (weights are not visible through the caseback)
- 28,800 vibrations per hour (VPH)
- Power reserve of approximately 42 hours
Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve: Warranty
Two year in-factory warranty. Via several personal conversations with Daniel I can assure you in the unlikely event you’ll need service you will be taken care of in magnificent fashion. To my knowledge there is no stateside service and for that reason alone I review the warranty below five stars.
Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve: Brand Reputation
The Variocurve presents a fantastic and innovative design from an absolutely and unquestionably brilliant mind. If you want the watch on your wrist to be one that many will know on sight, this might not be the one for you (yet!). But, for those in the know, there is no question that the reputation of this brand is flawless. And really, the reputation of the brand really does fall to the owner, designer and visionary Daniel Nebel. What many in the more general watch collection community may not know about Daniel is that he is a well respected and recognized multi-disciplinary professional. In the picture immediately below, it shows Daniel with a CNC milling machine. What is not readily apparent is that this is a CNC milling machine that sports his name as he is the designer of this custom piece of equipment.
Daniel is also well recognized with the inner circles of high end watch designers and brands. Since the year 2011, Daniel has proudly represented and presented the Nord Zeitmaschine brand at the Baselworld watch show in Basel, Switzerland (for those that do not know, this is the largest watch show/fair in the world). This is not a representation of “brand spending”. But, it is more a commitment to his passion not only to his brand and his watches, but to the watch community at large. Mention the name Daniel Nebel or that of Nord Zeitmaschine to anyone “in the know” at Baselworld and you will immediately find the respect that he commands in that very difficult to obtain community. The image below depicts Daniel hard at work at Baselworld.
Lastly, please do recognize that neither Daniel Nebel nor Nord Zeitmaschine are “Johnny Come Lately” entries and participants in the Swiss watch making world. In addition to the Variocurve, Daniel has also custom designed and built two (2) other incredible timepieces in the form of the Quickindicator and the most recent Freesdial. Each not only completely unique in their custom design and presentation, but also custom built and maintained by Daniel himself. Please do review the custom “family” or group shot of the currently available watch models as of 2017.
Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve: Bang for the Buck
While I’m not quite sure on the most recent price of the Nord Variocurve, the last I knew it was approximately $14,750.00. Rather than the base price on components, marketing or any of the other typical cost centers that other brands would incorporate, Daniel has chosen to price his work based on number of hours to build one (1) single timepiece, multiplied by the hourly cost of a fine Swiss machinist (which he is). Given that this is not exactly inexpensive, it is certainly an important factor in the “Bang for the Buck” review category. Additionally, do keep in mind that it may be necessary to make a conversion from US dollars to Swiss francs when making payment. There may be currency conversion and/or other fees associated with such a transaction. With that said, the “wow factor” on the wrist coming from both the design innovation and gorgeous look makes this brand well worth consideration. Just imagine this on your wrist!
Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve: Intangibles
I did touch on this in the previous paragraphs. But, it is certainly worth mentioning again when it comes to the discussion of intangibles. The intangible factor of owning a work of this truly innovative design is beyond remarkable. While the cost of the Variocurve is not inconsequential, it truly is one of the absolutely affordable ways that you will find to get a timepiece of this quality into your collection. Watch Geeks and collectors wishing to stay uniquely in the safe classic lane will not share my view. But, those who are encouraged to step outside of “cookie cutter” designs we so often see being made now will know the rush that comes with the risk taker forging new ground. Bracelet fans should note that there are currently no models featuring a bracelet nor any current plans to offer one. However, given the master level machinist skills of Daniel Nebel, one does have to wonder how incredible a bracelet design he could produce!
In the Spring of 2013, my partner Michael Davis and I were in Switzerland for the Baselworld show. We were fortunate enough to be able to meet with Daniel Nebel at his booth in the infamous “Dream Factory” area of the show (which, in case you were not aware, has sadly been done away with). We were able to get a great video shot of the Nord Veitmaschine Variocurce. We hope you’ll take a few moments and enjoy the designer of this incredible timepiece taking you through a quick tour.
As many of you may know, Michael and I were back at Baselworld 2017 this past Spring as we were preparing for the launch of Talk About Watches. Of course, as we always do, we made a point to seek out Daniel as we were very anxious to have a look at his latest and greatest design; the Nord Zeitmaschine Freesdial (see below for a shot of us at the Nord booth). As an added bonus to this Variocurvereview, we wanted to share the video that we did then. We are doing so not just because the Freesdial is yet another totally amazing innovation from the mind of Daniel Nebel. But also because it adds even more insight into the man and the brand as well as the continuing commitment and innovation to the watch community at large. Please do take just a few minutes to check it out as we think that you’ll be as amazed as we were at the time.
TLDR? Daniel Nebel’s work is among the most innovative I’ve ever seen. Here’s a quick synopsis of his creation named Variocurve.
Daniel capitalized on his background of prototype machine development and tool building to begin developing his wristwatch concept and literally invented a new way to illustrate the passage of tine. The Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve shows you the time with a single hand not on a center axis, and moving at different speeds throughout a given hour. Short of witnessing one of these creations in person it’s unlikely you’ve seen anything like it.
Each Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve is painstakingly created in-house by Daniel Nebel himself. The artistry continues across the reverse of the watch, where the exhibition back showcases a beautifully finished movement with a full frame custom rotor as well, color matched to the dial color selection. This watch does not show the time in the conventional way, so if that is important than this build may not work for you as reading the single hand innovative method which may prove challenging. It’s worth noting that as of this writing no Variocurve has a luminous feature.
Daniel is also well recognized with the inner circles of high end watch designers and brands. Since 2011 Daniel has personally represented the Nord Zeitmaschine brand at the Baselworld watch show. This is not a representation of “brand spending”. But, it is more a commitment to his passion not only to his brand and his watches, but to the watch community at large. Mention the name Daniel Nebel or that of Nord Zeitmaschine to anyone “in the know” at Baselworld and you will immediately find the respect that he commands in that very difficult to obtain community. In addition to the Variocurve, Daniel has also custom designed and built two other incredible timepieces in the form of the Quickindicator and the most recent Freesdial. Each not only completely unique in their custom design and presentation, but also custom built and maintained by Daniel himself. Highly recommended for your collection!