Watches with a particular and original way of telling time are an interesting niche in the world of horology. When it comes to independent brands, the things get even more complicated. And interesting! These timepieces tend by widely unknown to the general public and only requested and desired by a relatively low number of collectors. For today’s review, we have an interesting design with only one hand, for the minutes. The indication is not done in a traditional way with the hand rotating around an axe but following an interesting curved path. We present you the Nord Zeitmaschine Variocurve V4.
We can consider an exception for the Sevenfriday V- Series. With a good marketing campaign, started with P-Series and M-Series, Sevenfriday managed to be one of the most known and successful brands with a one-hand design. The newborn, VAULT V1 comes with an interesting design but until the writing moment of this article, we only managed to see the prototypes. The design is at least promising. Another interesting design is the Grand Heure GMT from Jaquet Droz, where both hands are used for hours: local and GMT. Veterans in designs without hands are the guys from Urwerk. They recently celebrated 20 years of existence with the Urwerk UR-105 CT Streamliner. The Urwerk innovations transcend the technicality of the movement and can be found in the case design: original as the calibre itself.
Review: NORD Zeitmaschine Variocurve V4
The Variocurve was launched in Baselworld 2011, and the collection comprises four variants. The watch stands out from the first look, as something special. The unusual time display needs just a frugal look to understand the operating mode and, respectively time reading.
One hand indication, one man show
NORD Zeitmaschine, “North Time machine” – in a free translation, is an independent brand born in 1998. Behind this brand there is only one man, Daniel Nebel, that takes care of everything. The founder and owner of Nord Zeitmaschine was born in 1971 in the north of Switzerland – a reference in the brand’s name. After finishing his apprentice as a mechanic, Daniel worked in the field of prototype machine construction and tool building. Due to his love for watches and watchmaking, he started to create watches, in his spare time, while maintaining his regular job.
With a high expertise in tooling and mechanics, Daniel began to produce watch parts as case, dials, crowns and so on. He used his experience to create technical complex pieces. It is important to note that Daniel Nebel does most of the work, only outsourcing the base movement, crystal and galvanization.
The case, dial and hand
NORD Zeitmaschine Variocurve comes in a 43.6mm stainless steel case. The three-part construction has an interesting design. The body, on the lugs, is carved from a monoblock of steel. Like a Superleggera car body, this saves some weight. But the result brings also an embellished look. The “cutouts” have a frost finish with a fine bevelled edge. The construction detail is used to include the strap’s fixation screwed bars.
The case body is sandwiched by a satin brushed bezel and case back. For each side, seven torx-head screws keep it all together. The rather large screws and the integration in the construction give a technical appearance to the design. The watch has a robust look, and juxtaposes with the satin finishes to bring a breath of gentleness.
The Variocurve has a nicely designed crown with double o-ring seal. The decorations include drilled openings that follow the super light design of the case and an embossed “N” logo. The strap is fitted with another complex built piece – the buckle. For this component, sometimes forgotten on the development, is used a technical shape and construction to raise it to the level of the watch complexity. A nice touch and a great design.
The wrist presence is nice and, even for its relatively large size, the watch fits very well under a shirt.
The Variocureve’s dial is part of the movement itself. Judging by the number of complex elements used, we can consider it more a movement decorated to tell the time than a classic dial. For the time reading, one needs to take care of two aspects: the position of the minutes’ hand on the dial and the indication of the hours’ disk from the eight o’clock position. The hour’s indication uses a large blue arrow fixed with two screws on the base. The legibility is good and takes a bit to get used to, but quickly becomes intuitive soon.
The hour’s disk moves with a constant speed. While the minute hand moves on a curved ellipse with different speeds, depending on hand’s position may extend or retract, hence the name “Variocurve”. For the extremities of the minute’s indication, due to a slower speed and smaller display surface, two retrograde disc dials are used for an improved precision and readability. The unusual motion of the hand, the complex minute’s indication spread over the large dial surface is a technical marvel with a charming presentation.
The date is shown on another disk at five o’clock using a nose peak on a plate that features the engraved number of the piece. This kind of double function for an element is a nice find and cool feature.
The unique time telling experience is enriched by the multitude of components available on the watch’s front face and their decorations. The minute’s dial uses a big rhodium plated plate, adorned with lovely Geneva stripes (Côtes de Genève) and hand chamfered (bevelled) and polished edge. A closer, careful look shows the file’s stroke and other “perfect” imperfections of the handmade finishes. The dial main plate bears the printing of the minutes’ indexes, along with brand’s name and Swiss Made logo.
A closer look inside the dial’s guts reveal blued screws, perlage, polishing and brushing. The embellishments are well executed, bringing along the technical complexity beauty an haute horlogerie sense. The watch transpires good taste, excellent innovation and love for watchmaking.
The movement NORD N2
The NORD Zeitmaschine Variocurve is powered by the automatic NORD N2 calibre. This complex movement is based on the well know, robust and widely spread ETA2824. The original movement is heavily modified to display the time in the Variocurve original way.
NORD N2 inherit a large part of the base calibre’s specifications. The movement is fitted with 25 jewels, a 4Hz / 28,800 vph balance wheel offering a power reserve of 42 hours. The modifications bring five precision micro ball-bearing used for the complex indication. The sliding parts, the minutes’ hand are built using ARCAP alloys – a proprietary group of alloys that do not contain iron and are not influenced/sensible to magnetic fields. The Variocurve mechanism is patented with the Swiss patent CH 704 094.
The NORD N2 use a full blue PVD 360° rotor for winding. The brushed rotor is engraved and ink filled with the name of the brand and other information. The weights are placed on one part of the disc, and is on the movement’s side, hidden from the viewer’s curiosity. This adds a certain note of mystery to the movement. The movement decorations are well done. The rotor skeletonisation reveals part of the usual finishes met on a 2824 calibre. Most of the back view is covered with a perlage decoration. We noticed the use of blued screws on the back of the movement, not quite common for this calibre. Considering the blue theme, this discrete detail fits very well in the entire spectacle.
The NORD Zeitmaschine Variocurve is a unique design with a high number of details for this price category. Regardless the price category, this wristwatch cannot be compared easily compared with other pieces. The originality of the design makes it exotic and desirable. We can only remind of other original pieces like the Joker from Konstantin Chaykin, Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps Dōdekal One, the Urwerk watches spelt out at the article’s very beginning, the playful Christophe Claret X-Treme 1, or the crazy good looking HYT Skull Axl Rose.
The Variocurve V4 is an attractive watch with a touch of pleasant blue: not enough to be considered a true blue dial watch, but enough to make it more interesting. The watch is easy to use and even with the variocurve module, the watch is almost effortless the set and wind. The size is right for a daily use, the Variocurve is cosy and fun. As any timepiece with an intriguing time display, the watch will arouse curiosity. I have noticed several times people frown in the wonder of what kind of watch is it or how the readout is made.
The NORD Zeitmaschine Variocurve V1 is available in 99 pieces limited series. The collector can choose, if still available, his lucky number.
NORD Zeitmaschine Variocurve V4 Specification and price
Price for the steel version: CHF14,000 (excl. Taxes)
Calibre: NORD N2
Type: Self-winding movement, base ETA2824-2
Power reserve: 42 hours
Frequency: 4Hz / 28’800 vph
Functions: Minutes VARIOCURVE (Patent Nr. CH 704 094 ) / double minute segment display / hours decentralized / date
Material: Stainless Steel
Dimensions of the case: Ø 43.6mm; height 15.2 mm (16.2 over the domed glass)
Weight: 110 grams (without strap)
Crystal: Sapphire crystal curved / flat 1,5 mm to 2,5 mm, both sides antireflected
Crown: Crown with double o-ring seals
Caseback: Sapphire crystal flat 1.8 mm
Material: Calf leather strap, wide 22mm
Buckle: Prong buckle in stainless steel