Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean review! On this shiok Saturday, I’m reviewing the Normalzeit (limited edition) watch.
A microbrand from Vienna, Austria, Normalzeit is a brand designed by Fredi Brodmann. Fredi is a serial watch designer, and has designed many watches till date. Normalzeit is his most “serious” effort to date, and is even sold in the famous Museum of Modern Art (MoMa)! Let’s take a closer look at the watch.
Normalzeit – the Brand
Founded in 2016 by the aforementioned Fredi Brodmann, Normalzeit watches translate the iconic Vienna City Cube Clock into timepieces to be worn on the wrist. Fredi grew up in Vienna, and the “Normalzeit” cube clocks played an instrumental part of his childhood. In an interview with the New York Times, Fredi describes how his grandmother first taught him how to tell time with the help of the “Normalzeit” clocks that were in every train station.
The “Normalzeit” cube clocks were removed from the cities in 2007. Austrian art trading company Lichterloh purchased the ones that were still working, and the design rights to its iconic cube structure and overall design. Fredi happened to bump into the representatives of Lichterloh at a watch fair, and together they collaborated to bring back the design of the “Normalzeit”, this time in a wristwatch. Thus, the Normalzeit wristwatch was introduced in 2016, made in a limited edition of 1907 pieces – paying tribute to the original year that the “Normalzeit” clocks were introduced.
Without further ado, let’s see if the Normalzeit watch is any good!
Normalzeit – Build Quality
The specifications of the Normalzeit watch is pretty decent.
Firstly, the Normalzeit watch utilises a flat sapphire crystal. As aforementioned numerous times in my previous reviews, I’m a huge advocate of sapphire crystal due to their inherent scratch-resisting properties. Personally, I always look for sapphire crystal in my modern watches as it adds greatly to the durability of the watch. In addition, the Normalzeit watch boasts a water-resistant rating of 50M, so you don’t have to worry about it getting wet in the rain, under the tap, etc. Just don’t bring it to the pool!
The ubiquitous Seiko NH35A movement powers the Normalzeit watch. Some quick specs: the movement beats at 21600 vibrations per hour, has 42 hours of power reserve, contains 24 jewels, and is hacking. I’m a fan of the Seiko NH35 movement, and greatly prefer it to the Miyota 8 series movement (which is the alternative movement commonly seen with microbrand watches). This is due to the fact that unlike the NH35, the Miyota 8 series movements are non-hacking, suffer from a stuttering second hand (some models), and in my own experience with the Miyota movements, are also more prone to accuracy problems. In contrast, the Seiko NH35 is a movement that is as reliable as they come.
The Normalzeit watch comes default on a grey silicone strap. The silicone strap is thick and immensely comfortable on the wrist. It’s appropriate for exercise too, and I found myself strapping the Normalzeit on during my runs. However, it does pick up dust and lint rather easily, as seen in the above photo. In addition, I wish that the buckle was signed, and made to feel more significant. I also feel that the colour choice of grey is an odd one, and that a black silicone strap would have better fit the monochrome nature of the dial. There are other strap variants available, including a variety of leather straps and a steel Milanese mesh strap. However, they all command a pretty heavy price premium – leather options are $100 USD more, while the steel Milanese mesh strap is a whopping $200 USD extra. My advice would be to get the Normalzeit watch in its default (also cheapest) configuration with the grey silicone strap, and swap it out to perhaps a dressier black leather strap from your strapmaker for everyday use.
Intriguingly, the Normalzeit watch comes with a full lume dial! That’s quite a surprise – a full lume dial is not that commonly seen amongst microbrand watches due to it being costly to manufacture. The full lume dial of the Normalzeit watch glows brightly in the dark, and is rather long-lasting as well. You certainly won’t be having any difficulty telling the time here!
Overall, the specifications of the Normalzeit watch is decent. There’s sapphire crystal, a reliable Seiko NH35 movement, and a cool full lume dial to boot. I do think that some of the strap options from Normalzeit are overpriced, but as long as you stick to the default silicone option – and get your own strap elsewhere – you should be fine.
Normalzeit – Design
That being said, the real star of the show here is Normalzeit’s design – it’s not in MoMa for no reason!
As mentioned above, the dial of the Normalzeit watch is inspired by the iconic design of the “Normalzeit” clocks of Vienna. I have to say – the dial is immensely intriguing. I’ve not personally seen the original “Normalzeit” clocks of Vienna (I was 10 when they were removed), so I can’t really compare. On its own though, I think it’s definitely a design that serves as a conversation starter. Firstly, I like the monochrome colour palette, which maximises legibility. Given that the original “Normalzeit” clocks were on streets and train stations, legibility was undeniably a priority, thus explaining the sharp contrast of the black hands and indices against the white dial. Secondly, the broad hands are visually enrapturing. The hour hand resembles a dagger, while the minute hand is shaped like a sword. I’ve never seen this particular combination of shapes together before, and it makes for quite a striking combination. Again, the large-sized hands make it incredibly easy to tell the time. Thirdly, the applied indices are interestingly shaped, evoking the shape of arrowheads.
The Normalzeit brand text and logo add a nice coloured red accent to an otherwise monochrome dial. There’s not much that I don’t like about the dial, to be honest. It’s certainly one of the most intriguing dials that I’ve come across till date. It’s simple and minimalist to maximise legibility, yet remains the opposite of boring. That’s a fine line that most microbrands fail to balance. A part of me does wish that there was a second hand – it’s an automatic after all, I want to see the sweeping second hand – but that would have detracted from the watch’s minimalist look.
Aside from the dial, the Normalzeit watch also retains the iconic faceted cubic case shape of the original “Normalzeit” clocks. Like the dial design, the faceted cubic case shape is also one that I’ve personally never seen before. Of course, the octagonal angles reminds one of the Royal Oak, but this is as different from the Royal Oak as night is from day. The cubic shape is really interesting, with the brushed faceted angles giving the watch an industrial, sporty vibe. Again, it’s a very striking look on the wrist.
The case of the Normalzeit is simply brushed throughout. Personally, I would have preferred for additional finishing techniques to have been displayed here – polished bevels on the faceted case would have been nice. Elsewhere, the crown is nicely signed with lichterloh’s logo, and is substantially sized which makes hand-winding an ease.
On the other side of the watch, a unique limited edition number is printed. As aforementioned, the Normalzeit watch is limited to 1907 pieces each, paying homage to the original year that the “Normalzeit” clocks were introduced in Vienna. I appreciate that Normalzeit actually bothered to etch a unique serial number on each watch, unlike some microbrands that simply print “1 of 50” on every timepiece.
The close caseback of the Normalzeit watch is similarly brushed, maintaining the watch’s overall industrial vibe. It’s engraved with a few relevant information, as well as Normalzeit’s and lichterloh’s respective logos. While I personally would have preferred an open caseback, I can understand the brand’s decision to opt for a close caseback given that the watch uses the rather pedestrian Seiko NH35 movement.
On paper, the Normalzeit watch is actually quite svelte. It has a 40mm diameter, and is only 11mm thick. However, the watch comes across as more substantial than its specifications suggests, due to its square 40x40mm structure. This is definitely one that you will feel on the wrist, but in a good way – it gives off quite a wrist presence. If you like a watch that others would notice, the Normalzeit watch will definitely be right up your alley.
All in all, the Normalzeit watch replicates the iconic design of the original “Normalzeit” clocks on the wrist very well. The end result is a timepiece that has character and is intriguing in many ways, from its oddly shaped hands and indices, to its unique cubic faceted case. That being said, it’s still a love it or hate it design – it’s not going to be for everyone. However, if you’re into something that’s different, the Normalzeit watch does that very well, and pays homage to a genuine piece of Austrian history.
Shootout: Normalzeit Watch vs Mondaine Evo Automatic
When I first read about the premise of Normalzeit and saw their watches, the first watch that popped to my mind was the Mondaine Evo Automatic. Both watches are highly legible, modelled after clocks that were a staple of their respective city’s train stations. As such, the Mondaine Evo Automatic shall be the comparison in today’s shootout!
In terms of specifications, both watches trade blows. The Normalzeit watch gets one up over the Mondaine due to its use of sapphire crystal, which is significantly more scratch-resistant than the mineral crystal that the latter uses. However, the Mondaine uses the superior movement, with its Swiss Sellita SW-220 movement being a tier higher than the workhorse Seiko NH35 movement found in the Normalzeit. However, the Normalzeit does feature a full lume dial – the Mondaine is devoid of lume.
From an aesthetics standpoint, it’s another close fight. Both watches are modelled over historically significant clocks, and it shows. Both watches share the same monochrome aesthetics with thick hands and indices that maximise legibility, and red accents for a pop of colour. I think personal tastes play a big part here. If you have more conservative tastes, the Mondaine definitely looks more traditional. If you’re looking for something different, the Normalzeit is undoubtedly the more visually intriguing timepiece with the sharply shaped hands and indices as well as the faceted cubic case.
Price-wise, the Normalzeit is almost S$200 cheaper than the Mondaine. A big part of the price difference definitely goes towards the superior Sellita movement that’s in the Mondaine. In my opinion, which watch is better for you depends on two factors. Firstly, your personal tastes regarding design, as explained above. Secondly, whether you care enough about a watch’s movement to pay $200 more for a Swiss movement. Personally, I’ll swing for the Normalzeit – it just conveys more personality than the Mondaine.
Conclusion – so the Normalzeit watch “shiok” or not?
The Normalzeit watch is certainly an intriguing watch, truly unlike anything that I’ve seen before – and that’s saying something. The specifications of the watch is decent, and the design is very interesting. It’s a striking look on the wrist, and will definitely be a conversation starter. I can imagine creative folks loving this watch – this seems to be the perfect timepiece for say, an architect. I can definitely see why it’s stocked at MoMa! My only criticism of the watch would be its price. With an MSRP of $595 USD, that seems a tad high in my opinion, especially considering that you can find watches with the same specifications (sapphire crystal, Seiko NH35 movement) for half the price. A significant portion of the price almost certainly goes towards the licensing fees from lichterloh (who owns the design of the original “normalzeit” clocks). Still, I would think that a $399, or even $499 price point would be much more palatable, especially in this value-conscious post-COVID world.
Normalzeit also sent me the Normalzeit 36, which is a smaller 36mm variant of the regular Normalzeit. However, it’s quartz, and also uses mineral glass as opposed to the sapphire crystal found on its big brother. It also has an MSRP of $500 USD/ ~S$708. Unless you’re a female or a man with a small wrist who happens to really, really love Normalzeit’s design, I think the regular automatic Normalzeit is a much better buy.
For those interested, you can use the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy 10% off any of Normalzeit’s products on their web-store! After the discount, the regular Normalzeit watch would cost $535.50 USD/ ~S$756, making it a better value proposition overall.
View the full range of Normalzeit’s offerings here.
Here are some other reviews of the Normalzeit watch that you can check out!
316L Stainless Steel Case, 40 x 40 x 11mm
Seiko Automatic Movement NH35A, 24 Jewels, 41 Hr Power Reserve
Sapphire Crystal, Full Glow Dial
Gray Silicone Strap
WR 50 Meters / 165Ft
Limited Edition / 1 – 1907
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.S.S.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.