It’s rare for a watch brand to get a new lease on life after experiencing success and a bittersweet end; it’s even rarer for that brand to find success the second time around. Nonetheless, this is Armin Strom’s story. It is an inspirational journey through decades of Swiss watchmaking that continues to this day. Armin Strom is more alive than ever thanks to the young, dynamic team that has taken this legend’s heritage and elevated it to new heights. They’ve somehow managed to do that while still maintaining the core values of Armin Strom. Few know the origins of this indie brand from Biel/Bienne, Switzerland. Let me bring you up to speed before we take a closer look at the Armin Strom we know today.
Armin Strom was an independent master watchmaker who set up shop in Burgdorf, Switzerland in 1967. The company had two arms: a normal watch shop and a commission-based business for restorations and hand skeletonization. The latter would become Armin Strom’s trademark. In fact, in 1990, he earned the Guinness World Record for the world’s smallest hand-skeletonized women’s watch, but let’s back up a bit. In 1984, Armin Strom exhibited at the now-defunct Baselworld for the first time. He quickly became a household name in the industry, and many prestigious watch brands would request his expertise to skeletonize their timepieces. He worked for Omega, among others, and created the very first skeleton Speedmaster in 1992. This yellow gold watch gets its power from the iconic 27 CHRO C12 movement (the predecessor to the Omega caliber 321) and had a limited run of 50 pieces.
In 2006, the Michel family invested in the company and took the reins from Armin Strom. Serge Michel invited his friend and master watchmaker, Claude Greisler, to join the team. Together, they reestablished Armin Strom, and in 2009, they moved the business to their current location. The team consists of a small but passionate group that curates a unique Armin Strom brand while respecting the original founder’s core ideals. The timepieces are all skeletonized with great attention to detail. It’s now a new brand with fresh ideas, but it maintains a sense of heritage and tradition. As they put it: “(Indie) Brands are trying to define their own way. We are not competing with each other – something that happens with most of the big brands. We are going our own ways.”
Armin Strom’s core line-up consists of three major lines. First and foremost, the Masterpiece collection puts their watchmaking prowess on full display. These timepieces are true haute horlogerie creations of the highest order. There are currently two models in this line: the Minute Repeater Resonance and the Dual Time Resonance. Both are breathtaking timepieces that are well worth a look. Next is the Resonance collection. The brand isn’t breaking new ground here – on the contrary. Armin Strom is famous for their resonance system. In a nutshell, these Armin Strom watches have two movements connected by a patented resonance clutch spring. The movements work together (or “resonate”) and transfer their “information” to the dial, which displays the time. The resulting timepiece is capable of much more precise timekeeping.
This idea is nothing new. Abraham-Louis Breguet created a resonance pocket watch back in the early 19thcentury. However, Armin Strom is one of the few workshops still creating resonance timepieces today. The Resonance collection has two models: the Pure Resonance and the über-cool Mirrored Force Resonance. Last but not least is Armin Strom’s third and newest collection of entry-level timepieces, the System 78. This line debuted in late 2019. At Dubai Watch Week, Claude Greisler described the System 78 as “the brand’s DNA.” Serge and Claude were both born in 1978, hence the name, but the story goes a bit deeper than that. To put it in Greisler’s words: “When Serge and I took over the brand from Armin Strom, we had a clear vision of having a very well-made entry-level line in our collection.“ Their new collection’s first model is the Gravity Equal Force.
When I asked Claude about how he sees the industry today, he responded, “Design-wise, we’re seeing a lot of new releases that look more or less the same. Bigger brands are afraid to take risks. The luxury industry does not have to answer to demand; we have to create it. We have to surprise people with designs, movements, or partnerships. Watches transmit emotions.” The faces behind Armin Strom have a clear vision for their brand, and they know the direction they want to go in. Their timepieces are unmistakable thanks to the inspiration that moves their designers. According to Claude: “Design comes from functionality, and design has to be honest.” He wonders if their brand is a bit “different” because – unlike most Swiss brands – they represent the country’s German culture, which has a slightly different style and mindset. Whatever their secret, Armin Strom is creating some amazing, unique pieces of haute horlogerie while respecting the brand’s heritage. Plus, they are friendly and down-to-earth – a rare bonus these days.