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Interview: Serge Michel and Claude Greisler, co-founders of the Armin Strom Manufacture

Founded in the late 1960s by the eponymous Swiss watchmaker that become worldwide recognized as the Master of movement skeletonization, the Armin Strom brand was taken over by Serge Michel in 2006, soon after joined by Claude Greisler. The two friends, one focused to the business side and the other to the technical area, successfully developed Armin Strom in a fully independent watch manufacture maintaining the watch movement at centre stage.

Serge Michel and Claude Greisler
Serge Michel (on the left) and Claude Greisler. 

The Armin Strom manufacture in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland
Below, the Armin Strom manufacture in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland


In our interview, Alessandro Mazzardo, founder and executive editor at Time and Watches, asked Serge and Claude a few questions. 


Time and Watches: When and how did your passion for watchmaking start?

Serge Michel: My passion for watches started when I was a child and was inspired by my father who is also a watch aficionado and collector. I grew up in Burgdorf, where Mr. Armin Strom had his workshop. I was so impressed by his work and craftsmanship. I started early to buy my first watches for my collection. I had the full Swatch collection and, over the time, my knowledge for watchmaking evolved, just as my personal collection.

Claude Greisler: I was greatly influenced by my grandparents. They also worked in the watch industry and, through them, I discovered the beauty of watchmaking since my early years. Like Serge, I grew up in Burgdorf where Mr. Armin Strom had his own workshop, just next to the store of my parents. As you can imagine, I spent quite some time staring through the window to observe him working on the timepieces. 

Burgdorf, the old city
The old city of Burgdorf and, below, a view of Biel/Bienne, the town where the Armin Strom manufactory is headquartered today

A view of Biel/Bienne

Time and Watches: You both grew up in the same town so I guess you knew each other since you were quite young. Can you tell us more about your main experiences before starting your Armin Strom venture?

Serge: That’s true, we were both born in Burgdorf and we went to the same school. But besides that, we did not had a lot of contacts but we shared the same passion for watches.

Claude: Exactly, we had the same passion for watches and watchmaking. This link became the starting point of a great time later in our life.


Time and Watches: I was just a boy when my passion for watches started so I could follow the evolution of the Armin Strom brand since the 1980s. I remember well that in those years and in the 1990s Mr. Armin Strom was the undisputed master of watch movement skeletonisation. I would love to hear how you met him.

Serge: I met Armin for the first time when I was young and I entered the Burgdorf store together with my father. During this visit, I had the chance to discover the fascination of open worked mechanical watches. This passion stays with me to this day. 

Claude: Armin Strom was just working on a special piece in his workshop while I was staring through the window of his workshop attracted by his hand work and the small parts. Armin saw me and invited me to come in and observe how he was skeletonizing a movement. Mechanics is a big passion for me so I was very fascinated. For me the movement is the centre of every timepiece.


Time and Watches: Then, it came the moment, in 2006, when you had the opportunity to take over the Armin Strom brand. Would you tell us about those days?

Serge: I remember that moment well, although it was not the best time for the watch industry as the world economy was in the midst of a financial crisis. Few companies had the appetite for expansion. However, this proved advantageous for us as we were able to procure state-of-the-art machinery at very keen prices.

Claude: We where young at that time and it was a big challenge for us to start from scratch and creating our own manufacture. But taking over the heritage of Mr. Armin Strom and bringing the fascination of transparent mechanics to the next level was an exciting challenge that we could not refuse. Just after Serge called me for the first time to talk about this opportunity, I immediately started developing some ideas and going creative. 

Serge Michel
Serge Michel

Time and WatchesYour decision to in-house develop and produce movements was certainly a key one, the one that made it possible to shape the future of Armin Strom as it is today and guarantee the independence that lies behind the capability to innovate. For sure a challenging move. What was the rationale for your choice at the time?

Serge: We wanted to be independent in order to have a certain liberty. We also wanted to control all the different steps during the process of creating a timepiece in order to have the best possible freedom. 

Claude: We learned a lot in the more than 10 years of being an independent manufacture. Only thanks to the fact that we can produce our movements completely in-house we are able to bring watchmaking a step further. We use new technologies; we are rethinking old ideas in order to create timepieces which generate a real advantage for the collector and also for the industry. Being independent gives us the freedom to be creative and take the most out of our ideas.  Take the Dual Time Resonance, for example: nobody could have created this particular movement and project for us. 

Above and below, the Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance

The Mirrored Force Resonance in the hands of claude Greisler

Time and Watches: You mentioned the Mirrored Force Resonance model and I confess that I am a big fan of this model (you can read our review here). Would you please tell us more about the inspiration behind it? I am sure it was quite challenging to design and develop your solution as demonstrated by the fact that, in centuries, very few watchmakers attempted to take advantage of this physical phenomenon. 

Serge: Absolutely, it was quite a challenge for Claude and the team to be able to find a solution for taking advantage of the resonance physical phenomenon.

Claude: I had already worked on this phenomenon during my studies for becoming a watch constructor. I was fascinated a lot by the fact that only a handful of watchmakers attempted to work with this phenomenon. After the installation of our manufacture, I started again doing some research on this phenomenon to gain a deeper understanding of how it works and how we could take the best out of it in one of our movements. It was challenging and a few times we even considered to stop the project. But at Armin Strom we always go the extra mile and, after three years of work on the patented Resonance Clutch Spring, we found the solution. It was a revolution in the watch industry that such a young manufacture could produce a complex movement like our Resonance calibre. I’m really proud of the whole team for the great efforts we made to reach our goal. 

Editor's note: Readers interested in going deeper into this topic may find interesting our feature article "In pursuit of precision: mechanical resonance and watches".

Claude Greisler
Claude Greisler and, below, the Resonance Clutch Spring, a key element of the Mirrored Force Resonance



Time and Watches: I admire how you were able to transform the brand in a pure manufacture with a strong drive for innovation while maintaining a link to the past with the result that the Armin Strom timepieces have a strong identity and are immediately recognisable. I guess this was not always easy because it may have posed some constraints in terms of design but I think that you did it the right way. Now the evolution is becoming more evident with the new System 78 collection whose first piece was the amazing Gravity Equal Force that I had the opportunity to review earlier this year. Would you explain your vision on the new collection and the meaning of its name? 

Serge: The collection is intended to be the entry point for Armin Strom, an haute horlogerie collection at a reasonable price point with impeccable finishing and constant invention. The name displays what we hope to create, a System of fine watchmaking available to all who desire it. Every piece will feature an innovation as well as showcasing the watchmaking philosophy of Claude and me and we were both born in the same year, 1978. Thus, the System 78 collection was born.

Claude: The system 78 collection also opens the door for younger collectors to be able to buy something special from an independent manufacture. It has always been a goal for us to create watches which are on the wrist of watch enthusiasts and collectors. The System 78 collection is an interesting field and will even become more interesting in the next few months, trust me.

Armin Strom Gravity Equal Force
Above and below, the Gravity Equal Force, the first model of the Armin Strom System 78 collection

The Gravity Equal Force on the wrist on Serge Michel

Time and WatchesTechnically speaking, which is the solution that you developed that you are more proud of?

Serge: For me, it is the Minute Repeater Resonance. With this timepiece we created the world first chiming timepiece using the phenomenon of Resonance. 

Claude: That’s hard to say, as all of our movements have a story and emotion behind. But certainly, it is the Resonance movement. There was no existing project which we could take information from and we really had to invest a lot of time in research and development.

Armin Strom Minute Repeater Resonance
Armin Strom Minute Repeater Resonance

Time and WatchesIs there a technical solution or invention of other watchmakers – of today or from the past – that you particularly admire?

Serge: I am always attracted by perpetual calendars.

Claude: I have a big passion for pocket watches, they introduced some clever solutions during their time and I get a lot of inspiration from them.


Time and WatchesEvery decade or so is characterized by emerging trends that, sometimes, are recurring over time (ultra-thin movements, adding complications, tourbillons, using new hi-tech materials, et cetera).  Do you see some new trends on the horizon? And what could be the next challenge for watchmakers?

Serge: I think the future will be all about true values. Collectors want to know more about the heritage and the reason why of a certain product. It is less about marketing but more about the watch itself. We live in a transparent world.

Claude: I think the watch industry has become a bit less innovative than in the past. But there is still a lot of room for improvement. One of the main challenges for a watchmaker is to make the mechanical watch as precise as possible. Chronometry is a big topic as well as adding complications with a special advantage for the collector. 

Serge Michel and Claude Greisler

In the following two videos, Serge and Claude talk about their favourite models in the current Armin Strom collection. arminstrom.com



COMMENTS

BLOGGER: 2
  1. Excellent brand. They have developed their own design language without mimicking anyone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much for your kind words.

      Best regards from the manufacture

      Delete

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Time and Watches | The watch blog: Interview: Serge Michel and Claude Greisler, co-founders of the Armin Strom Manufacture
Interview: Serge Michel and Claude Greisler, co-founders of the Armin Strom Manufacture
Time and Watches interviews Serge Michel and Claude Greisler, co-founders of the Armin Strom Manufacture
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