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Interview: Serge Michel, co-founder and CEO of the Armin Strom Manufacture

Time and Watches interviews Serge Michel, co-founder and CEO of the Armin Strom Manufacture, one of the most interesting Swiss independent watchmaker.

Crafting excellence in Independent Watchmaking

Armin Strom, the Swiss independent watch company founded in 1967, merges Swiss-German horological tradition, avant-garde "transparent mechanics," and a commitment to innovation. The brand's artisanal approach emphasizes exposed dial-side movement mechanics, with the entire movement meticulously hand-finished with extensive haute horology decoration. Initially led by legend Mr Armin Strom, the brand was revitalized in 2006 by Claude Greisler and Serge Michel. With a fully integrated manufacture since 2009, Armin Strom designs, develops, assembles and decorates its watches in-house.

Serge Michel, co-founder and CEO of the Armin Strom Manufacture


Serge Michel, serves as a driving force behind Armin Strom's evolution. His shared vision with Claude Greisler, master watchmaker and co-founder, and their commitment to uncompromising quality and design shaped the brand's distinctive identity.

Alessandro Mazzardo, founder and executive editor at Time and Watches, had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Serge, whose responses are below.


Time and WatchesArmin Strom has a distinct identity in the watchmaking world. Could you share the key elements that define the brand and set it apart from other independent watchmakers?

Serge Michel: The movement is at the heart of our philosophy, as it is clearly visible in our watches. We call this our 'passion for transparent mechanics'. We believe that the art of watchmaking should never be hidden behind a watch’s dial. This is how we artfully reinterpret the tradition of skeletonisation in our open-worked watches today, and how Mr Armin Strom's DNA lives on in all our watches. 


Our in-house design and production underline our commitment to crafting timepieces from the ground up. We manufacture 97% of our movement components ourselves. Only the escapement and balance spring are outsourced. 

Hand decoration is another hallmark of Armin Strom. The entire movement is meticulously hand-finished with extensive haute horology decoration, mastered in-house by our skilled watchmakers. It’s a process that sometimes takes ten times as long as manufacturing the part itself. In addition, the entire movement is assembled by hand twice to ensure an uncompromising commitment to quality.

Armin Strom is also one of the few watchmakers to produce Resonance watches in series. The Resonance concept is a testament to our innovative spirit as we continue to push the boundaries of precision in watchmaking, demonstrating our commitment to advancing watchmaking technology.

Armin Strom marries technical mastery, traditional hand decoration, and contemporary design, crafting timepieces that seamlessly blend precision, artistry, and modern aesthetics.

The Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance


Time and WatchesArmin Strom has a rich heritage, and your approach to innovation is evident in the brand's offerings. I am thinking, for example, to your Mirrored Force Resonance, the Gravity Equal Force, the Orbit or the One Week First Edition. What guiding principles shaped the evolution of Armin Strom under your leadership? 

Serge Michel: The pursuit of innovation and perfection is very important to me personally. With the creation and the development of our Manufacture, we are focusing on the greatest possible vertical integration. This has allowed us to build up a great deal of expertise over the years and now gives us the freedom to create a new movement that is not only innovative but also aesthetically unique.


Time and WatchesBeing an independent watchmaker often comes with unique challenges. What are some of the major obstacles you've faced, and how have they shaped Armin Strom's approach to business and design?

Serge Michel: Navigating the path of perfection and innovation has been a collective journey for our entire team. One of the significant challenges we've encountered is assembling the right talent across all departments. This quest for skilled individuals has been a crucial aspect of our growth.

Furthermore, our commitment to producing timepieces aligns with our personal preferences and standards of perfection. Crafting watches that resonate with our vision has been central to our approach. However, conveying this philosophy to collectors has been a journey in itself; it necessitated a mutual understanding before they embraced our brand.

From our perspective, true success isn't coerced through aggressive marketing. Instead, it emanates from the excellence of the product. This principle consistently takes centre stage in our communication strategy, highlighting the core belief that an exceptional product ultimately speaks for itself.


Time and Watches:  Independent brands often have a more direct relationship with their customers. How does Armin Strom engage with its clientele, and how important is customer feedback in shaping the brand's direction? 

Serge Michel: Indeed, our direct relationship with customers is a cornerstone of the Armin Strom experience, and it's something our clientele genuinely values. For me, there is nothing better than talking to an enthusiast who understands and appreciates our watches.

Transparency and honesty define Armin Strom's identity. Our manufacture is open to visitors, providing an inside look into our craft. Moreover, our watchmakers are more than willing to engage with customers, fostering a sense of openness and accessibility.

While we welcome external input, our brand's direction remains steadfast. We hold our course with determination, appreciating the insights shared by our community but always staying true to the unique path we've chosen for Armin Strom.

The Armin Strom manufacture in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland


Time and WatchesArmin Strom is known for producing both core models and limited editions. Could you provide insight into the decision-making process behind the creation of these different lines? How does the brand determine which designs become part of the core collection, and what factors contribute to the selection of themes or inspirations for limited editions? 

Serge Michel: In principle, almost all of our watches are limited editions, or self-limiting in the sense that we can only produce a certain number each year. The models in our permanent collection provide the platform for special editions and are available for a short time and are often influenced by market trends. Also, we create special editions, mainly in collaboration with and for our long-standing distribution partners, which are mostly characterised by market-specific inspirations. 

A unique collaboration in 2023 was the special edition of our Pure Resonance with our retail partner Oster Watches (Denver, US) and @Horomariobro, also known as the "King of Macro Photography", on Instagram. 

Horomariobro had wanted a unique piece of a Resonance watch from Armin Strom for a long time. After several discussions between Oster and Horomariobro, we designed the Pure Resonance Ultimate Sapphire together. The result was so convincing that we decided to make a limited edition of ten. 

The Pure Resonance Ultimate Sapphire, a special edition born from a collaboration between Armin Strom, retail partner Oster Watches and collector Horomarioboro


Time and WatchesSustainability is becoming increasingly important across industries. How does Armin Strom approach sustainability in watchmaking, from both a business and production standpoint? 

Serge Michel: Sustainability is a fundamental consideration in our approach at Armin Strom, both from a business and production perspective. As a watch manufacture, we recognize that our environmental footprint is relatively small, but that doesn't diminish our commitment to promoting sustainability.

One notable initiative is the implementation of a new solar electric system on the roof of our Manufacture. This investment in renewable energy aligns with our dedication to minimizing our ecological impact. We also prioritize collaboration with regional suppliers whenever possible, fostering a sustainable network that supports local communities.

At Armin Strom, we firmly believe that each individual's behaviour and contribution matter. It's not just about the big initiatives; it's also about the collective effort in making responsible choices. From our production processes to our daily operations, we strive to integrate sustainable practices, recognizing that even small steps contribute to a more environmentally conscious future.


Time and WatchesAs an influential figure in independent watchmaking, how do you see the future of the watch industry evolving, and the role of independent watchmakers in this evolving landscape? 

Serge Michel: I think the future of the industry is focused on innovation, craftsmanship and personalisation. Independent watchmakers, which are characterised by individualisation and direct sales models, are faced with the challenges of larger brands, but can set themselves apart from them through flexibility and innovation. The increasing importance of digital platforms and collaborations will reshape the watch landscape.

Independent watchmaking is, I believe, set for significant growth, driven by consumers as ultimate decision-makers. Independent brands like ours, often embodying the essence lost in larger brands - the heart and soul of watchmaking - offer enthusiasts a realm of pure craftsmanship, going beyond celebrity endorsements and logos on sports jerseys. This shift isn't a passing trend but a broader movement, reflecting a renewed appreciation for authentic watchmaking's intrinsic value in craftsmanship and artistry.



Find more about the Armin Strom timepieces at arminstrom.com

COMMENTS

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Time and Watches | The watch blog: Interview: Serge Michel, co-founder and CEO of the Armin Strom Manufacture
Interview: Serge Michel, co-founder and CEO of the Armin Strom Manufacture
Time and Watches interviews Serge Michel, co-founder and CEO of the Armin Strom Manufacture, one of the most interesting Swiss independent watchmaker.
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Time and Watches | The watch blog
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