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Armin Strom, a unique blend of tradition and innovation

The Armin Strom brand is an example of how it is possible to be innovative and creative, even bold and daring in some cases, while respecting watchmaking tradition and classic aesthetics.

The evolution of the brand has always been aligned to the philosophy and vision of its founder, with the watch movement always taking centre stage.

Born in 1938 in Lotzwil in the Canton of Bern, Armin Strom was trained as a watchmaker and had his first working experiences in his hometown and in St. Moritz.

Initially focused on restoring old clocks and pocket watches, in 1967 he finally opened a specialized atelier in the old town of Burgdorf, to the northwest of Bern in Switzerland, where he started creating his own timepieces.

Armin Strom in front of his Burgdorf atelier

His first masterpiece came several years later, in 1981. It was a gold pocket watch, numbered 001, featuring calendar and moon phases with a precious dial made of a blue lapis lazuli. The hand-engraved movement gave evidence of his exceptional manual dexterity and meticulous attention to the smallest details.

Armin Strom's first masterpiece, a gold pocket watch with lapis lazuli dial

The quality of his work was the result of years of apprenticeship and development of his skills in various watchmaking schools and workshops in Bern, Zurich, Geneva and even in Glashütte, the cradle of German watchmaking. 

In this time, Armin Strom started to dedicate more time to skeletonizing movements of the past and soon decided to specialize in this complex and fascinating art.

In a skeleton watch (or squelette in French), all the parts of the movement which have no active function for its operation are cut away. The remaining parts are often engraved and decorated.

Armin Strom quickly achieved exceptional results in this field attracting the attention of press and collectors at the 1984 Watch and Jewellery Fair in Basel. 

By late 1980s, his collection included more than 20 models. For most of them, the customer had the possibility to request special decorations or customizations performed by the Master himself. He truly had special relationships with his demanding customers, opening the doors of both his workshop and his home to receive them, discuss about watches and better understand their wishes.

In the 1990s, he finally started producing timepieces for women. The first one caused a sensation: the smallest ever hand-skeletonized watch, an achievement that gained him an entry in The Guinness Book of Records.

The Guinness World Record certificate for the smallest skeletonized movement (just 12.5 mm) equipping a watch for Ladies

 A beautiful tonneau-shaped model in yellow gold based on a hand-wound calibre of the 1930s

As a recognition of his mastery in the skeletonizing art, in the early 1990s Armin Strom started receiving several orders by large brands who commissioned him to skeletonize complicated watches.

Armin Strom at the bench with its main tools: fretsaws and countless files used to refine the various pieces

During these years, Armin Strom was able to create a recognizable style for his creations with his skeletonized movements, dial rings and lips on the bezel as a further way to personalize his watches with the initials of the owner.

The Blue Chip Chronograph Skeleton model

In preparation of his retirement, in 2006 Strom sold a 51 percent stake of the newly incorporated stock company - Armin Strom AG - to the entrepreneurs Willy Michel and his son Serge while retaining 49% for himself. 

One of the first moves of the new CEO Serge Michel was the appointing of Claude Greisler as the new technical director. Before joining Armin Strom, Greisler was a movement designer at Christophe Claret.   

Sharing the goal to transform Armin Strom into a larger watch company capable of combining the values of its founder with series production and worldwide reach, Serge and Claude realized the importance of developing and producing their own in-house movements and, before that, of building up parts production capabilities. 

Claude Greisler (on the left) and Serge Michel in 2009

They were well aware that only those who make their own plates, bridges, levers, springs, wheels, pinions and screws can control the production process at all levels and thereby bring a movement from idea to production with the required quality and control.

In 2009 the company moved to a new factory in the watchmaking city Biel making significant investments in the most up-to-dated production machinery and at the end of the same year the first in-house manufacture movement, the hand-wound ARM09, was presented.

 

The One Week Collection introduced at Baselworld 2010 was the first to be equipped with the new in-house developed and produced calibre. This new line interpreted Armin Strom’s watchmaking tradition of skeletonizing in a modern form raising great consensus.  

Armin Strom One Week Water

It was with this model that Armin Strom introduced the Four Elements concept still used today where the Water, Air, Earth and Fire names are associated to different case materials (stainless steel, titanium, black PVD-coated stainless steel and red gold respectively).

Since then, all movements equipping the Armin Strom timepieces are produced in-house, making of the brand a pure Manufacture.

In the development of its timepieces, the Armin Strom brand keeps believing in the same principle that guided its founder: "as an object of fine mechanical art, a hand-finished movement is too good to remain hidden between a watch face and case back".

And, in fact, the brand gives the movement as much exposure as possible with surfaces for numbers, indexes and other features reduced to the minimum. Instead of speaking of dials, Armin Strom uses the term "dial ring" or "reduced dial". This approach has no costs in terms of readability. Instead, it offers a three-dimensional experience to the wearer which can fully enjoy the magic of a mechanical watch movement in action. 

Over the years, these dial rings have characterised the design of Armin Strom watches as shown in the picture below.


Another hallmark of the brand is the lip positioned at 6 o’clock on the bezel. Armin Strom developed this additional surface on the case as a way to personalise his watches with engraved initials.


Except for this distinctive detail, the cases of the brand are very classic with the explicit goal to leave the spotlight to the hearth of the watch: the movement.

In 2011, after a long and successful career entirely dedicated to watchmaking, founder Armin Strom decided to retire. He remained a shareholder in the company and an adviser to the master skeletonizers of the brand.

After the launch of two other hand-wound calibres, year 2012 was marked by a major milestone: the development of the first tourbillon movement of the brand. Beating at 2.5 Hz, the hand-wound ATC11 calibre was equipped with a double going barrel delivering a remarkable power reserve of 10 days.

The Calibre ATC11 featuring a tourbillon and a double going barrel

And, after the first in-house automatic movement and a micro-rotor tourbillon in 2013, the Armin Strom company finally realised one of the dreams of its founder with the Skeleton Tourbillon Fire model: the creation of a fully skeletonized tourbillon watch.



The One Week Skeleton that followed in 2014 can be considered the modern symbol of the Armin Strom long tradition in the art of skeletonization and hand engraving. After cutting away all the parts of the movement without active function, the remaining parts are engraved and meticulously decorated by hand offering unique views of the mechanics to the owner.

Armin Strom One Week Skeleton

A major milestone came in 2016 with the launch of the Mirrored Force Resonance, a timepiece featuring a patented resonating dual regulator.  In watchmaking only few watchmakers attempted to take advantage of the resonance phenomenon to improve accuracy, precision and rate stability of a timepiece. 

While improving the watch’s overall precision, the beauty of the resonance implementation used by Armin Strom also stands in the possibility to observe this phenomenon, and admire how the two resonant regulators work in a sympathetic manner, while wearing the watch on the wrist.

Above and below, the Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance



In 2017, Armin Strom launched an innovative on-line system allowing for clients to create their own exclusive wristwatches. And with many exposed components visible through the openwork or skeletonised dials, Armin Strom timepieces seem to be ideal for creating new variations by combining different metals, colours and finishes.


Armin Strom is one of the few watch manufactures able to offer such a unique service because it has the ability to create a full watch movement under one roof, therefore possessing the agility to meet the requests of the customers.


This way, Armin Strom found a creative way to make the experience of buying a Haute Horlogerie timepiece even ore rewarding for watch collectors and enthusiasts. Another demonstration of the capability of the Armin Strom brand to be innovative and creative while respecting watchmaking tradition and classic aesthetics. arminstrom.com


By Alessandro Mazzardo. 
Originally published on September 29, 2016, this article was updated on June 30, 2018.
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Time and Watches | The watch blog: Armin Strom, a unique blend of tradition and innovation
Armin Strom, a unique blend of tradition and innovation
History of the Armin Strom brand. From founder Armin Strom to the current owner of the brand Serge Michel and the innovative resonance timepieces.
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