Inside Armin Strom - An Independent Manufacture Of Haute Horlogerie
A strong vision is often developed at the cost of full independence. However, in 2019, Armin Strom celebrates the tenth year of its independent manufacture in Biel. Claude Greisler, the co-founder of the brand, explains in a video interview the philosophy of the house and reveals their new masterpiece.
It is in the heart of Biel that Armin Strom, in 2009, took up residence to base its independent manufacture. Here, innovative projects are thought out, watchmaking calibres at the cutting edge of precision are drawn, and the traditional knowledge of this Haute Horlogerie house is perpetuated – all to the enjoyment of discerning collectors.
Interview with Claude Greisler, CEO and Technical Director of Armin Strom
The small white modern building is unobtrusive on the Biel road, yet it houses every facet of production for the young Armin Strom manufacture. The design and creative offices are always hunting for new ways to create innovative movements and to continually improve chronometric accuracy. Watchmakers and engineers model on computers the possibilities of tomorrow. Steps away from the design lab, these pieces go into production.
On the lower floor, CNC machines cut raw materials (metal bars) into precise components. For the most delicate and exquisite of these parts, electro-erosion is utilized for an accuracy of +/- 2 mils and the freedom of form it offers. The basic principle underlying this technique is removing material. This process is so close to the brand’s historical DNA of skeletonization that the machine doing the work is affectionately known as the “Armin Strom.” It is thanks to this high precision tool that the now-famous “Resonance Clutch Spring” was realized.
Another strength of this young manufacture is that they even go so far as to conceive of the necessary tools for developing its ideas. In this room, the latest technology out all components of high watchmaking movements Armin Strom: plates, bridges, screws, nuts, peaks, springs, wheels, and anchors. Even a wheel’s teeth are cut internally —ultra-rare expertise for independent manufactures. Only the hairspring is still subcontracted. Yet, Armin Strom continues to develop additional skills, such as making its own hands.
Know-how, flexibility, freedom
The factory’s stated goal is to have in-house mastery of all the required knowledge to ensure its freedom and differentiation. With its annual production of about 400 pieces, the needs are minimal series of which only independence can guarantee flexibility and quality. No less than six checks of the latter are carried out on the site.
Starting with the prototype, a check is made to ensure proper operational potential. Then each component is evaluated under stringent guidelines before continuing to the decorating and galvanizing processes. After, the pre-assembly of the movement is, of course, inspected to test that everything works perfectly. The movement is then disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled before undergoing chronometric testing compliance and sealing. The sixth (and final) quality control is done before the finished piece is shipped.
In all, more than six weeks of thorough checks are necessary to ensure the quality expected of an Armin Strom timepiece. Excellence cannot be rushed.
Art of Decoration
The decorating department is where components spend the most time. Each piece, visible or not, is decorated and the skeleton takes center stage. Here, everyone is an expert watchmaker, but each continues to develop their knowledge and improve their specialized skill. Angling, polishing, strapping, pearling, engraving, shaking, drawn features, straight or circular Côtes de Genève, everything is done by hand here. The time spent on manual decoration makes all the put it, “The manual work makes the details deeper, finer, and especially transmits the emotion to make the room more alive.” The only decoration not made internally is the guilloche which is made by the brand’s friend and revered watchmaker, Kari Voutilainen.
Making A Masterpiece
It is by aspiring to this mastery and excellence that Armin Strom can create a true masterpiece of watchmaking. After the Dual Time Resonance’s debut in 2018, the brand decided to celebrate this year’s 10th anniversary of its manufacture with a new, exceptional piece: the Minute Repeater Resonance.
This world-first timepiece combines two phenomenal complications: resonance and minute repeater. Both being revised and perfected in-house by Armin Strom. Limited to 10 pieces, this series showcases all the know-how of the house: skeletonization, a completely redesigned movement integrating the complications, and the brand’s characteristic decorations. A masterpiece set in a 47mm titanium case, optimized for resonance.
To the no doubt delight of future owners, everything is visible on the center dial. While the depth of the calibre is immediately striking, these layers are artfully accentuated with the application of various satin finishes (brushing, mirror polish, and “shaken”). Under the famous Resonance Clutch Spring, there isn’t any perlage as one might expect, but rather a careful polishing that brings out the natural beauty of the movement.
The hour and minute hands sit atop a sapphire crystal dial for a better view of the backside of the movement. However, to enhance the readability of the rose gold hands and Roman numeral indexes, the opacity of the crystal is slightly smoky, especially in comparison to the case’s nearly invisible sapphire crystal.
Once again, Armin Strom impresses and demonstrates its manufacturing prowess with the Minute Repeater Resonance, a complex and precise architecture comprised of more than 400 components.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)