Armin Strom Advances With New F1 Partnership

Official Timing Partner of Virgin Racing…

First Ben Clymer @Hodinkee called it the boutique brand of the future.  Then, I got my hands on the $17,600 Blue Chip Skeleton (an amazing watch if there ever was one — be sure to watch my review) and decided I could, on many levels, agree with Ben.  Armin Strom is a brand to keep your eyes on and a brand I really respect thanks to my interaction with its US distributor, Totally Worth It LLC (check out TWI’s new website).  While still young as an organization (founded in 2006), Armin Strom has impressive pedigree (Armin Strom the man is one of the watchmaking world’s elite masters), it has already established marquee distribution partners and points of sale in key markets, and it even has “manufacture” status since announcing its first in-house movement, the ARM09, in late ’09.

So, yes, I think Armin Strom SA has great promise and is making progress. But I think the brand still has a long way to go.  What’s lacking?  In a word, sizzle.  Among other things, I do not think that overall awareness or excitement for Armin Strom is as high as it could be, primarily due to lack of exposure (online and off) and some branding missteps (more on this below).  But wait…hold on a minute…what’s this?  A new Official Timing partner for Virgin Racing Team F1 for the 2011 season?  Hey, this could be big!

With Hublot now leading the charge as the Official Timekeeper for all of Formula 1, I think now is the right time for a brand such as Armin Strom to be raising its profile with a partnership such as this.  Done right, this partnership should help the brand’s global profile quite a bit and give it some of the “sizzle” that can help take it to the next level.  And of course, there will be special edition watches!  Armin Strom promises a “bespoke collection of exclusive Virgin Racing timepieces, inspired by the technology and material synergies between Formula 1 and the art and craft of watchmaking.”  I am excited to see these watches!

TEAM Armin Strom and TEAM Virgin Racing

Virgin Racing F1 Cars

So as you can see things are moving in the right direction for Armin Strom, and the high profile Virgin Racing partnership is definitely a big win for the company.  But there is one lingering concern I have, and that is the company’s branding strategy.  Initially there was a bifurcated branding approach – “Armin by Armin Strom” and “Armin Strom”.  There were even 2 distinct websites and logos for each brand.  This “split personality” approach makes no sense to me.  I think the brand would be far better off by deciding “who” it wants to be and investing heavily in a singular brand identity.  On a good note, I was looking at the website today and saw that someone at Armin Strom was thinking as I was because the “Armin by Armin Strom” website is gone and it is merely represented as another collection within the Armin Strom umbrella.  Even so, they need to do better than the moniker “Armin by Armin Strom”.    Think “Patek by Patek Philippe” or “Audemars by Audemars Piguet” — it would never fly.

And neither will this:

Just when I thought the brand was closing out its split-personality disorder, I was somewhat dismayed to see a “Armin Racing watches by Armin Strom” logo in connection with the Virgin F1 announcement.  Another “sub-brand”?  I confess, I do not get it.  Will someone more informed than I please enlighten me?

To me it comes down to this:  the sooner that Armin Strom can figure out “who” it wants to be when it grows up – which means ONE Brand, ONE logo, ONE identity – the better.  Then it can quickly get on with becoming the boutique brand of the future.