Combining its deep horological know-how with a bold, contemporary aesthetic, Biel-based ARMIN STROM joins the prestigious group brands to offer a manufacture tourbillon caliber. To mark the occasion, the manufacture presents an exclusive “coffret touribllon” of four unique timepieces which showcase the tourbillon caliber in a variety of embellishments. The pieces are all beautifully done and serve as a precursor to more regular production tourbillon models which will roll out next year. In total, just 16 pieces will be made (4 sets of 4). Perpetuelle brings you a close look at each of these four superb timepieces, below.
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Baselworld 2012: Several exciting releases and a new manufacture caliber from Armin (Armin Strom) this year — embodied here in the new Armin Racing Carbon watch. As a refresher, the ‘Armin Racing’ collection is the manufacture’s sportiest collection, though the DNA is very much in line with other collections; since 2010 Armin Strom has been involved with sports racing most notably through its sponsorship of the Marussia Virgin Formula 1 team — see my review of the very cool Armin Racing Chronograph Marussia Virgin edition for a hands on overview. The Armin Racing “Carbon” houses the new manual-wind caliber ARM12 which features plates and bridges inlayed with carbon fiber. Much of the movement is exposed to the wearer, giving the watch a nice “high-tech” look to it. Looks like a winner to me.
If you are new to Armin Strom: it is a small but ambitious Swiss manufacture, the namesake of its Master Watchmaker and Skeleton Master who retired this year — please browse through some of my extensive prior coverage of the brand’s watches, here.
ARMIN Racing Carbon
limited edition 50 pieces
43.4mm steel case, manual-wind manufacture caliber ARM12
Speaking of skeleton watches…
Of all the remarkable people in the watchmaking industry, Armin Strom is one of my most admired. Among his many horological talents, Armin Strom is recognized as the father of the skeletonized watch. He is also the namesake of the Armin Strom manufacture which was invigorated a few years back and which I think will serve as a fine legacy for Mr. Strom who is now retired, according to the FHH.
Congratulations on an amazing career and the legacy that will follow you, Mr. Strom. The Armin Strom Blue Chip Skeleton Automatic Watch that I reviewed a few years ago gave me nothing but sheer delight — it was an honor to experience your work firsthand.
Mr. Armin Strom
Close-Up of Armin Strom Blue Chip Skeleton Automatic
From the FHH:
Armin Strom, founder of the eponymous Biel manufactory, relinquished his role in running the business last September. Aged 73, the master craftsman continues however to provide enlightened advice to skeleton watchmakers and will take part in future events as a brand representative. He also remains a shareholder in the firm.
After half a century in the watch industry, Armin Strom can be proud of a unique career and an extraordinary track record in business. A visionary, he was one of the first people in Switzerland to dare to develop the skeleton watch. The removal of large parts of the movement to create a sense of a visual depth remains today a trademark of Armin Strom watches.
Here’s a nice one-off piece from Armin Strom. Armin Strom is for the second year in a row one of the main sponsors of the Menuhin Festival, an annual classical music event based in Gstaad, Switzlerand. The event was actually founded in 1957 by Lord Yehudi Menuhin, a man who is considered to be one of the greatest violinists of the 2oth century. Today the Menuhin Festival Gstaad has become one of the most important classical music events in all of Switzerland, with some 50 concerts played over seven weeks. Interesting, eh? At least for a useless trivia buff such as me
Anyway, Armin Strom has designed this limited edition Armin Strom Manual Fire Limited “Menuhin Edition” with a specially decorated bridge to celebrate the event whose theme of “Fire and Sun” is in tune with the Armin Strom “elements” concept (Earth/Fire/Water/Air). Aside from the special decoration, this piece is very similar to the Armin Strom One Week Fire watch (and also Water) that I wrote about in May 2010, just without the power reserve function.
Armin Strom Manual Fire “Menuhin” Edition
55 piece limited edition
43mm rose gold case, Mechanical manual windin Armin Strom AMW11 caliber; fitted on hornback-style alligator strap
For this special release, the gear train bridge on the underside of the movement has been embellished with hand-engraved flames and a musical pitch clef with some notes:
The Menuhin Festival website also suggests that Armin Strom has also created pieces based on all the remaining elements – water, air, earth and fire, but as of right now I do not have any information on these pieces.
Oh how I love Armin Strom — the man and the brand! Though I’ve never met “the man”, I have had the good fortune of meeting one of his watches — the Armin Strom Blue Chip Skeleton — talk about eternal love for a watch! As for Armin Strom the man, well, I recently received this video from the folks over at Armin Strom (via Totally Worth It) and thought it was worth sharing. It is a nice “start to finish” of a hand-skeletonized, hand-decorated Armin Strom Square watch (a white gold Ref. 77, I believe). Also, my aforementioned video review of the Armin Strom Blue Chip Skeleton watch is also posted below for your viewing pleasure.
The Art of a Hand-Skeltonized, Hand-Decorated Armin Strom Watch (Video)
courtesy Armin Strom via TotallyWorthIt
Armin Strom Blue Chip Skeleton Watch Review (Video)
Since high-end Swiss-watch manufacture Armin Strom announced a high profile sponsorship of the Marussia Virgin F1 Racing team late last year, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the wristwatches that would be announced as an outgrowth of the deal. The first look came at Baselworld 2011 when I previewed the Armin Racing Chronograph, noting that it featured “one of the best designed chrono dials I recall seeing in quite some time.” And now, thanks to Totally Worth It, the official Armin Strom distributor in North America, I have hands-on experience of this watch that I want to share with you. I hope you enjoy the review.
Video Review: ARMIN Racing Chronograph Black
Limited Edition 500 pieces
44.4 mm black PVD titanium case (13.85mm thick), automatic mechanical movement
Photos: ARMIN Racing Chronograph Black
Armin Strom is a brand I wish I would feature more often here on the blog. While I have written several articles about Armin Strom watches, including my video/photo review of the totally awesome Armin Strom Blue Chip Skeleton, the brand has generally flown under the radar in recent years. However, this seems to be changing – and for a brand with such a rich heritage (stemming from its Founder/namesake), this is a good thing. The brand has “manufacture” status with fairly extensive in-house capabilities (announced its ARM09 movement last year), and it recently signed a high profile F1 partnership with Marussia Virgin Racing which should also be good for visibility. The Marussia Virgin Racing partnership brings me to today — and a look at the new ARMIN Racing Chronograph featuring one of the best designed chrono dials I recall seeing in quite some time.
ARMIN Racing Chronograph Black
Limited Edition 500 pieces
44.4 mm black PVD titanium case (13.85mm thick), automatic mechanical movement, high-tech leather+rubber strap in black/red, with PVD-coated titanium ardillon buckle
The dial design on the ARMIN Racing Chronograph is very, very nicely done (see close-up below) — one of the best chrono dials I have seen in recent years. Note the circular finishing near the outer edge of the dial, nicely integrated sponsor mentions, left-hand placement of the circular date window, lack of cut-off-numerals — it all comes together very harmoniously:
Stay tuned there’s more — In conjunction with the Virgin partnership, Armin Strom AG has developed a collection of three exclusive timekeepers, all custom-built for motor racing, with titanium or stainless steel cases and with the Marussia Virgin Racing team colours. In addition to the Racing Chrono shown above, the collection also includes the ARMIN Racing One Week with the ARM09 Manufacture movement (limited to 40 pieces) and the ARMIN Racing Regulator with the ASRO7 movement (limited to 100 pieces). Can’t wait to see the new ASR07 movement and the Racing Regulator!
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 ArminStrom.com 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.
Fire and Water…
Below are a pair of exciting new watches from the Armin Strom “One Week” collection. Dubbed “Fire” and “Water” and featuring Armin Strom’s new in-house movement with 8-day power reserve (the ARM09 — we wrote about it in Feburary), these two watches make up half of the four elements that represent the collection. “Earth” and “Air” are the other two models that I will show you at a later date. Each model is limited to 100 pieces per element with a 43mm case (13mm height). Notice also the asymmetrical case-design. The partial-dial has a power reserve display and while offering views of the very eye-pleasing ARM09 movement. The watches are paired with a totally kick-ass “horn-back” alligator strap in the appropriate color.
Armin Strom One Week Water – Stainless Steel (Ref ST10-WW.05)
Price is about $24,000, limited to 100 pieces
Armin Strom One Week Fire – Rose Gold (Ref RG10-WF.5N)
Price is about $34,000, limited to 100 pieces
So now that I have your full attention, you may be wondering – why I haven’t I seen this brand before?!? Well, I would say that Armin Strom’s relatively low awareness is a function of its relative youth as a brand (founded in 2006) and its high entry-level price point (about $8,000, moving quickly into the five-figure range). However, I would argue that — more than any other young/small luxury brand today — Armin Strom SA is in a position to turn itself into a watchmaking powerhouse over the next decade or two.
As a quick refresher, here’s the backdrop on the brand — Armin Strom SA was founded in 2006 and is based in the watch-making center of Biel, Switzerland. The brand takes its name from the man himself – Armin Strom. I like to think of Armin Strom as the Godfather of the skeleton watch — it is an art he has been honing if not nearly perfecting for decades now. The startup of the brand is backed by successful Swiss businessman, Willy Michel. Michel along with Strom recruited a group of young talented and promising watchmakers upon which to build the brand and take it into the future.
At present, the brand is somewhat divided into two product “tiers”. That is, the somewhat more modern-looking “Elements” watches that I have shown you here today, and the ultra-exclusive “skeleton” series which are enhanced with various levels of hand-engraving or partial skeletons, up to a fully hand-made skeleton watch. The skeleton watches are quite simply some of the most fantastic watches I have ever set my hands upon — check out my video review of the Armin Strom Blue Chip Skeleton Automatic for an in-depth look.
The investment of time and money into the brand should not go un-noticed — Armin Strom is now more-or-less a fully capable manufacture, as evidenced above by its first manufacture movement, the ARM09 (click through to our earlier post for more looks and info). The ARM09 is quite obviously visually stunning, but I am also told that it has strong technical characteristics as well.
To close the loop on all this, let me just stay that it is my view that with all of its resources, its relative youth, and the wisdom and tutelage of Armin Strom himself, Armin Strom SA has significant potential to make a big name for itself as a leading high-luxury Swiss watch brand in the years ahead. Stay tuned for future looks at the watches of Armin Strom!
Among the thousands of novelties that will make a debut at the BaselWorld fair this year several manufacturers are also introducing their latest in-house movement creations. Over the past five years or so many firms in the Swiss watch industry has taken a turn towards creating their own movements from the ground up. One would think that only large market firms, like Jaeger-LeCoultre, Tag Heuer, Panerai, and Breitling, (among several others) would have the capital available to produce completely in house watches; but we are also seeing smaller, independent brands with high customer loyalty ambitiously invest in the design and construction of some very special engines of their own.
So, come this March 18th in Basel visitors to the fair will be properly introduced to Armin Strom‘s ARM09 (ArminReserveMarche09). After a full 3 years of development, on November 17th, 2009 at the Armin Strom headquarters in Bienne and manufacturing facilities in Biel, a select group of international press agents were introduced to the ARM09 and were able to witness it being produced in its various stages; from milling the base plates to the final assembly and decorating all, of course, performed by hand.
As for the nuts and bolts of the ARM09; it’s a 34 jewel hand-wound movement pulsing at 18,000 vib/h, comprised of only 146 components. It features an 8-day power reserve (with a reserve indicator on the dial) and in a nod to fans of the artistry of mechanical movements the crown wheels are visible on the dial side which allows the owner to view them as they turn. With a lot of manufacturers looking into silicon parts as the future of movement production; Armin Strom stood proudly alongside history and used traditional materials for its first in-house calibre.
The ARM09 will be featured in Armin Strom’s “One Week” collection that is to be unveiled at the upcoming Baselworld fair. Armin Strom has done a fine job of keeping this new collection under wraps until its official debut, but rest assured Perpetuelle.com will bring you pics of the collection as more information is available. Armin Strom CEO Serge Michel is very excited about what this potentially means for the future of Armin Strom claiming; “Of course this step is the fulfilment of a dream for us, but it also ensures our independence in other areas.”
In a time when the world’s economy is slowly working its way out of a near collapse I’m encouraged to see so much industry fanfare, and new development being showcased in Basel this March. It’s nice to hear that watch firms, big and small, are relying on innovation to keep their customer base loyal during a time when money could easily be spent elsewhere. I welcome Armin Strom to the exclusive club of “manufacture” and am excited to see what the future holds for them.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out our hands-on review of the Armin Strom Blue Chip Skeleton here!
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