While Armin Strom (the man) began his watchmaking career in 1967, the contemporary brand that is headed by Strom’s longtime family friend Serge Michel and his watchmaking partner Claude Greisler was established in 2009. That makes 2019, a year already packed full of anniversaries, the ten-year celebration of the brand’s vertically integrated manufacture in Biel/Bienne. Armin Strom has done an impressive job of establishing itself as an independent watchmaking force within the minds of collectors and enthusiasts over the past decade, with its recent efforts in pioneering new forms of resonance application the obvious highlight. To commemorate the decennial, Armin Strom has announced the Minute Repeater Resonance, the second timepiece within the brand’s Masterpiece collection that began last year with the memorable Dual Time Resonance.
The Armin Strom Minute Repeater Resonance offers the immediate distinction of being the world’s first chiming wristwatch that features the phenomenon of resonance. The brand says it was inspired by a clock tower called the Zytglogge that has stood in the center of Bern for over 800 years. Not only has the quarter-and-hour chiming tower (equipped with four automatons) served the canton of Bern for over half a millenium, it is rumored to have also helped inspire a young Albert Einstein hone his theory of relativity while working as a patent clerk in town.
As one of only a few brands to bring the concept of resonance to market succesfully (you can learn more about Armin Strom’s approach to resonance here), Armin Strom teamed up with one of Switzerland’s premier firms focused on minute repeaters and striking timepieces of all kinds: Le Cercle des Horlogers. Greisler has a longtime relationship with Alain Schiesser, the founder of the specialist company, dating back to when the two worked at Christophe Claret’s manufacture in Le Locle. While Armin Strom produced the lion’s share of the watch’s components in-house (plates, screws, wheels, bridges, levers, etc.), Le Cercle des Horlogers focused on the fabrication of the gongs. Neither firm is willing to share the exact process, but it apparently involves over 30 different stages and multiple thermic treatments.
The minute repeater itself is activated by a slider on the left side of the case band that engages two hand-polished hammers at 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock which, in turn, chime the hours and minutes on two three-dimensionally curved gongs encircling the hour/minute subdial. The hammers are visually and technically balanced by the two independent regulators, one for each of the two movements, at 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock. Fully visible between the two oscillating balances is, of course, the brand’s patented Resonance Clutch Spring. A specially developed security system maximizes ease-of-use by protecting the minute repeater from accidental damage by blocking operation during time-setting and winding. The case of the Minute Repeater Resonance is built of Grade 5 titanium for optimal sound transmission (and wearability), and its 47.7 mm diameter allows for a generous volume for the sound to propagate from. The chimes are enhanced by attaching the gongs directly to the case.
When the watch was initially conceptualized by the Armin Strom team, the plan was for the minute repeater mechanism to be located towards the back of the movement; eventually, however, it was decided that the gongs and hammers deserved equal billing with the resonant regulators on the front-facing dial side. As expected, this wasn’t the simplest endeavor to undertake, and the eventual resolution was to invert the two vertically stacked calibers with the pinions driving the repeater hammers as well as the hour and minutes. Additional space constraints meant that there was insufficient room for separate mainspring barrels for each of the two movements, so Armin Strom developed an innovative single barrel with two independent mainsprings inside, each driving its own movement.
The result of all this R&D is the ARR18 manufacture caliber with a final tally of 408 components and 51 jewels. Its final dimensions within the watch’s 47.7 mm by 16.1 mm titanium case are 39.4 mm by 11.35 mm. The twin balances beat at 3.5 Hz (25,200 vph) in sync and offer up a 96-hour power reserve. The finishing of the movement is of the typical superlative quality associated with Armin Strom’s team, with a specific focus placed on the tremblage hand-engraving on the large golden balance cocks that support the two oscillating balances.
Other aesthetic features include the transparent dial (with a dash of fumée) and skeletonized bridges and plates that offer a view deep into the heart of the ARR18 caliber. The hour and minute hands are constructed of rose gold. The titanium case features Armin Strom’s recognizable lip at the bottom of the bezel. Finally, the watch comes on a dark gray alligator strap with a stainless-steel double-folding clasp.
In honor of the manufacture’s 10th anniversary, Armin Strom is releasing the Minute Repeater Resonance in a limited-edition run of 10 timepieces priced at CHF 380,000. Unlike the Dual Time Resonance, which saw a number of editions released in a variety of case materials (including a memorable turn in full sapphire crystal at SIHH 2019), the brand states that there will be no further updates to the Minute Repeater Resonance going forward.
Stay tuned for more to come from Armin Strom and click here for our recent interview with Serge Michel about the Dual Time Resonance.