Strom Revs it Up
In 2006 Serge Michel and Claude Greisler took a big step toward creating something extraordinary out of something that was already very good, but not very well known beyond the scope of the insider collector milieu.
In 2006, Michel,
the young managing director of his family’s newly acquired Armin Strom, and Claude Greisler, an experienced movement designer previously employed by Christophe Claret and now product manager for the newly redirected young brand, had a big job ahead of them. But, as recent history shows, it was one they attacked with verve, vigour and, ultimately, success.
In order to understand Armin Strom’s present, let’s back up a few years to when Swiss engraver and skeletonizer Armin Strom’s name was one that conjured up visions of latticed gold and brass twinkling with an interspersed shine of red bearing jewels alive with the motion of rotating gear wheels and oscillating escapement parts in the heads of central Europe’s collectors.
Strom, with his heartfelt smile, burly moustache and thick SwissGerman accent, had been a fixture in watchmaking for the previous quarter century. His claim to fame among collectors was his life’s work of 200 or so uniquely hand-skeletonized, bespoke timepieces completed for various clients. His work was not necessarily completed within the framework of a ‘brand’ as the term is understood today, but rather as an artisan practicing his craft.
Now 77 years of age, Strom is often viewed as a ‘skeletonizer’, but in fact he is a watchmaker who had spent many of his first years in restoration, repair, and retail service before purchasing a watchmaker’s workshop in Burgdorf, near Bern, in 1967 and settling down.
Initially, his own business was based on a pocket watch he had created. Spurred on by praise for this piece, but told that the movement needed to be more visible, he came up with the idea of removing all the unnecessary parts of it to make it more transparent and unique. Skeletonizing was never part of a class at any watchmaker school, so he taught himself how to do it. For his third pocket watch – he preferred using the larger surfaces of the pocket watch movement at first –he added decorative techniques such as engraving and plating, which were performed by outside specialists. He thus created a style that was all his own upon presenting it in 1983.
By 1985, Strom was including wristwatches in his repertoire as the market demanded by this time, and promptly sold his first one to a German customer during the Basel fair of that year. “The small movements may have been harder to work on, but for this reason they presented a greater challenge for me,” Strom remembered in 2006 as he proudly partook in the celebrations surrounding the creation of a brand around his work.
Each one of Strom’s creations was unique, often bespoke or tailored to a certain customer, and therefore he personally delivered the