“Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” With watchmakers, you can ask, “Which came first: the movement or the watch design?” Does a pioneering movement then spark the design to accommodate it or does a striking design then pose the challenge of creating a movement to run it? When in Baselworld, we spoke with Claude Greisler, Director and Designer at Armin Strom, and he shared how the Gravity Collection required a simultaneous movement and design conceptualization because so much of the movement is the design and/or vice versa, the design is the movement. We previously praised the entire Gravity Collection (see here), and now after weeks of wearing the Gravity Water, our esteem grows.
If most watches are made, then this watch is crafted. Creativity. Passion. Devotion. Encapsulating such feelings into a watch design can only be done by those whose skill can communicate their love. This watch evokes emotion because it is filled with emotion. We expect the detailed hand etching of a skeletonized movement from Armin Strom, but the concept of a Gravity collection, which goes beyond a marketing theme or the watch’s appearance to a complete design philosophy where we see gravity’s effect on the movement, is an integrated execution of the highest order. This watch embodies its elemental inspiration, water, and reaffirms a connection between the natural world and those with a love for the sea, or cold alpine streams, or steady rains on a tin roof. Whether an evaluation of this watch begins with its movement or its design, as if the two could ever be separated, the Gravity Water succeeds as a unified whole.
The movement Calibre AMR13, visible from the front skeleton dial and rear transparent caseback, is the prominent feature of the watch. Looking through the sapphire crystal on the front shows many different levels of wheels and bridges, creating a pronounced 3-D effect. The back offers a more artistic rendering, but also allows a revealing view of the escapement, which is with other watches all too often only a partial view.
Finishing is an Armin Strom specialty, and there are no exceptions here. Mirror polish is an understatement of this watch’s dazzle, and since the hands and chapter ring display time in a contrasting white and black, there is no obfuscation; regardless of how brightly the watch shines, light never detracts from reading the time. On the front, the steel has some beautiful circular stripes, which continue through the small seconds sub-dial, and perlage around the jewels and lower bridges. On the back, hand-etched watch drops run along the bridge. This watch features craft, be it engineering or art, or both.
The dial is off-center. The design concept required the off-center placement, giving the watch a brand badge at 3 o’clock next to the crown. The etched logo is faintly colored white to match the chapter rings, but is unfortunately rendered nearly invisible by the shine of the steel. A dark navy blue or black might work better.
Visually, the dial is a triad of three circles contained within the white chapter ring. The chapter ring is divided into second/minute increments of five with applied hour numerals at 3, 6 and 12 o’clock (the small seconds sub-dial covers the 9 position). Inside the chapter ring, the first circle is the small seconds sub-dial, which sits recessed into the chapter ring so that the full sub-dial is intact. Moving clockwise, the partially revealed gold barrel sits at 1 o’clock, and the gold micro-rotor completes the triad at 5 o’clock. When we say gold, we are talking about gold rather than the golden color of brass.
The upper going barrel and the micro rotor are made of tungsten, which in the case of the rotor provides more torque, but gold then covers the tungsten. For Armin Strom, the gravity watches are their first automatic watches with a micro rotor, and the reason the rotor is visible is a novel concept of transmission, which requires the rotor to be smaller in diameter than the main spring barrel. On the back, the escape wheel and pallets are made of gold with hardened functional areas, and the screwed balance has gold screws.
The hands are a combination of mirror polished steel that covers the white luminescent central section. As noted, the white hands maintain their legibility in a variety of lighting conditions.
The 43.4mm case is a combination of mirror polish and brushed steel so that a vertical view displays the polish, and a horizontal view displays the brushed. The bottom of the smooth bezel has a downward lip further emphasizing the gravity theme. The crown looks and feels like a gear wheel in the watch and displays the recently updated company logo on its head. AR treated sapphire crystals are on both sides of the watch.
Our watch came with a blue rubber strap attached to the lugs (curved above, angled below), which are part of the case. Considering there is only 50m of water resistance, the rubber strap felt more like wishful thinking. We like the optional blue alligator horn-back strap better because the Gravity Water is more Haute Horology than it is a sport or dive watch, and confusion on this matter could result in heartache. Of note, the theme is that of water, but the strap is the only place blue appears; still, the silver does recall the shimmering effect of light on the water’s surface. Our rubber strap had the double-fold clasp.
The caliber AMR13 in-house movement has 32 jewels and 171 components. It uses a variable inertia balance, the free sprung balance variety, which means the balance is regulated only by screws on the balance wheel, versus a smooth balance wheel that uses a regulator to shorten or lengthen the balance spring. The balance spring has a Breguet spiral curve (or overcoil) to improve its isochronism, or equal rate of coiling and uncoiling. This is old school watch making. Recalling artisan watches of yesteryear, the movement beats at a slower 2.5 Hz, which allows for an ample power reserve of 5 days. When you hand wind the watch by the crown, the micro-rotor spins freely in response, but pulling the crown does not hack or stop the seconds for winding. Finally, the level of the movement’s hand decoration is inspiring.
The Verdict: Pro and Con
For us, this watch was a huge hit at Baselworld 2013 and the topic of many recurring conversations. Not only were the Gravity watches something new and distinctive in the crowd, but the thoroughgoing extent of their creativity and design was an achievement. Their advertising slogan of “made by watchmakers” is less a slogan than a statement of fact.
- The integrated dial and movement and its skeleton display
- The decoration of the movement – front, but especially the themed decoration on the back
- Gravity theme with elemental models, here water
- Great view of the escapement
- Mirror polish quality of the case and movement
- Available with a dark blue alligator horn-back strap
- Micro Rotor, visible on the dial, spins when you wind the watch
- The white lettering of the Armin Strom badge gets lost and needs a bolder color like navy blue
- You cannot hack the seconds
- Rotor mostly hangs out of view
- Rubber strap (seen here) – but the blue of the strap does reinforce the water theme nicely when so much of what you see is silver
- Limited to 100 pieces – really a backward compliment of saying we would like more, but we understand that handmade quality takes time