Armin Strom’s Serge Michel and Claude Greisler talk about what makes the brand unique and what’s coming next
An exclusive interview with the owners of Armin Strom and the advantages of an integrated manufacture.
Armin Strom is not your usual brand. And this is not only because of the unique design of its watches. We’ve always tried to emphasise this uniqueness – when reviewing the timepieces or when we paid a visit to the manufacture – because, unlike many brands, Armin Strom is a truly integrated manufacture that produces most of the parts of a watch and that has a genuine power to innovate (see the Resonance watch). Today, we chat with Serge Michel and Claude Greisler, owners of the brand, to talk about what makes this watch manufacture unique and what they have in mind for the future.
It is quite unusual to see a duo managing a brand. How do you work in tandem and what are the contributions of each of you?
Claude Greisler (CG): We are using the strengths of each other. I’m more into the technical part and Serge is more involved in sales and marketing activities. But all our decisions are made hand in hand.
How did you get to know each other and to work together?
Serge Michel (SM): Children born in the same year who grow up in a town like Burgdorf (population: 15,000) are likely to know each other, either through school, family or mutual friends. Such was the case with me and Claude.
Claude and I had known about Mr Armin Strom the watchmaker from a very young age. I remembering peering through the window of his store to look at the watches. Armin Strom was a local celebrity known for travelling far and wide to deliver his watches to customers. Claude had also known about Armin Strom from an early age since his parents owned an optician’s shop that was right next to Armin Strom’s store in the historic centre of Burgdorf.
In my case, Armin Strom became a family friend and at convivial dinners, the talk would often turn to watches and watchmaking. It was hardly surprising, then, that the family friendship evolved into a business relationship in 2006 when Armin Strom was considering how to ensure the future of his name and reputation.
I was convinced that this was a fantastic opportunity to maintain the tradition of skeletonising watches and develop it for the future – and my family agreed. That was back in 2006, but at the time we didn’t really have much knowledge about watchmaking. We had the passion, but we needed someone who was an expert on the watchmaking side of things, which is where Claude comes in. He joined me in 2007 and we started to set up the brand Armin Strom and change the direction from purely hand-made skeleton watches to a fully-equipped manufacture, which we are today.
CG: For me, it was like a dream come true. When Serge first called me and talked about taking the brand to the next level with a factory, taking the brand over from someone from the same town as us, it was the perfect mix. Armin Strom had always been interested in the mechanics of the movement, so to be able to take this philosophy forward was a fantastic opportunity.
Armin Strom stands out in the landscape of Swiss Watch manufactures. What makes the brand different?
CG: We celebrate the calibre and we put it into the centre of our thinking. All our movements are skeletonised and we show the beauty of the mechanics from the front and the back of the watch. Nearly all of the movement components are manufactured in our own workshop.
SM: The Armin Strom manufacture is barely a decade old, which is nothing compared to brands which can claim over one or two centuries of watchmaking history. But we are a small, independent and unique watch brand that can punch well above its weight (laughs).
You have been investing consistently in your production equipment. What advantages does in-house manufacturing offer Armin Strom?
CG: Being an independent manufacture was not just a question of designing our own movements, but being able to take exactly the kind of brass that we wanted and the type of steel that we wanted to make the best possible plates, bridges, screws and pinions, and to do the electroplating and finishing, as well as the assembly, all in-house.
SM: We can be innovative and guarantee the highest quality we would like to have. We also have full control over the whole watchmaking process and there is room for “crazy ideas”. As an independent watch manufacture we do have a certain flexibility which allows us to work on more than just one project. We are also doing the prototyping and testing in-house.
Armin Strom made a splash with its resonance concept. What is the story behind the genesis of this innovation?
CG: The Resonance concept is a real revolution in watchmaking. The industry was always driven by perfection and increased precision. The resonance concept goes in line with this thinking and we are proud of our concept for increased precision, combined with its captivating mechanism on full display dial side. Resonance is a sophisticated and demanding horological technique and, thanks to our team and the manufacture, we are able to create this masterpiece.
What evolutions can we expect for this concept?
SM: The R&D which we have done and the existing theories about Resonance open room for further novelties.
CG: There are ideas for further complications; the fact that we have synchronised two movements together is a good starting point for new exciting projects.
Your watch configurator has been an interesting initiative – what have you learned from it? How does it help you shape Customer experience and distribution?
CG: The reactions about our configurator concept are very positive. The demand for personalisation in the luxury industry has never been more important than today. We have already created a lot of individual timepieces in the past for our collectors. Luxury is about exclusivity – the exclusivity that comes with owning something rare and special that no one else has. And luxury is as personal as each individual collector.
SM: The configurator is a great tool and our retailers are completely integrated into the process. The configurator allows them to configure, together with their customer, his personalised timepiece. From the comfort of his own home, the collector can also choose the case material, the style and colour of the dial and hands, the clasp, and details right down to the colour of the stitching on the chosen strap.
2018 was your first year at SIHH, what was your experience at the Geneva Fair?
CG: We are very happy to be part of the SIHH, one of the leading global events in the watch industry with the Carré des Horlogers. The fair follows the same philosophy as we do. The mechanical watch is the centre of interest combined with digital communication solutions to spread the novelties out to the world.
SM: Our first presence at the SIHH in 2018 was a real success. We had the chance to talk to very interesting journalists, retailers and collectors from all over the world. We are looking forward to the next edition of the SIHH in January 2019 where we will be presenting a very interesting new timepiece.
More details on www.arminstrom.com.