The WatchTime Q&A: Serge Michel and Claude Greisler of Armin Strom
In 2006, Serge Michel (Founder) and Claude Greisler (Co-Founder and Master Watchmaker) took over from founder Armin Strom at the head of his eponymous brand. Just three years later, in 2009, the two childhood friends opened a fully-integrated manufacture in Biel, Switzerland and launched their first in-house movement.
WatchTime sat down with Michel (SM) and Greisler (CG) to talk about their vision for the independent Swiss watchmaker, the challenges for a comparatively young brand, and their shared passion for accuracy.
“Consistency of accuracy is what makes your watch keep time perfectly over days, weeks, or months.”
Claude Greisler, Co-Founder Armin Strom and Master Watchmaker
WT: You both grew up in Burgdorf, Switzerland, and even went to the same school. How did the two of you end up at the helm of Armin Strom?
SM: When Claude and I were kids, our local watchmaker, Armin Strom, was a well-known and respected personality and a person of interest for us. Whenever we had the chance, we tried to get a glimpse of what was happening in his small workshop. Rumor had it that Mr. Strom regularly traveled abroad to deliver his artfully hand-skeletonized watches to his selected customers. The life he lived sounded very exciting to us. And as a holder of a Guinness World Record, he definitely had to be a celebrity! What I did not know then was that my passion and fascination for watches had already begun. While I studied marketing, my childhood friend Claude Greisler had followed in the footsteps of Armin Strom and made a name for himself as a gifted watchmaker. Claude had learned his craft of watchmaking and designing from scratch with some of the most prestigious and innovative watchmaking companies. We had remained friends, but did not yet know that we would be reunited as business partners in our first love – the Armin Strom brand. When Armin Strom was looking for a successor, he contacted my family. At that moment, I realized that this was the chance to make my childhood dream come true and partner with Claude, who shared the same memories of Armin Strom.
WT: What was the biggest learning in the last 15 years?
CG: The most important thing was and still is: never stop improving and developing further. I relate that both to the business and to my personal pursuit for horological perfection.
WT: How many watches do you currently produce?
SM: Currently, our capacity only allows for a very few hundred watches per year, which we have to carefully divide between novelties and the current collections. Today, we have 23 employees, more than half of whom are watchmakers.
WT: What is the most popular model?
SM: Our Resonance watches enjoy great attention, as they represent a real watchmaking breakthrough featuring a unique technology, which is the quickest and most reliable Resonance complication on the market. While meeting the challenges of resonance has discouraged most watch brands from trying to apply it, Armin Strom chose to take it on and, true to our spirit, we mastered the technology.
WT: What’s your favorite complication?
CG: Definitively resonance, due to its incredible consistency. And I love the magical, kinetic spectacle that can be admired on the dials of the Armin Strom Resonance watches.
WT: How do the two of you split tasks?
SM: I take care of sales and head the relevant department in our company, while Claude is responsible for product development and managing the manufacture. And we both share the overall company management.
WT: What is the Armin Strom spirit?
CG: It’s the passion for transparent mechanics: we believe that horological craftsmanship should never be hidden behind a dial. This is how we reinterpret Armin’s tradition of skeletonizing in our collections today. The visible movement is not only mechanically in focus, but also optically.
WT: Are you still in contact with the Strom family?
SM: Yes, Armin is a close friend of our families and he visited us recently in the manufacture. He is very proud of how the brand is developing and he likes the reinterpreted skeletonization of the Armin Strom watches today.
WT: How was 2021 for Armin Strom?
CG: It has been our strongest year since we started and we really feel the trend for independent brands, including ours, which makes us very proud and happy of course. I think the pandemic has reinforced this, maybe because people have more time to find out about a product online and are increasingly choosing extraordinary watches with true craftsmanship value, which are far from the well-known mainstream.
WT: How did the increased demand impact your business?
SM: During the pandemic, our orders have more than doubled and we now have a waiting list for certain models. Of course, we do our best so that our customers do not have to wait too long for the ordered watches. The independence of the Armin Strom manufactory has proven to be a clear advantage. We are supplier-independent, flexible in every respect and we have full freedom of choice in everything we do.
WT: What are your biggest challenges?
SM: To cope with the high demand for our watches. And related to this, the qualitative expansion of the production as well as finding qualified watchmakers. In the pandemic, where face-to-face meetings with our collectors are difficult, it is also a challenge to stay in touch with them. But I think we succeed quite well with simple digital tools such as WhatsApp, video meetings, emails and phone calls.
WT: The one thing you wish people knew about Armin Strom?
CG: We’re obsessed with every detail of every watch that we make. We develop, mill, emboss, galvanize and hand-finish all of our watch movements in-house. We adhere to the very highest haute horlogerie standards, because we know that our collectors appreciate looking at more than just the time.
WT: You’re celebrating the fifth anniversary of the resonance technology with the Resonance Zeitgeist in platinum. Is the watch already sold?
SM: The Zeitgeist unique piece is sold, yes. The requests for this watch were enormous, thus we are considering launching more versions of this model. And I have to admit, the Zeitgeist is one of Claude’s and my favorite watches!
WT: What is the biggest advantage of the resonance technology?
CG: Resonance has the ability to create the most consistent timekeeping by employing scientific principles to regulate rate precision over time. In horology, precision is often touted as the ultimate goal of a fine watch, but in reality, precision alone doesn’t make a great timekeeper: it’s consistency. Consistency of accuracy is what makes your watch keep time perfectly over days, weeks, or months.
Armin Strom’s newest generation of resonance is the quickest and most reliable on the market, synchronizing faster than any other watch using resonance. Thanks to the Resonance Clutch Spring, a flexible suspension connecting the two hairsprings with its balance wheels, all of Armin Strom’s Resonance watches are also more resistant to shocks or vibrations.
WT: What was the biggest challenge when developing the Resonance Clutch Spring?
CG: To challenge and break existing watchmaking theories concerning specific complications.
WT: Are we going to see more accessible pieces in the future?
SM: The demand for watches in our System 78 collection, which offers fine watchmaking, impeccable finishing and a number of innovative horological “firsts” while maintaining an accessible price point, is enormously high. While our production capacity for this collection is significantly lower than the effective demand, we dedicate a portion of our limited production capacity to this collection to democratize the access to haute horlogerie timepieces.
The Masterpiece collection contains the pinnacle expressions of our watchmaking philosophy, technical skills and artistic sensibilities. These extraordinary timepieces will always be made in very exclusive quantities.
And the resonance phenomenon represented in our Resonance collection is very near to our heart as it’s a true milestone in horological history. It will always remain a key collection at Armin Strom and the recently launched Zeitgeist unique piece marks the next chapter for Resonance watches.
Follow this link to learn more about Armin Strom.