It is not everyday that a watch brand announces a new minute repeater. And one like the Armin Strom which combines the striking works with their signature forced resonance double escapement calls for a deep hands-on.
We covered the basics in our announcement article:
Armin Strom Masterpiece 2 Minute Repeater Resonance Announcement
Armin Strom Masterpiece 2 Minute Repeater Resonance
The be all and end all of a repeater is the sound. And the Armin Strom Minute Repeater Resonance does not disappoint. Listen to the the strikes in the video below. Apologies for the slightly out of focus on the watch, this was recorded in a rather dark room, and the camera’s autofocus was having a difficult time keeping focus. But the sound is clearly recorded.
We also note that this is a traveling prototype, and the watch could do with a tuneup of the gongs and striking system for optimum performance.
The case, dial and hands
The case is the traditional Armin Strom round case in 43mm diameter and made from titanium. The watch as a whole felt very lightweight on the wrist and on the hand. A huge crown with fluted edges and the minute repeater slide mechanism adorns the case side.
The hour and minutes are mounted on a sapphire glass disc in a smoked grey finish and applied Roman numerals as hour markers. A minute chapter ring is mounted on the periphery of this glass disc.
The twin gongs curve sensuously around the hour/minute subdial forming a very beautiful flowing shape. The hammers are at 12, and have an unusual shape. The hammers are magnificently finished in black polish.
The two balance cocks supporting the two balances are large and visible from the dial side. The cocks are in gold and finished in a hand-engraved tremblage pattern with high polish on the anglage. This tremblage is particularly atrractive, and provides a contrast in textures on the dial side.
The movement is a collaboration between Claude Grissler of Armin Strom and his old friend Alain Schiesser, founder of Cercle des Horlogers, with whom he had worked with in the past at Christophe Claret.
The development work of combining the striking works with the resonance escapement presents some significant challenges. Claude had wanted to have all the action visible on the dial side – which means that the resonance double escapement and the clutch spring and the gongs were to occupy prominent space on the dial side.
With this limitation, the traditional gong shape of going around the case inside perimeter was not possible, as the resonance clutch and balance wheels were at 6 o’clock. The risk of either or both the balances or the resonance clutch spring touching the gongs in the event of a shock was quite high. So the solution was to have the gongs go around the hour/minute subdial. The particular shape of the gongs are an aesthetic approach, while it allows the length of the gongs to achieve a loud sound. Armin Strom also chose a titanium case, which they feel optimizes the sound transmission.
However, Claude also wanted to make sure that the spectacle of the forced resonance double escapement and that of the hammers striking is not diluted by the associated gearing necessary to drive the repeater and going train. This meant that the movement had to be inverted with the pinions driving the repeater hammers and hour/minutes traversing two vertically stacked movement slices. One for the striking works, and the other the timekeeping wheel train.
The majority of the components are produced in-house at the Armin Strom Manufacture, while the gongs are made by Le Cercle des Horlogers.
Movement finishing is excellent. As mentioned, because the dial is open worked, the movement finish is visible from the dial. All the traditional finnisage elements are addressed in excellence. From the case back, the striking works are visible, and well finished with linear graining. The base movement is also beautifully finished on both sides.
The competitive landscape
As minute repeaters coupled with another complication go, the Armin Strom Masterpiece 2 is rather reasonably priced at CHF 380,000. If we only look at the striking watches with a resonance double train system, it becomes unique.
If we look at other minute repeaters circa that price, we find the following:
Chopard Full Strike (S$ 351,330 inclusive of GST) is a bit less expensive than the Armin Strom. But it is a classical minute repeater with a traditional wheel train. Cased in Fairmined rose gold, it is a rather interesting value proposition.
The Full Strike is equipped with a quiet regulator and crystal gongs. The use of double barrels and activation via a button coaxial to the crown instead of arming the repeater’s spring by pushing a slide at the case side makes it easier to operate. And the very traditional hour/quarter/minute striking system completes this very attractive package.
Moser Swiss Alp Minute Repeater Tourbillon (CHF 292,000 before taxes) comes close in pricing. And it too carries another complication on top of the striking works. Instead of a double train forced resonance escapement, but it does have a flying tourbillon.
Each Moser is delivered as piece unique with custom dials. The movement, designated C901 is developed with Pierre Favre of MHC Manufactures Hautes Complications SA. The complexity of the movement does not only demand the combination of the repeater works with the tourbillon, but further constrained by the need for a form movement in the rectangular case and rectangular gongs.
A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Decimal Strike at €120,000 as a limited edition of 100 pieces in honey gold case makes it the least expensive option, a term not normally associated with Lange. But all the Lange characteristics are present. It displays time in a mechanically jumping digital system. The traditional finishing is as magnificent as ever. And the Lange twist of it being a Decimal Repeater which chimes Hours/Tens of mintes/remaining minutes instead of the more traditional Hour/Quarters/Minutes remaining is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Tutima Homage Minute Repeater (€ 168,000 in rose gold and € 179,000 in platinum) is a very classical, traditional minute repeater. We were thrilled with the aesthetics, especially the platinum edition with a skeletonized black ruthenium dial over a gold movement plate and displaying the polished striking works system.
While the traditional minute repeaters from Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Ultra Thin Minute Repeater and Audemars Piguet have price tags double that of the Armin Strom. Although we do note that the Patek Philippe Ref 5078 is perhaps more keenly priced at CHF350,000. We also note that all these traditional marques are time only with the striking mechanism, with no other complications.
Overall the Armin Strom Masterpiece 2 Minute Repeater Resonance represents a great milestone in the company which has come a long way under the leadership of Serge Michel and Claude Grissler. Its been a decade since they bought the brand from their friend Mr. Armin Strom. And they certainly have taken it a long way.
We think the Armin Strom Minute Repeater Resonance is a worthy candidate in the top drawer striking watches sweepstakes. At such an elevated price level, it is rather surprising that there are perhaps more than a few competitors.