When we first saw the press release photographs of the Armin Strom Dual Time Resonance, we weren’t very impressed. It looked awkward, though the idea of using the resonance double train to drive two independent time displays is absolutely brilliant. But when we got our hands-on with the watch, it changed our minds. Here is our full review, and why we now think its a great watch, and more than meets the eye.
Armin Strom Dual Time Resonance Masterpiece 1
The press photographs did the watch no justice. It looked like a crudely finished, tuna can which is open to show the guts of a movement.
But seeing and handling the watch makes a world of a difference. In our hands, the Dual Time Resonance felt good. The initial feeling, sight unseen and derived solely from press photographs was one that the watch was made in someone’s garage. This evaporated when we handled it. The final product felt a good sense of refinement. A finishing which is very well done, yet not in a showy or overly decorative manner.
The case, dial and hands
The case is an rounded rectangle, presented horizontally. Granted, this case shape is not the most elegant possible. But the refinements and detailing is excellent. For example the alternate polished and satin surfaces makes for textural interest. The tremblage finishing on the balance cocks is a visual bomb. As is the animated beating of two balance wheels in sync is mesmerising. Also the shape and orientation has an added advantage: it sits nicely on any wrist.
The design retains the chin which is the calling card of Armin Strom cases, though the case is a completely new design and totally original construction. The case size is a truly impressive 59mm x 43.4mm crafted in polished/brushed titanium and topped by a large sapphire crystal. This creates a large window through which the mechanism and the captivating animation of the coupled oscillators can be admired.
The dials are made by Kari Voutilainen’s Comblémine manufacture and feature magnificently executed guilloché patterns. Currently the Dual Time Resonance is not being offered in a customisable format on Armin Strom’s Configurator.
There are three dials, one for each timezone and one for the 24 hour indicator for both. The time dials are inset with a power reserve indicator each. Markers are in Roman numerals. We asked Serge Michel if he considered using Roman for one and Arabic for the other, so it is easier for a jet lagged traveller to identify which is which. He told us they tried this and other combinations, and preferred the harmony and simplicity of using Roman throughout. And the aesthetics are better.
The home time and travel time can be set independently by the two crowns at the top sides of the case. Each dial is colour coded – one with white hour markers and the other in gold. It does not matter which is set to home and which is set to local, as long as the owner remember to use one system. A small subdial, similarly guilloché at 6 shows the 24 hour indication of both timezones, using two colour coded hands.
The hands are lancet style, with no luminous material.
Prominently displayed on the front of the case at 12 are the two balance cocks. The colour of these cocks are gold, and both are textured in a hand made tremblage pattern. This is a kind of relief hand engraving, executed meticulously on the surface using a nail like device. A similar pattern is used and reserved for Lange’s Handwerkskundst watches.
Despite being a bit busy with multiple sub-dials, legibility is rather good, as the dial is large, and clearly laid out. Though this is only in good light, as no luminous material is used. Both timezones can be read easily and clearly without any confusion.
The movement ARF17
The movement is the Armin Strom ARF17, designed and manufactured in-house at their facility in Biel/Bienne. The movement is conceptualized by co-founder Claude Griesler, and comprises of 419 individual components, including the innovative and unique patented resonance clutch system.
From the case back, the four barrels is visible, and this is wound by the action of a single crown. Two barrels power each of the two movements, which are joined at the oscillator by the resonance clutch spring. All four barrels can be seen through the open worked bridges and taking center stage on the case back is the click mechanism to ensure that the barrels are wound equally.
The simultaneous winding of the four barrels is designed to wind all equally and ensures that the same energy is delivered by the barrels to their associated oscillator to avoid any disturbance of the resonance. Each movement has its own power reserve indicator, using a roller acting as a feeler spindle on a cone which moves with the flow and ebb of the power reserve. This system is similar to the one used in the F. Berthoud FB1.
Movement finishing is at a very high level, but the style chosen is not overly decorative and as a result, looks very sober and perhaps muted. However, great skill is needed to execute the finish at these high levels. All the haute horlogerie techniques are exhibited in good stead – the circular fauss côtes being a case in point. The pattern is done evenly through out with each stripe keeping its width constant throughout the curve. The depth of the cutting of the côtes are even, and the pattern is coherent through the various bridges continuing cleanly from one to the other. The bridges also show several sharp outward angles, and the cocks holding the power reserve indicator show exemplary sharp inward angles, which are executed by hand.
Parts of the movement is visible from the front of the watch, and the two cocks holding the oscillator systems at 12 are prominent. As mentioned, both the cocks are finely detailed with a tremblage texture. And the bridge holding the resonance clutch spring is finished in a mirror polish.
Overall movement finnissage is top grade, though, as mentioned the execution is in a sober, teutonic style rather than a more exuberant decorative style. Interestingly, the key proponent of the decorative styling is none other than the very German Lange.
The competitive landscape
At CHF 180,000 or S$ 262,150, the Armin Strom Dual Time Resoance Masterpiece 1 is a rather expensive watch. But the operating principles of the watch with the forced resonance clutch system is unique. No other watch offers this, other than the brand’s own Mirrored Forced Resonance, which does not offer a second timezone.
In our mind, the closest and perhaps only competitor is the F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance (S$122,000 for the platinum case and S$109,500 for the rose gold case). Both are offer dual timezones in a two train system using some kind of resonance effect to ensure synchronicity. Both offer the ability to adjust the timezone displays totally independent of the other. And both are made by independent watchmakers in small volumes. The AS is currently only offered in titanium and is a limited edition of only 8 pieces. Although we are sure that it will be also offered in other case materials and dial options later. The Journe is in the standard catalog.
The operating principle of the resonance is different between the two. The Journe relies on proximity to ensure the two balances move in sync. But the Armin Strom uses its own clutch mechanism to ensure that the two balances are connected to each other to ensure that they sync. The AS power reserve is longer, at 110 hours for each of the movements, and the Journe is only 40 hours.
The Journe is perhaps all the more elegant in aesthetics, with the two timezones clearly identified by different time displays. The Journe is wound and set with two separate crowns.
One added plus for the Journe is that the movement is in rose gold. Though not a technical consideration, makes for a beautiful movement. And coupled with the more competitive pricing, makes a very interesting proposition.
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Dual Time, the Patek Philippe Ref 5524 Calatrava Pilot Travel Time, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time, the A. Lange & Sohne Saxonia Dual Time are other offerings with two timezones. But the biggest difference between these and the Armin Strom and the Journe is that these dual time watches operate from a single movement and only allow the timezones to be adjusted in full hour increments. Also, none of these offer resonance in any flavour.
The Armin Strom Dual Time Resonance Masterpiece 1 is a very special watch. It is huge in proportions. But as the elongated shape is spread horizontally rather than vertically, it fits and wears rather comfortably. See the video on the wrist:
The Dual Time Resonance offers perhaps a unique proposition. It is well designed and nicely executed. The build quality is excellent. But it does come with a rather high price tag. Although this is perhaps moot. It is unique for a dual timezone watch powered by twin movements connected via forced resonance, featuring independently adjustable timezones on two clear, legible dials. But the balance is delicate indeed. Remove the forced resonance, and replace it with just a proximity resonance phenomenon, the Journe becomes a real threat, as discussed in the Competitive Landscape section above.
However, the forced resonance principle is a sound one. It ensures that both balances achieve this state quickly, Armin Strom literature states that it will sync in 10 seconds. So its horses for courses. If the aesthetics appeal. The quality of execution is important. Then the proposition for the Armin Strom Dual Time Resonance becomes higher and higher. You pays your money and you takes your choice.