For a relatively young brand, Armin Strom has, in rather short order, joined the ranks of watch manufacturers — like Panerai and Richard Mille — whose products are identifiable across the room. There is a definite Armin Strom “look,” owing largely to the brand’s focus on skeletonization, the specialty of the brand’s founder and namesake, Swiss watchmaker Armin Strom. (You can read more about the history of the company and its founder here.)
Armin Strom — whose watch collections are defined by their “Four Elements” theme — Earth (in PVD-coated case), Air (titanium case), Fire (rose-gold case) and Water (steel case) — was one of the sponsoring brands at last October’s WatchTime New York show. At that event’s closing, the Armin Strom team kindly provided me with this sharp, gray-strap version of the Armin Strom Gravity Date Air and asked me to live with it for a few weeks and offer a review. So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on this very distinctive timepiece. (Photos by WatchTime contributor Rob Velasquez.)
The Armin Strom Gravity Date Air makes an immediate impression with its large, 43.3-mm titanium case (titanium is presumably used for the “Air” series due to its lightness, making it the most “airy” material available), with a very thin and slightly sloping bezel. It has brushed finishing on most of the surfaces, but also sports polished finishes along the edges of the bezel and caseback and on the curved yet sharply angled lugs.
One of the defining factors of that aforementioned Armin Strom “look” is the main dial, which is slightly off-center, shifted to the left by a few millimeters from the right side of the case and thus leaving room for the curved aperture displaying the Armin Strom logo (which is inscribed on the movement and peeks out through the curved window.)
There are applied Arabic numerals at the 12, 3, and 6 o’clock positions; the rest of the dial’s outer ring is occupied by minute numerals at the 5-minute marks and indices representing the remaining minutes. This scale is interrupted by an overlapping subdial at 9 o’clock, which serves four functions: small seconds, date indicator, 24-hour time, and day-night display.
This is frankly a lot to fit on one subdial, even a fairly large one, and I admit to being initially perplexed at first as to how to set the indications and read them. The date is relatively straightforward: an inset pusher in the side of the case at about 11 o’clock advances the small date hand to the proper numeral, 1 through 31, on the inner numbered scale. (I had to use a ballpoint pen for this but a date-indicator tool is included with this watch for an actual paying customer.)
The longer seconds hand sweeps around the subdial from zero to 60, as indicated on the outer scale. And after a close examination, I discovered that the shortest hand moves in conjunction with the main hour and minutes hands to indicate the time on a 24-hour scale, with the white “day” sector indicating AM and the dark “night” sector, PM. Unfortunately, there is no 1-24 numbered scale, so the indication is not the most precise. Basically, if the small hand is pointing toward the 12 o’clock position in the day sector, you’re 12 noon, and if it’s pointing at 6 o’clock in the night sector you’re at 12 midnight. Once I figured this out, this feature was actually somewhat fun — and as Armin Strom points out in its press materials, it enables the wearer to know the exact time of day on the watch when changing the date, a rather useful feature for any watch wearer who’s ever let out a Homer Simpson-like “D’ohh!” upon seeing today’s date move to tomorrow’s at noon rather than midnight.
Inside the main hours/minutes scale, behind the multi-purpose subdial and the central, steel hour and minute hands is the timepiece’s coup de grace, the automatic Caliber ADD14, which has several notable features that are characteristic of the brand and particularly its Gravity collection. On the dial side, you get a glimpse of the movement’s micro-rotor, whose rotations supply energy to a single, large mainspring barrel, along with other gears and bridges that have been finished and hand-engraved to an impressive level; circular côtes de Genève — a motif that I tend to associate mostly with Piaget’s movements — are in evidence, along with perlage and the “Swiss made” notation engraved on the micro-rotor. Oh, and did I mention the power reserve held in that barrel? A full five days, meaning you can let this watch rest over the weekend in favor of something sportier and then strap it on for work on Monday (or Tuesday) morning without needing to re-set or wind it.
The back of the movement, visible through the clear sapphire caseback, also offers lots of visual appeal, with haute horlogerie decorative flourishes, rubies (there are 30 in total), and a large aperture, framed by a beautifully engraved border, through which you can glimpse the balletic motion of the escapement, beating at a leisurely frequency of 18,000 vph.
The gray hornback alligator strap, with light-gray stitching, is appropriately thick and makes for a very snug, comfortable feel on the wrist, attaching by means of a titanium ardillon buckle adorned with a subtle Armin Strom “A” emblem. Needless to say, the Gravity Date looks great peeking out from under the sleeve of a classical gray suit. If this watch had been around in the “Mad Men” 1960s, I could see a Don Draper type proudly walking into a big pitch meeting wearing this — and then, inevitably, stealing a glance at the day-night indicator to count down to Happy Hour.
The Armin Strom Gravity Date Air (Ref. TI14-DA.50) is limited to 100 pieces and retails for $21,300. It’s also available on a white alligator strap.