The two leading men behind Armin Strom are being encouraged to enter the limelight. And that’s a good thing.
Children born in the same year who grow up in a town like Burgdorf, Switzerland (population: 15,000) are likely to know each other, through school, family or mutual friends. Such is the case with Serge Michel and Claude Greisler, who grew up in the town where Armin Strom, famous for his watch skeletonization skills, had his watch store and workshop. When the plastic Swatch watch was launched, having been developed and produced in the nearby city of Bienne, Serge was hooked and started collecting them, following in the footsteps of his father, who is also a watch collector. It was a passion that would continue throughout his life. But while Serge went on to study marketing, Claude decided to study watchmaking, first attending the watchmaking school in Solothurn before specializing in the restoration of old and complicated movements at the CIFOM technical school in Le Locle and concluding his studies there with a specialization in movement development.
Both Serge and Claude had known about Armin Strom the watchmaker from a very young age. Serge remembers peering through the window of his store to look at the watches, as well as the fact that Armin Strom was a local celebrity, known for traveling 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 center of Burgdorf. In Serge’s case, Armin Strom became a family friend and at convivial dinners the talk would often turn to watches and watchmaking. It was hardly surprising, therefore, 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 this tradition of skeletonizing watches and develop it for the future, and my family agreed,” says Serge. “That was back in 2006, but at the time we didn’t really have the 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 Armin Strom brand and change the direction from purely hand-made skeleton watches to a fully-equipped manufacture, which we are today.”
For Claude Greisler, 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.”
The core element in the duo’s vision was always to consider the movement as the very heart of the watch, which meant that the company would need to be a manufacture to produce its own movements. “This was not just a question of designing our own movements,” explains Claude, “but of 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 that we could and to do the electroplating and finishing, as well as the assembly, all in-house.”
The rest is history — the relatively short history of a brand that has grown from zero to hero in a decade, starting out with its own base caliber and quickly evolving to produce its own design for a tourbillon and, more recently, revolutionizing the industry with the Mirrored Force Resonance.