Our inaugural “Temptation Thursday,” from Angus Davies of the online watch magazine Escapement, focuses on the Armin Strom Tourbillon Gumball 3000, a limited edition from the official watch partner of the world-famous transcontinental car rally.
First, by way of introduction:
Time to “man up”
I sat at the long rectangular table, located in the dimly lit room above a restaurant, somewhere in Basel. I listened attentively to the conversations which ensued. Some of my colleagues from the Watch Experts Network talked of their regular contributions to watchtime.com and I confess having felt a tad embarrassed that I had been a little remiss in my own efforts.
Indeed, they had been diligent, submitting their (mostly) weekly installments of horological wisdom to the inbox of Watchtime’s own Mark Bernardo. Detailed reviews, punctuated with superb original imagery, have become the eagerly awaited must-reads for numerous self-respecting watch fanatics around the globe.
I had been busy fulfilling writing commitments for other magazines and websites but clearly I had failed to match the efforts of my assiduous colleagues. I admit my actions, or rather lack thereof, seemed feeble by comparison with their prolific productivity.
The editorial output from “Monochrome Monday,” “Dive Watch Wednesday,” and “Fratello Friday” has gained a strong following among those who share my passion for the sound of a Swiss lever escapement ticking and the sight of a brilliantly gleaming hand-beveled bridge.
I knew the time had come for me to accept my responsibilities and “man up”, taking charge and recording my thoughts with feverish key-tapping on my Apple Mac keyboard. However, there was one problem which immediately reared its ugly head. If I was to maintain the trend for using alliteration, established by www.monochrome-watches.com and www.fratellowatches.com, then my trademarked brand, Escapement, presented a problem. Try as I might, I could not find a day of the week that started with the letter “E.” Then I had a moment of realization: I could regale readers with my latest bout of watch buying addiction and explain the rationale for the white lies and sometimes the deception I employ to hide a purchase from my justifiably distrusting wife.
The idea of “Temptation Thursday by Escapement” came to the fore, whilst the unauthorized purchases continued to be pushed towards the back of my wardrobe. Quite simply, I am addicted to watches.
Watches – recognizing my habit
The subject of addiction is no laughing matter; sadly, numerous individuals suffer ill health as a direct result of consuming narcotics or alcoholic substances. I genuinely believe that some individuals, myself included, have an addictive personality that will always be drawn to excessive consumption.
I have never partaken in the consumption of drugs and thankfully alcohol has seldom caused me to over indulge. However, there are some areas of my life where my addictive personality is all too clear to see. For example, I am a workaholic, unduly obsessed with my professional standing and permanently trying to maximize my personal productivity with scant regard for my own well-being. It is not unusual for me to work over 20 hours in one day. Thankfully, my body seems to tolerate this for a while, but I suspect the long-term consequences, like many addictions, will ultimately be detrimental to my health.
Another area where I am weak is the abuse of sugary and fatty foods. For long periods I will not wish to eat, stating that I am too busy to take time out and failing to adequately nourish my body with a balanced diet. Ultimately, my weight tumbles, the wardrobes full of clothes are rendered obsolete, and further shopping trips prove necessary.
Afterward I experience a bout of gluttony, a shift in my psychological thought processes takes place, and suddenly no food is safe from my clutching claws. Indeed, my children have learned that when Dad is in this ‘mood’, it is best to hide their chocolate Easter eggs. Quite simply, no food is out of bounds when my addictive psyche comes out to play.
Watches are my greatest passion. It is a love affair that has endured throughout my adult life. My tastes may have changed over the years, but my insatiable hunger for “just one more watch” has always been a perpetual habit.
Indeed, dear readers, I freely admit within this gigantic, virtual confessional box we call the world wide web, I am, genuinely an addict. While I have never stolen a watch to feed my habit, probably because the process of acquisition is part of the thrill, I have told a few ‘white lies’ to my wife about how long I have owned a newly acquired watch. The phrase I often recite, as if it were a well known passage within a prized work of literature, is “I’ve had it for ages.”
The inner turmoil
On making the acquaintance of a watch that ensnares my heart, I experience a plethora of emotions. I want it, I need it and, like a petulant child, I sulk until I have acquired it. No logical words of reason can stifle my need to purchase, and ultimately my badly worn credit card has to come out of my wallet and play. Once I have smelled the fragrant aroma of a fine watch and my senses have been aroused, there is only one likely outcome and that is yet another watch to join my modest collection. Ironically, the watch will probably spend most of its life archived in a safety deposit box as modern-day security precautions dictate.
Sometimes this buying process, from discovery to acquisition, takes place in the merest of moments. On other occasions, I ponder, dwell, seek more information and make repeated trips back to admire the watch on display. It is invariably futile as procurement is inevitable and logic says I should accept the acquisition as a fait accompli.
At times, I suffer post-purchase guilt. I remonstrate with id, the protagonist who forces me to erode my children’s inheritance and then I experience an overwhelming sense of remorse after another bout of financial abandon.
Then I seek to blame others. More specifically, I blame those naughty watch companies who make me buy their watches by producing comely creations I cannot ignore. It’s not my fault; I am an addict, and I need to be protected from ingenious dial displays, peerless finishing and elevated levels of wearer comfort.
Ultimately, I have to come to terms with the fact that my name is Angus, and I am a watch addict.
Temptation Thursday – my weekly confession
An alcoholic would be ill-advised to become a bartender or brewery worker. Abstinence is the key to sobriety. However, as a professional watch journalist, who evidently has a problem, I continue to put myself in temptation’s way. I can’t help it. I need to admire, touch and listen to watches every day. Nothing can dissuade me from trying on a timepiece and asking myself, “Should I buy it?”
Sometimes, my response is negative, and I am incredulous that a flawed and ugly timepiece has dared to show its face to the critical gaze of an increasingly well-informed public. Conversely, there are watches that were born to seduce. They exhibit a sultry blend of sinuous lines, stunning beauty and incredible intellect that elicits desire. These are the watches that prompt me to purchase and have led me to employ Machiavellian machinations to facilitate acquisition. When it comes to horological beauties, one glimpse and the merest of touches inevitably results in a purchase.
It is because my relationship with watches is atypical of “normal readers,” and because my passion for timepieces is manifestly obvious, that I need to share my observations with the watch collecting community at large.
This new weekly column will provide a regular insight into the mind of a watch addict and, on occasion, expose some of the strategies I have employed to make a purchase or, conversely, walk away with my savings account left intact.
So please join me as I reveal this week’s temptation and learn more about the watch that’s caused my heart rate to quicken, my pupils to dilate and my credit card to quiver in fear.
Without further ado, I present this week’s Temptation Thursday:
The Tourbillon Gumball 3000 (reference RG15-GB.90) is the latest neoteric offering from the independent watch brand, Armin Strom. The young company, based in Bienne, Switzerland, has quickly gained brand awareness with its masterful prowess at making openworked watches.
In 2013, I visited Armin Strom’s exhibition stand at Baselworld for the very first time. At that stage, I knew little about the haute horlogerie brand or, indeed, the products it made. However, after trying on a few timepiece, I knew a lifelong romance was inevitable.
Within a few months of first seeing the Armin Strom Gravity Water on the stand within my favorite area of the Baselworld fair, the Palace, where many independent watch brands exhibit their creations, I purchased said watch.
Embarrassingly, I have rather hirsute arms and do not like how some openworked watches accentuate this aspect by magnifying the curly, neanderthal-like hair that graces my arms via a pane of sapphire crystal.
The approach adopted by Armin Strom is not to provide an unobstructed view through the entirety of the watch, but rather to expose more of the flawlessly finished components housed within. Moreover, Armin Strom is a manufacture with very impressive facilities, which I have toured on several occasions. By freely disclosing the inner components the wearer can see the incredible craftsmanship synonymous with fine, traditional watchmaking, all housed in handsome, contemporary compositions which cause me to salivate every time I catch sight of their tempting torsos.
The Armin Strom Tourbillon Gumball 3000 is one of three new limited edition timepieces launched at Baselworld 2015. Armin Strom is the official watch partner of Gumball 3000, the legendary transcontinental car rally.
The timepiece, equipped with a tourbillon, is very exclusive, with only five examples being produced. It is available in the U.S. for $125,000 (Recommended Retail Price as of 4-22-2015).
The dial design:
At first glance, the Tourbillon Gumball 3000 appears virtually identical to the Armin Strom Tourbillon Gravity Fire (reference RG14-TF.M.90). However, there are several key differences, not least the fact that the Tourbillon Gumball 3000 contains the hand-wound Caliber ATC11GB, whereas the Tourbillon Gravity Fire incorporates a self-winding movement, Caliber ATM13.
The off-center positioning of the dial, biased to the left-hand side of the case, has become part of the design language of Armin Strom. The hands share the same profile as other models, albeit in this instance they are delivered in a gorgeous golden hue and lined with luminescent fill.
An asymmetrical black dial ring employs rose-gold Arabic numerals to denote the hours. Beneath the dial ring, two openworked barrels are proudly proclaimed. The differing depths of the Armin Strom’s movements and distinctive dial design are fascinating and never fail to capture my heart.
Despite much dial detail, nothing detracts from reading the time. Everything is delivered succinctly and free of ambiguity. In this instance, the sometimes incompatible notions of style and ease of use make comfortable bedfellows.
In common with other Armin Strom watches, including my own Gravity Water, the case measures 43.4 mm in diameter and has a depth of 13 mm. I know from personal experience that the case design and proportions confer a highly comfortable fit. Indeed, it reminds me of always purchasing the same brand of shoe, knowing that no excessive bedding-in period is needed.
The 18k rose gold case wonderfully contrasts with the black dial ring, resulting in a very harmonious composition. Furthermore, this particular metal delivers an abundance of warmth and bestows a sumptuous appearance.
The Armin Strom Caliber ATC11-GB is a manufacture movement. This is not marketing hyperbole but a reassuring fact. Indeed, I have seen with my own eyes a multitude of modern CNC machines and other state-of-the-art plant producing a myriad of parts in-house. The skilled workforce creates anchors, balance wheels, escape wheels, pinions, pivots, screws etc.
Not only are these parts made within the confines of Armin Strom’s own atelier, they are finished to a very high standard.
The hand-wound Caliber ATC11-GB has a frequency of 18,000 vph (2.5 Hz), contains 24 jewels, consists of 184 components and delivers a prodigious power reserve of 10 days.
Adorning the mainplate of the movement is an engraved Gumball 3000 motif. Engraving is a further specialty of the maison with some movements sporting exquisite decorations denoting “air,” “water,” “fire,” or other decorative motifs.
The deliberately distressed surface of the movement provides an unusual canvas for the engraving. It also features on the two other Gumball 3000 limited editions. The outcome is a mainplate sporting a very unusual and incredibly striking appearance.
The Armin Strom Tourbillon Gumball 3000 (reference RG15-GB.90) makes a compelling case for acquisition and genuinely makes me consider elaborate schemes to facilitate purchase. While I know, objectively, that this watch is beyond my financial grasp, it does not stop me thinking about possession. Indeed, having once experienced the cosseting charms of this horological beauty on my arm, I dream of the day when we will be reunited.
Model: Armin Strom Tourbillon Gumball 3000
Movement: Armin Strom Caliber ATC11-GB, hand-wound; frequency = 18,000 vph (2.5 Hz) 24 jewels, power reserve = 10 days, number of components = 184, indications = hours, minutes, small seconds
Case: 18k rose gold, diameter = 43.4 mm, height = 13 mm, water resistance = 50 meters
Strap/Bracelet: Brown leather strap with double-fold clasp in 18-carat rose gold • Additional Brown rubber strap supplied
Price: $125,000 (recommended retail price as of 4-22-2015)
Where I tried on the watch: Armin Strom stand, Baselworld 2015
Limited Edition: 5 pieces total