BY ERIK SLAVEN
Armin Strom represents the best of Swiss independent watchmaking. Edgy designs and in-house manufacturing, and they’re never afraid to think outside the box. The latest piece, appropriately called the Orbit, features a new date display that borrows a bit of engineering from chronographs – the column wheel.
A date window or standard pointer date just wouldn’t do, and the brand created a pointer-ish date that relies on engraved numerals around the bezel and an on-demand central arrow. Clever, sophisticated and downright cool, and the design doesn’t stray far from classic Armin Strom.
This piece reminds me a bit of the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Date, which added a clever peripheral date to the classic Zeitwerk that didn’t “change” the dial. The difference here is that the date is activated via a pusher at 10 o’clock, which functions as an on/off switch. When on, a central hand with a red “A” tip (for Armin) points to the correct date on the bezel. When off, it neatly returns to the 12 o’clock position. You have the option to leave it active like a pointer date or keep it off and only use it on demand. The 12 o’clock position is “neutral” with the 31st and 1st on either side, so at midnight on the 31st, the retrograde pointer jumps back to the 1st. This “column-wheel date” mechanism is visible through the crystal at 11 o’clock and is an entirely in-house creation. With the date numerals engraved on the black ceramic bezel, it allows the dial to have the brand’s classic System 78 Gravity Equal Force aesthetic unimpeded. There are sapphire crystals front and back, providing a view of movement details on both sides.
The stainless steel case is 43.4mm in diameter and 12.6mm in height, which is a nice contemporary size and necessary to really display the complex dial elements – there’s quite a bit going on. Time is displayed on a large, black gold sub-dial at 9 o’clock with the applied indices and hands filled with Super-LumiNova. A sub-dial within this sub-dial at the 8 o’clock position shows the small seconds with a snailed pattern. The hands are stainless steel and manufactured in-house. Three exposed bridges on the right side, a hallmark of Armin Strom, are coated in black gold and attach to the barrel, winding mechanism and micro-rotor. The date can be set in two ways, either by advancing the time via the crown at 3 o’clock or with a date corrector button at 8 o’clock. This piece also has a rare (for the brand) integrated steel bracelet with hidden folding clasp. Water-resistance is rated at 50 meters.
Powering the watch is the in-house Caliber ASS20 micro-rotor with innovations that ensure stable energy throughout the entire state of the mainspring. A specialized Declutch stop-work for an automatic (Gravity Equal Force), which was a first when Armin Strom unveiled it 2019, allows the mainspring to slip in the barrel. So, the watch can never be completely unwound, utilizing the optimal range of the mainspring between full and empty. In addition, a motor barrel is used where the inverted central arbor provides energy to the gear train for the most precise distribution. The movement still has a sizeable power reserve of 72 hours (visible indicator on the barrel), beats at 3.5Hz and features 30 jewels. It’s hand finished with perlage, Côtes de Genève and chamfered/polished edges.
The Armin Strom Orbit (ref. ST22-GEFD.75.ST) is limited to just 25 pieces and retails for CHF 29,500 or EUR 31,300. Certainly not cheap, but it’s an incredible display of haute horology and true innovation from an independent brand. It also comes with a 10-year warranty.
Visit Armin Strom here.