We mill, emboss, galvanize, paint.
Everything here in our manufacture. For a product on which we know and love every single detail.
Since 2009, the movements are all produced in-house in Biel/Bienne. A significant part of creating the product’s value takes place within the company.
The essence of a successful company is akin to the structure of a watch. On the inside is the movement, the core that drives the whole construction: a multiplicity of small parts seamlessly meshing together to operate as a perfect whole. These various interactions are surrounded by a case that not only provides an appropriate frame but also creates a reliable connection with the outside world.
Together with other elements, the casing creates a bridge for the wearer or – if in business – to customers and partners. In good watches, as in effective companies, all these parts must be perfectly matched.
At Armin Strom, a highly qualified and dedicated team invests an incredible amount of enthusiasm and passion to transform our watches into a unique brand.
Motivated by continually finding new directions, every one of our employees contributes to making the fantastic possible, without losing sight of the essentials. In doing so, we are able to continually offer those that wear Armin Strom watches the highest level of authenticity.
At Armin Strom, the visible movement is part of the whole picture. Before the design of the caliber can be seen on screen, extensive calculations and hand-drawn sketches are required.
On screen, the elements of the movement take on a three-dimensional form for the first time. Their interdependence become clear, potential problems become visible. Even in the early phases of development, design and fabrication work closely together – a major benefit in a small Manufacture.
With the help of a computer simulation of the tools, it is quickly established how a plate or bridge needs to be milled and drilled from a solid piece of brass and how the manufacturing process can be optimized. In the mechanical workshop the first parts of the prototype are already in production, while the designer is still working on the movement.
The parts of a watch movement start out as binary data: bits and bytes on the hard drive of a server. They define the part drawn by the designer in three dimensions and, together with the detailed drawings, provide the basis for controlling the machine tools.
With only a few exceptions, Armin Strom manufactures all the parts of the Manufacture’s movement in–house: plates, bridges, wheels, levers, springs, screws. A decision in favor of quality: those who control the manufacturing process from raw material to end product can stand behind their watch without any ifs or buts.
Quality is also at the forefront when it comes to fundamentally renouncing stamped movement parts. At Armin Strom, the parts are drilled, milled, turned and wire-eroded but never stamped. This is more complex but it protects the material. Stamping changes the material structure of the metal being worked on - and that can lead to minimal, but undesirable deviations from the dimensional tolerances.
Every piece is unique.
Steel burins in differing sizes and wax-coated holders are the tools of the engraver.
In the engraver’s hands, the workpiece becomes a unique work of art. The engraver draws her own motif design on the workpiece with a needle according to her original drawing. But her hand, working under the microscope, cannot guide the burin to a tenth of a millimeter every time; only a machine could copy the engraving exactly
Embellishing every part of a movement makes every Armin Strom watch akin to a hand-crafted piece of jewelry.
Working bare brass or steel by hand is time-consuming work: edges of plates, bridges and levers are perfectly chamfered or, as the watchmakers call it, beveled. Every part is then polished, even when the embellishing would not visible in the finished watch.
Beveling and polishing calls for a trained eye and fingertip sensitivity together with plenty of patience and perseverance. In a comparatively small part like a pallets bridge, a watchmaker can easily spend half an hour or more on the detailed work.
Finishing with the grinding wheel.
Armin Strom uses traditional machines for grinding patterns onto the movement.
The classic finish used in fine watch-making known as Geneva Stripes (Côtes de Genève), is created thanks to an abrasive disc that is guided over the workpiece in perfectly straight lines.
Circular graining (Perlage) is a decorative motif reminiscent of clouds, typically used on main plates. To achieve this pattern, the watchmaker uses a rotating abrasive pencil and gently makes contact with the workpiece, gradually working across the whole surface. This creates the characteristic overlapping circular grained motif.
All rotating parts of the movement are embellished with a circular grinding.
Once they are polished and decorated with circular grained patterns or engravings, the bridges, plates, wheels and levers are ready for electroplating.
All steel and brass parts are given a coted first with pre-gold and then with a layer of nickel by immersion in an electroplating bath. Nickel not only protects against corrosion but also hardens the surface. The thickness of the coating is controlled by the submersion time and the current between the two electric poles in the galvanic bath.
Depending on the watch model, the parts are submersed in a further galvanic tank after the nickel and cleaning baths. Depending on the model, the components are coated with yellow-or rose gold, dark grey ruthenium or rhodium, a shiny white precious metal.
Until now, they were all just individual parts – turned, milled, polished, decorated and gold plated. Now the watch takes shape in several stages.
The watchmaker uses a pressing tool to insert the jewel bearings for the spindles of the toothed wheels into the plate and bridges. This is a crucial operation. The way the jewels are pressed in influences the correct vertical play of the gear-train. Do the gear-wheels and pinions mesh together correctly? Does the height need adjusting by a few hundredths of a millimeter? Once the gear-train is adjusted, the bridges and plates are screwed down, the mainsprings are assembled in the going barrels, the movement is ready to receive the escapement. With the installation of the escapement, consisting of the escape-wheel, the pallets and balance-wheel, the watch comes to life.
But the watch still isn’t ready for final assembly. First, the movement must be completely disassembled. All parts are washed in cleaning baths and then dried, reassembled and lubricated. Once the movement has been regulated, the watchmaker sets the hands and re-inserts the movement into the case. The back of the case is then fixed in place with tiny screws. The finished watch is subjected to a rate test on a watch winder for several days. Water resistance is also tested. Only when the watch has passed all the quality tests is it ready for the customer.