Did you know that Swiss watchmaker Armin Strom participated in Formula 1? Some things just go well together. Chocolate and peanut butter, Die Hard and Christmas, rum and bad decisions. Some things work so well together that it's of little surprise that when you dig a little deeper, you find that they share similar passions. Back in November of this past year, I had the good fortune to attend my first Formula One event and get an insider's view of what it takes to keep an F1 car on the grid. What I saw was a complex system of bespoke pieces which are all synchronized with input from a human element to form a single high-functioning machine.
Armin Strom, who sponsors the Marussia Formula One team, was playing host at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and it got me wondering, why sponsor an F1 team? The cars proudly display the logos and names of their sponsors, the like-minded few that throw cash into the bottomless pit of chasing another tenth of a second, perfection takes time and so much money, but what does the sponsor get from this deal?
It's not all that surprising that Formula One teams are often sponsored by watch brands, and certainly we've seen countless watches that feature motorsports manufacturer or racing livery in their dial design. That said, given the incredible cash-eating monster that is Formula One, you wouldn't expect smaller and younger brands to dive into sponsorships.
When it comes to watch brands as sponsors, some have direct connections to motorsports via their history (such as Tag Heuer, IWC, and of course Rolex) while other brands enter Formula One sponsorship for a host of other reasons that must extend beyond the simple need for advertising.
Armin Strom may not be a household name like other higher-volume brands, but many a watchnerd will recognize not only the name, but also remember the man who made that name popular in the 70's and 80's by specializing in the skeletonization and engraving of watch movements. The brand was recently incorporated and relocated from Bergdorf to Beil, Switzerland. In 2011, Strom retired but he is still a member of Armin Strom's board and his aesthetic and attention to hand-rendered detailing can still be seen in all of their modern pieces, which span the use of six in-house skeleton calibres.
They are a small and ambitious brand that creates watches with a distinctive style and detail-driven mechanical aesthetic. So why would they choose to sponsor a Formula One team? Most obviously, Formula One, apart from being insanely cool, shares a lot in common with high-end watchmaking. There is no doubt that Serge Michel (owner of Armin Strom) and Claude Greisler (Director and Chief Designer) are big fans of Formula One and see their relationship with Marussia as more than just an ad bought on the side of a fast car. A very similar passion for mechanical precision and bespoke engineering can be seen expressed in both motorsports and watchmaking.