Now toward the end of 2014, Swiss watch maker Armin Strom releases a compelling new set of two limited edition watches that once again focus on skeletonizing its in-house made movements. Here is our hands-on look at the new Armin Strom Skeleton Pure Water and Fire timepieces. We’ve also added images of the Skeleton Pure Earth and Air watches. To put these two watches into context, let’s take a look back earlier in 2014 to the Armin Strom One Week Skeleton (hands-on here). If you recall, it was one of our top choices in our best watches of Baselworld 2014.
The Armin Strom Skeleton Pure watches have the same case and movement as the Armin Strom One Week Skeleton, with the main differences being materials and the type of skeletonization used for the in-house produced Armin Strom caliber ARM09 movement. For the One Week Skeleton, the craftspeople at Armin Strom wanted to take a decidedly more classic approach to skeletonization. That means not only cutting away at the movement bridges, but also decorating the remaining surfaces with brilliant hand-engravings.
While the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure watches also have skeletonized movements and hand-engraving, the results are more modern and less “decorative,” without the intricate patterns and textures found on the surfaces of the movement. “Pure” in this instance refers to the simplicity of the design and how Armin Strom was able to cut down the ARM09 movement to its bare minimum. In fact, they renamed the movement in the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure watches to the ARM09-S (“s” for skeleton) for its minimalized look at feel.
The surfaces of the movement bridges are brushed while the edges are beveled making for a fine, albeit much more simple look as compared to the effect we saw on the Armin Strom One Week Skeleton. Honestly, the real difference between the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure and One Week Skeleton is the decorations on the skeletonized movement surfaces. The One Week Skeleton is part of a more limited edition (of just 50 pieces) with the patterns and fine details, while the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure is available as two limited editions of 100 pieces, with the same style of movement skeletonization but without the decorative features – though there is still a lot of hand polishing.
What is perhaps the most surprising to me is the comparatively small price difference between the Armin Strom One Week Skeleton and the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure of just a few thousand dollars (for the 18k red gold “Fire” version that is). The Armin Strom Skeleton Pure is also available in steel with the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure Water model. Further, the Skeleton Pure Air watch will have a titanium case while the Skeleton Pure Earth has a PVD black-coated steel case. Those deciding between the models will have a lot to consider when thinking about what they are getting with an Armin Strom that has an in-house movement that is finely skeletonzied or finely skeletonized and hand-engraved. It might be a matter of taste, or it might simply be a matter of availability.
Even without the eerily-interesting-for-men engravings on the One Week model, the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure watch is a heart throb of a piece, with its interesting looks and wonderful mechanical visuals. I know that not everyone loves Armin Strom’s unique looking case and concept, but for those that do, the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure models will be difficult to resist.
The basic Armin Strom case (which we have seen before) is 43.4mm wide and 13mm thick. Of course, the Fire model is the higher-end of the two being in 18k red gold. That makes the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure Water model the version which is in a high-polished steel case. The case is water resistant to 50 meters and has a small “lips” on the bottom which can be used as a spot to engrave someone’s initials or something similar.
Some people complain that Armin Strom watches with the caliber AMR09 movement are distract because they are slightly off balance. Sure enough, the hands don’t meet at what would be the center of the dial, but are rather slightly to the left. This is partially because of the two large mainspring barrels that force everything to shove over a bit. Though it doesn’t personally bother me.
There are interesting elements of the finishing on the skeletonized movement which aren’t done by hand, but rather a process Armin Strom calls 3D-PVD. The idea is to color or finish various elements of the dial and movement so that the overall look is more harmonious. The Armin Strom Skeleton Pure Fire has a darker set of tones on the exposed movement surfaces, as well as colors from the movement itself such as brass and synthetic ruby. The same concept is used for the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure Water, but with different colors.
The dials of these Armin Strom watches continue to impress me with their mixture of traditional legibility and hand-made looks. Legibility is further enhanced by the inner sapphire crystal ring that has some of the hour-markers on it. To the left of the hour and minute hands is a subsidiary seconds dial that also includes a remarkably welcome power reserve indicator for the manually wound movement.
Most people know that I prefer automatic movements, but I of course make exceptions, especially when there is a power reserve indicator involved in the mix. I further like that the power reserve indicator is small enough to not notice in general, but it is clearly visible when you are looking for it.
The ARM09-S movement has a full 8 days of power reserve. It operates on the steadier side at 18,000 bph which allows for efficient use of power. The construction of the movement is also rather efficient, as it is produced from just 146 components. One of my favorite things to do with the caliber ARM09-0S watch is, simply, to wind it. The mainspring barrels turn with another gear running against them in the opposite direction, creating an enhanced sense of movement. It is beautiful to look at, even for people who know nothing about mechanical watches.
Combining convenience, aesthetics, and a lot of craftsmanship (not to mention exclusivity), the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure collection is highly compelling to the watch lover who isn’t just interested in independent brands, but also decent values. The Armin Strom One Week Skeleton might have a bit more flair in general, but the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure has a more generalist sense of appeal. What do you think? Are these strong models? Is the skeletonization something that has mass appeal? I feel as though Armin Strom has set a bar for really nice skeletonized and engraved movements in a range of categories with a fair price.
Both the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure Water and Fire watches are limited to 100 pieces, and the price for the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure Water (ref. ST15-PW.05) is $33,400 in steel and the Armin Strom Skeleton Pure Fire (ref. RG15-PF.5N) retails for $46,400 in 18k rose gold. arminstrom.com