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Feature: The best watch you've never heard of

Hundreds of watches are released every year, so how do you make yours stand out? Well, if you’re Armin Strom—an independent watch brand with a strong focus on open-worked watches—you create intricate, hand-finished, innovative timepieces like the Gravity Equal Force—which we featured here on the channel not long ago—and this, a milestone piece of the brand’s collections, the Mirrored Force Resonance, a watch you might have noticed has two movements. Why is that?


To understand why this watch has two movements, we head back in time to 1655. Dutch mathematician, physicist, horologist, and all-round overachiever—Christiaan Huygens—who also invented the pendulum clock— noticed that two identical pendulum clocks hung from the same wooden beam would synchronise over time. To test whether this was just a one-off, Huygens would pause the swing of one clock, and even then, after releasing the paused pendulum, the two pendulums would still sync back up. This is the first recorded instance of resonance in horology.

The first development of resonance would come some 100 years later when French clockmaker Antide Janvier—my apologies to his family for that pronunciation—created the first double pendulum clock. This clock featured two separate movements, each with its own escapement, with two pendulums placed close together to guarantee the effects of resonance. Abraham Louis Breguet—don’t know if you’ve heard of him—would take this design and create an elegant double pendulum clock for King George IV in 1825.

Speaking of our man Breguet, it’s no surprise to anyone that he was the one to take Janvier’s design, miniaturise it, and stick it in a pocket watch. Of course, the pendulums were swapped out for more appropriately sized, closely placed balance wheels, but resonance was still achieved.

The main benefit to resonance—for those wondering as to the point of all of this—is that a timepiece can achieve chronometric consistency, meaning it gains or loses the same number of seconds each day without significant variation. This is particularly important for naval navigation, where precise timekeeping can mean the difference between the vessel being above or below the water. But that's not all; resonance can also help to counteract external factors, like gravity and wrist motion, with the two movements working together to maintain a consistent rate.

Few watchmakers have brought resonance to wristwatches. François-Paul Journe spent 15 years developing and researching the Chronomètre à Résonance, which was eventually released in 2000. Trying to fit all that in one watch isn't easy, and alongside F.P. Journe, Armin Strom sought to throw its hat in the resonance ring.

Armin Strom, the watchmaker, found fame with his incredibly elegant, skeletonised watches, and in 1990, the master crafter would push his skills to the limit, earning himself a Guinness Book World Record for producing the world’s smallest hand-skeletonised watch. His watches weren’t just admired by collectors, but even brands like Omega would go on to commission his work. If you haven't seen Strom's open-worked Speedmaster watches of the 90s, you should check them out.

In 2006, Armin Strom would retire, passing his legacy on to Serge Michel and Claude Greisler. Both Michel and Greisler would frequent Strom’s workshop throughout their childhoods—and would grow up around the watchmaker—so who better to take the reins? Over the next few years, Michel and Greisler would turn the work of Armin Strom into the brand we see today, with intricate open-worked watches at the forefront of the brand's identity. In 2009, the brand invested in a fully-integrated manufacture, meaning it could develop what it wanted, when it wanted, watches like this: the Mirrored Force Resonance.


Of course, in true Armin Strom form, the Mirrored Force Resonance is open-worked, allowing you to observe every meticulously hand-finished component. Because of this, you might have noticed the butterfly-shaped spring that surrounds and moves with the two balances. This spring—Armin Strom’s own patented resonance clutch spring—takes resonance in wristwatches one step further. While other watches rely on the close proximity of the two balance wheels to achieve resonance, the resonance clutch spring physically links the two movements—attached directly to the two balance wheel studs—so they can share every vibration, enhancing the link between the two. Remember Huygens and his wooden beam? This is essentially a miniaturised version of that.

But that’s not all Armin Strom has done to make the Mirrored Force Resonance stand out. The watch has not one, but two off-centre small seconds displays, which rotate in opposite directions—and that’s to visibly display the effects of resonance. With the two seconds displays—one for each movement—and the twin-second flyback pusher at two o’clock, the hands of the two displays can be instantly sent back to zero, where you can observe resonance as the two dials perfectly synchronise and display the time.

It’s a great-looking watch too—and within the 43mm stainless steel case—which is only 11.55mm thick, for those wondering—is an abundance of detail and finishes. Details like the off-centre dials. The larger dark blue minute and hour dial intersects with the two skeletonised small seconds displays, the skeletonisation of which, not only allows you to see the contrasting finishes of the components below, but also the two escapements, as they provide power to the rest of the watch. Even the balance bridge and hands of the minute and hour dial have been skeletonised, with the bridge receiving a mixture of hand-polishing and straight graining; and the hands, a black polish. Every time I look down at this watch on my wrist, I discover more and more.

And that’s before you flip the watch over, which reveals even more of the hand-wound calibre ARF21. The 48-hour calibre—which runs at a 25,200 vph frequency—from behind, is just as much of a visual treat as the front. Something you don’t see every day is an open-worked barrel, and this watch has two of ‘em, both with a satin-brushed exterior and an engine-turned inner. The remaining wheels—that drive power around the watch—are also given a satin finish, which helps create a strong contrast against the mat-finished baseplate and hand-frosted bridges. All that is then surrounded by a mainplate inscribed with information about the calibre.

There’s a lot to love about the Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance: the design, the complexity, the attention to detail … It does cost CHF 68,000—and is limited to just 50 pieces—but I think that’s actually quite reasonable—especially when you compare it to watches of the same caliber, watches like the F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance, which commands around £200,000 in the pre-owned space.