Armin Strom, co-owned by Serge Michel and master watchmaker Claude Greisler, is a household name in high-end independent watchmaking. It’s hard to believe that the brand, in its current form, only presented its first watch 12 years ago. Since then, it has been responsible for some truly remarkable timepieces, such as the Mirrored Force Resonance and Dual Time Resonance. Technical complications have always been the playground of Armin Strom, but in 2021, the brand went back to basics by introducing the Tribute 1, a compact time-only timepiece.
Armin Strom Tribute 1 Rose Gold
The Tribute 1 has only ever been available in stainless steel – that is until mid-last year. After releasing about 8 stainless steel variants with different dial treatments, the brand finally introduced one in precious metal. As expected, this one certainly looks the dressiest of the lot – if the Tribute 1 could ever be considered a true dress watch. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on the Armin Strom Tribute 1 Rose Gold.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case of the Tribute 1 Rose Gold, crafted in 18k rose gold, measures an elegant 38 mm in diameter and 9.38 mm in height – the sweet spot for a dress-size watch today. However, the Tribute 1 quickly reminds us that it is no traditional dress watch with its crown at an atypical 2 o’clock spot and four angular lugs. The trademark bulge on the case at 6 o’clock is also present but more subtle this time than on the technical models. An alternating polished and brushed finish is applied onto the case and thin bezel for contrast.
Where the Tribute 1 really distinguishes itself from other contemporary dress watches is in the dial. Here, Armin Strom has opted for an off-centre sub-dial for the time. Rendered in black gold colour, the sub-dial, decorated with fine concentric guilloched circles, plays host to the rose gold hour, minute and seconds hands. These hands are not only finished in-house, but also manufactured by the brand itself, a practice that remains fairly uncommon today. The hour and minute hands are skeletonised while the seconds hand is baton-style with a counterweight. The hour markers are also batons; the even-numbered hours are marked by rose gold appliques while the odd-numbered hours are printed. With the visible motor barrel sitting at the bottom right corner, the rest of the dial is covered by a plate given a subtly textured ‘grenage’ finish. The grainy surface of the dial plate serves as the perfect backdrop to highlight the time sub-dial and the motor barrel.
Driving the Tribute 1 Rose Gold is the in-house manufactured and assembled Calibre AMW21. The main technical feature of the movement is the motor barrel developed for the Tribute 1 series, which is distinguished by an arbor that turns around the mainspring within the barrel itself, making it far more efficient and space-saving. The manually wound Calibre AMW21 has an impressive power reserve of 100 hours, especially given the demure size of the watch and the movement (a height of 4.2 mm only).
When it comes to finissage, Armin Strom does not mess around. The Calibre AMW21, as well as all the other calibres by the brand, is assembled twice; in other words, the movement is assembled, disassembled and then re-assembled. This is to ensure that the movement is functioning in accordance to the manufacturer’s standards, and also to ensure that the hand-finishing applied is flawless. The most eye-catching bit of the Calibre AMW21 is, of course, the dial-side motor barrel. The script ‘MANUAL WINDING – ONE HUNDRED HOURS OF POWER RESERVE’ is relief engraved onto the barrel which in turn is supported by a skeletonised finger bridge. This finger bridge, rendered in rose gold, is beautifully beveled and polished on its edges with two sharp inward angles. The sapphire crystal case back of the watch offers us a glimpse of the other components of the movement. The part that takes up the most real estate at the back is the three-quarter bridge, featuring vivid Geneva Waves on the top surface. The perimeter is inscribed just like the motor barrel, in relief engraving. But our favourite bit of decoration on the three-quarter bridge has to be the 60-degree blindingly-polished bevels, as well as the polished countersinks. These add a much needed shine to an otherwise matte movement.
The Competitive Landscape
Being a time-only watch, the Tribute 1 Rose Gold faces stiff competition in the market. However, it does enough to stand out. The Tribute 1 Rose Gold features an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary design elements. Combined, they result in a surprisingly unique watch; how often do you find a 38 mm wristwatch with an off centre sub-dial intersected by an exposed motor barrel supported by a openworked finger bridge that has been given a classical high finish? The Tribute 1 Rose Gold is produced as a limited edition of 100 pieces and is priced at CHF23,900 – a fair price for what’s on offer.
No talk about contemporary dress watches with off-centre dials is ever complete without mention of the legendary A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1. The Lange 1 was the wristwatch that popularised the off-centre dial design when it was first released in 1994. The specimen in the photograph below is from the Lange 1 family but is specifically the third generation Grand Lange 1. The Grand Lange 1 is basically a slightly enlarged Lange 1 and this latest iteration is thinner than ever at 8.2 mm. The main dial of the watch features a granular finish somewhat like the Tribute 1. Other similarities include the dial colour, the guilloche decoration on the time sub-dial, the presence of a three-quarter bridge, and the fact that the movements are twice-assembled. The Grand Lange 1, of course, also differs in many ways. For one, it hasn’t got a motor barrel exposed dial-side and instead has a outsize date and power reserve indicator. Priced at EUR45,900, the Grand Lange 1 in pink gold is nearly twice as pricy as the Tribute 1 Rose Gold, though it does pack more functionality.
For something a little more Swiss, look no further than the 39 mm Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Off-Centered that made its debut back in 2017. Priced at a competitive CHF9,400 when it was first released, the Grande Seconde Off-Centered in stainless steel with silvery opaline dial is the ideal watch for those who appreciate the off-center dial design as well as good value. This is a simple enough timepiece with its hour and minute sub-dial intersecting the seconds sub-dial to form a figure of 8. The blued-steel hands really stand out against the silver background making it the most legible timepiece of the three listed here. Sure, the finissage is not nearly as decadent as the Lange or the Armin Strom – but at under CHF10,000, it is already punching above its weight.
The Tribute 1 Rose Gold is a modern time-only watch, but not in the 45 mm, sapphire crystal, in-your-face way. Quite the contrary, it is restrained and elegant all while not being prudish. Though not exactly a dress watch in the strictest sense, this rose gold variant is indeed the dressiest of the Tribute 1s. You’ll come for the aesthetically pleasing design, but stay for the excellent finissage; those mirror polished 60-degree bevels and angles are very hard to miss.