The Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance watches were first introduced in late 2016 and they generated a lot of interest among technically minded watch enthusiasts, as well as a certain amount of healthy skepticism. Resonance watches are very rare and tend to require a considerable amount of careful adjustment in order to get them to work – and to get them to deliver on their promise of better accuracy. However the system Armin Strom used to create a resonance effect seemed quite ingenious and as well, offered some pretty extraordinary visuals. We took a Hands-On look at one of the gold models in December of 2016, and were definitely impressed with what we saw, but we were not at that time able to have the watch in the office and on the wrist long enough to evaluate whether the resonance mechanism worked as Armin Strom intended it to work.
The basic idea behind resonance watches and clocks is that two oscillators that are in resonance with each other should have better accuracy or – to be more technically correct – a more stable rate. Resonance occurs when two oscillators, be they pendulums or balance wheels or what have you, begin to beat together, thanks to being mechanically coupled in some way. Different makers have used different methods for connecting the oscillators mechanically. Well-known examples of this sort of watch include the resonance timepieces made by Breguet during his lifetime (he conducted numerous experiments on the phenomenon) and in the modern era, such timepieces as the F. P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance and Beat Haldimann’s H2 Resonance Flying Tourbillon.
Resonance watches are rare for a reason; they are difficult to make and adjust and there is no shortcut to getting one to work properly. F. P. Journe’s resonance watches have balances that are mechanically coupled through the movement plate – when the balance reaches the limit of its vibration and is returned the other direction by the balance spring, this induces a very minute corresponding vibration in the balance cock and then in the plate to which it’s screwed. If everything is just right this vibration will influence the second balance and the two will begin to oscillate together. (This is the method employed by Breguet in his resonance pocket watches as well. Breguet himself seems to have had a hard time believing the effect was real; in an undated note on his experiments with resonance watches he wrote, "This appears to be absurd, but experiment proves it a thousand times over.")
The Mirrored Force Resonance watches take a different approach which is closer to that used by Beat Haldimann in his H2 resonance tourbillon, although the two watches differ dramatically not only aesthetically, but in key technical details as well. In the Armin Strom resonance watches, the two balance springs are mechanically coupled via an elaborate and complex spring with a sharp double-S curve.
The balance spring studs (the outer pinning point of a balance spring) are connected to the opposite ends of the resonance spring and as the balances oscillate, the resonance spring converts the balance spring "breathing" into a connecting lateral thrusting motion. This should induce resonance in the two balances and should also produce a more stable rate than either balance alone can provide.
Aesthetics Of The Mirrored Force Resonance ‘Water’
Armin Strom watches fall in general into four families that correspond to the classical four elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire and are set apart by differences in case metals as well as overall design (Water corresponds to plain stainless steel, for instance; Fire to rose gold).
The design of the watch is quite straightforward and is intended to showcase the technical properties of the movement and on this front, I think the steel "Water" model is especially successful; it has a purposefulness that is absent in the gold model we saw in 2016. The latter has other appealing points but the steel model gives a feeling of instrumentality very appropriate to the watch. The hours and minutes are shown in a sub-dial to the right, at 3:00 and at about 7 and 11 on the dial, you have subdials for reading off the seconds; these are in turn linked to two balances at 8 and 10. The pusher located at about 2:00 is for setting both seconds hands to zero simultaneously. Pressing on it causes two reset hammers to fall on two separate heart pieces – one underneath each three-armed seconds hand. (One of the three arms is white, and it’s from that arm you read the seconds off.) This is in its operating principles exactly identical to the reset mechanism used in chronographs.
How exciting you find the open dial design of the Mirrored Force Resonance depends a lot on how interested you are in watching the resonance mechanism in action. If you like this sort of thing it’s extremely interesting to observe the action of the resonance spring and see the two balances beating together. There’s a lot more to see than there is on the dial side of a Journe resonance watch but the unique nature of the resonance mechanism ensures there is a good reason to open up the dial (so often open dial watches don’t offer much to look at and make you wonder why anyone thought it was worth opening the dial up at all).
It’s a big presence on the wrist at 43.40mm x 13.00mm though obviously, if you’re in the market for one of these you are looking for a statement piece anyway. That said the dimensions are not excessive for the nature of the watch and for its architecture; there are basically two complete going trains inside the case and given that it’s two watches in one, it’s reasonably compact.
Most of the more overt visual attraction is on the dial side, obviously, but the movement side (the "top plate" side to a watchmaker, for whom the back of the movement is the top) while overall more restrained is still very well done, with cleanly executed circular Geneva strips and snailing. Finish on functional surfaces is excellent even under magnification.
Daily Use And Performance
Wearing a watch this big on a daily basis is something I generally don’t do but it’s always nice to break out of a rut and after a day or so of getting acclimatized to a bigger case, the size became a non-issue – far more relevant than case size per se is how well a watch wears in terms of comfort and aside from my shirt cuff snagging on it from time to time there were no issues in that respect with the Mirrored Force Resonance at all. My routine during the week and a half or so that I wore it was always the same: wind the watch first thing in the morning, wear it throughout the day (usually a 2 mile walk to and from home to the office and back, plus on the wrist at my desk) and at night it was on the dresser dial up. This is not a routine that will upset the rate of any watch, in general (like humans, watches are creatures of habit and all other things being equal will be steadier with a good routine) but you would still expect, over this period of time, for any watch to wander a bit on its daily rate.
On the first day I wore the watch, I wound it and synchronized the two seconds hands with the re-set pusher. Every day at about the same time (11AM) I checked to see if the hands were still synchronized, and I also checked the rate of the watch against an Internet atomic time standard (NIST).
I was expecting the balances to become desynchronized at some point, and in fact the folks at Armin Strom had mentioned to me when I first saw the watch back in 2016 that getting the geometry of the spring just right was proving to be challenging – in other words it was at that point a work in progress. However based on the test period results they seem to have gotten the watch perfectly dialed in, to make a weak pun.
In daily wear, the balances never became desynchronized – not by so much as a second; after eight days they were still perfectly in syc with each other and while it’s always possible they drifted out of resonance and then back in at some point, I never observed it to happen. The resonance mechanism appears to be extremely robust and worked exactly as intended. Moreover and just as remarkably, the watch kept an extremely steady rate: it lost exactly 6.5 seconds per day, without fail, every day.
This is marine chronometer level performance – remember, a precision timekeeper is not necessarily one that keeps perfect time relative to a time standard, but rather one whose rate remains stable and in this respect the Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance, during the test period, exceeded the COSC standard of maximum 5 seconds’ daily rate variation considerably. Making it accurate in the sense of keeping time to a time standard would be a matter of regulation but in terms of rate stability it performed to expectation and beyond, and it would appear that better rate stability is indeed the payoff of the Mirrored Force Resonance mechanism.
The Mirrored Force Resonance in steel made a very positive impression and not just for its praiseworthy technical performance, though that was essential as well. The most successful watches are those in which there’s a seamless integration of mechanics and aesthetics; a watch with great design but a poor movement will become very uninteresting over time, and conversely one with a great movement but lackluster aesthetics will fail as well. As with all things it’s best to try and win both hearts and minds. This resonance watch from Armin Strom, if you are susceptible to the value proposition it makes, may just do both.
The Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance Water: case, stainless steel with sapphire front and back, 43.40mm x 13.00mm and 50m water resistant. Movement, resonance caliber ARF15, 16 1/2 lignes, 25,500 vph, running in 43 jewels; 48 hour power reserve. Price, $54,100. See all the collections at Arminstrom.com.