When Formula 1 team Marussia went into administration towards the end of last year, Armin Strom was suddenly left with a gaping hole where there had once been a premium sponsorship agreement for such a niche brand. There was no shortage of offers for new partnerships, but as Claude Geisler, Director of Armin Strom, told WorldTempus “there was something missing.”
The missing link was in the end provided by none other than the technical director of Marussia, who called one day with the suggestion of the Gumball 3000 rally. Hublot had previously been the event’s partner but had baulked at the idea of doing a strictly limited watch for the Gumball 3000. Hublot’s loss was Armin Strom’s gain, however, as the brand signed on as the rally’s new official timekeeper. Since then, the small but highly active brand has heaped one announcement on top of another. First came the partnership, then the watch collection, then the news that Claude Geisler and Armin Strom’s owner Serge Michel would themselves compete in the Gumball 3000 and more recently, that the winning bidder for the Armin Strom lot in the Gumball 3000 charity auction will have the opportunity to design their very own Armin Strom timepiece at the brand’s factory in Bienne.
Armin Strom’s independence as a genuine manufacture that produces 95% of its watch components in-house has meant that the brand was able to produce a new Gumball 3000 watch collection in time for this year’s Baselworld show, having announced the Gumball 3000 partnership only two months earlier, at the end of January this year. It also means that these new models are not mere facelifts to existing pieces – the entire movement on each one has been personalized with the Gumball 3000 identity. On the manual model, for example, the Gumball 3000 logo is featured as the background on the small seconds counter at 9 o’clock and there is an inscription of the 2015 edition and its route on the back of the mainplate. A similarly technical look is found on the Double Barrel model, which has the Gumball 3000 logo on both sides of the watch.
As an added bonus there is a “surprise” tourbillon in the collection. “We didn’t plan to do one,” explains Claude Greisler, “but Maximillion Cooper [editor’s note: the founder of the Gumball 3000] wanted to have five and buy one for himself.” The result is the familiar Armin Strom tourbillon in a limited edition of five with a subtle Gumball 3000 inscription around the tourbillon cage on the dial side and a giant Gumball 3000 logo that fills the mainplate visible through the transparent case back.
All three models have a wonderfully original finish on the movement mainplate, which looks as though it has been randomly scratched hundreds of times but has in fact been done by hand using abrasive paper – yet another example of the flexibility Armin Strom has thanks to its in-house production, movement coating and finishing capabilities.
But the drivers of Team 78, as Serge Michel and Claude Geisler’s entry in the rally is officially known (both were born in 1978), will be wearing a different model on their wrists at the wheel of their Tech Art GP Street R Cabriolet, since the new Armin Strom Skeleton Pure Team 78 has also been created especially for the rally.