Ressence was the most innovative brand at this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH). Industrial design thinking resulted in this ‘beyond hands’ approach to reading time. Eliminating conventional raised hands, sub-dials are set seamlessly into a main disc in which they continuously revolve. The oil-filled domed crystal also means that it’s the first watch to be perfectly readable under water, no matter the viewing angle.
According to founder Benoit Mintiens, the DNA of his brand is “a little contrary to other manufacturers who try to show as much of the complexities as possible of their watches from the outside”.
As an industrial designer and not from the horological world he sees things differently and thought about the user experience first. “User experience is to bring something refined but very wearable and ergonomic for the eye and also the wrist. When you read the time it needs to be in the most intuitive way”.
The most intuitive way we have learned to read the time is through the position of the hands, in a fraction of a second. “When we read on an analogical watch its quicker than a digital watch. So from an ergonomic point of view we wanted to avoid layers, because the eye prefers flat surfaces, like when we read the newspaper. We don’t like three-dimensions, it’s confusing for the eye”.
So everything on these beautiful pebble-shaped dials is presented on one plane, rotating in an orbit and slightly convex “because everything in nature is organic and slightly curved”. There is also no annoying crown, instead a clever gear system on the back allows you to change time and wind this mechanical timepiece by simply rotating a disc. “It’s more intuitive, it’s one-on-one, 360-degrees is one hour unlike the winding of the crown where you actually never quite know how many times."
The Type 1 launched in 2016 and a new version this year has been “squared off like a cushion”. But the most intriguing is the Type 5. To bring more clarity, they have taken away more layers between the eye and what you need to read. Because one can't take away the glass, the top part is filled with oil. The perfect diver's watch, it's like a compass and the refraction of light through the class is adjusted, giving more clarity. This means that the mechanism is also lubricated in a bath of oil, hence less friction. The challenge of course was to keep the oil contained. To avoid leakage, the watch is cut into two parts, separated by a thin titanium plate. The top half is totally sealed and is driven by six corresponding magnets on either side of plate. Sealed for life. A system of seven bellows regulates any possible extreme change in oil pressure if the liquid is heated up in the sun or cooled down too rapidly.
Three years in R&D, the watch was created with the user experience and not technical innovations in mind. Those would follow, Mintiens believed. The result is an elegant, unusual timepiece that is very simple from the outside but very complicated inside with over 320 components.
Type 1, CHF 16000 (approx R220000)Type 5, CHF 28500 (approx R390000)