Despite its name, Ressence‘s new Type 2 watch is an evolution of many of their other watches (which include a Type 1, 5 and the 3, a mechanical watch with the brand’s signature orb-like appearance but set in oil). The Bênoit Mintiens-led brand teased the Type 2 Concept last year, but the official production-ready piece is arriving now—smart crown technology included. It isn’t a smartwatch; there are no computational functions inside (it can’t respond to your voice-assistant inquiries) but this watch does employ Ressence-exclusive e-Crown technology that allows for this mechanical marvel to be updated to the current time (in up to two time zones) just by double-tapping the crown.
For mechanical watch lovers the e-Crown fixes an obvious issue inherited through its design. The watch is kept accurate by being wound, but that only lasts 30 to 40 hours with some watches, and a little over a week on others. This means without proper upkeep, a watch will eventually be wrong when the power reserve runs out and setting it becomes a burden. For some, the task of winding and setting is a treasured element of the timepiece—and that tradition remains intact on the Type 2. For others though, it proves daunting. The Type 2 bridges that gap between battery-powered and mechanical, making this the ultimate, semi-automated hybrid.
If you’ve let your watch wind down, put it on and double-tap the crown—doing so will set the time to a digitally confirmed time—using power accrued from tiny Photovoltaic cells, which harness energy from outside light. If you never wish to wind your watch manually, you don’t have to. Just double-tap each time you wear it and you’re set. You can also program two additional timezones, and toggle between them on a connected app. But the Type 2 is steady ground between the digitally adversed and the technology-tethered in that it can be used without assistance but the assistance can step in when you wish to limit your reliance on your mobile phone.
“I had to find a way that we are not depending on phones to do everything. I needed to do it [the e-Crown technology] so that it still works,” Mintiens says. But Mintiens fails to glance over the complex technology that the watch comes equipped with: “a state-of-the-art miniaturized electro-mechanical system that manages the different e-Crown functions” using many components that “meet aerospace or medical standards and were custom-built for Ressence.” The tiny solar panels hidden within the face of the watch supply the system with far more than the 1.8 joules of energy it needs to function for a full day.
“People always ask, ‘Do you want to do heartbeat measurements and things like that?’ And I always answer, ‘No, I’m just trying to improve a mechanical watch.’ I’m not trying to make a Fitbit or something like that. If you want a Fitbit, you can get a Fitbit. This is a mechanical watch that is more convenient and that you can trust,” Mintiens says. “Most people, when they’re asked, ‘If you have to catch a plane, what do you check?’ even if they have a $40,000 watch they’ll still check their phone. They don’t trust it. And that’s not right.”
Another of Ressence’s most notable design ideas (the first being hybridization) has been passed on to the Type 2: the face is noticeably domed. The design decision behind this is simple, Mintiens tells us, “In nature, nothing is flat. It does not exist. We as biological creatures, we associate geometrical shapes with machine-made things—far away from me, far away from who I am. If it’s organic, I feel more feel more related to it.”
“And it’s the same for watch. It’s the same for glasses. It doesn’t fit you to have a geometrical-shaped glasses on your face because we are not geometrical. But also the functional aspect of it is also important,” he says. And while organic shapes are perhaps psychologically more comfortable, they are physically too. “Why don’t we have a crown on the side?” he suggests, “Because it’s not comfortable to have a crown. It’s not comfortable like this. But it’s also not ergonomic.”
“If your watch is comfortable, if it’s easy to read, if you trust it, if it’s convenient—if all these elements line up, in the end, your relationship with the product will be positive,” Mintiens says. And while he may not convert every mechanical watch fan to an assisted movement enthusiast, he certainly fills a niche between—providing space for mechanical and automatic watches, design and comfort to overlap.
Images courtesy of Ressence