When you’ve been around watches as long as I have, you don’t see a lot of new ideas. Sure, you see tweaks on old ideas, refinements on others, but truly massive deviations on the well-defined formula are incredibly rare. That’s why Timeless is so proud to offer Ressence, easily one of the most unique and innovative watchmakers in the world. To those unfamiliar with such an exotic watch, however, it can be a bit intimidating to learn about. That’s why I’m writing this simple, all-in-one-place introduction to Ressence, from how they work to every model they make.
Let’s take this Ressence Type 3, for example. At a glance, no one would blame you for thinking this was a smartwatch and that you were looking at a gorgeous curved AMOLED panel, but no, that’s a real dial, powered by a real mechanical movement. An incredibly avant garde dial, yes, but no pixels were involved in its construction. How do you read it? Well, it’s easier if I just show you.
Still befuddled? It’s actually quite simple, albeit mesmerizing, to watch. The largest “hand” is the minute hand, and it’s attached to what you would basically just call the dial. The entire dial, subdials included, rotates throughout the day. Hours are handled by the largest subdial. The subdial with seven markers (two of which are color-coded) is, oddly enough, a day complication. The strange subdial that looks like it shows the temperature does, in fact, show the temperature (I’ll explain why it’s there later), and the tiny subdial is a seconds “hand” (or in the case of this Type 3, the “runner”). Finally, at 6:00 you can see the date complication. Keep in mind, this is for the Type 3 specifically (the Ressence with the greatest number of complications so far), but this basic approach to reading the watch applies across the board. While at first this design may seem overwhelming, it’s actually quite elegant in its simplicity, as information is never overlapping on a Ressence dial.
But how does this thing even work?
So glad you asked. There is a lot, and I mean a lot, of engineering that goes into each Ressence watch, but the rotating heart of each is the “ROCS” or the Ressence Orbital Convex System. The ROCS is essentially a modular complication which makes the dial rotate and, in effect, makes the subdials orbital. This module, when added to its ETA base, is sufficiently complex, with some versions weighing in at a crazy 215 parts, as to approximate a second movement layered on top of the first movement.
ROCS basically converts what were originally going to be hands mounted on a central axis to many independently rotating hands, or in the case of Ressence, disks. This is not unheard of, as it is the layout adopted by the moderately obscure “regulator” watch, and rotating disks can be found in watches such as the TAG Heuer Grand Carrera line. Those watches, however, didn’t have to rotate the entire dial, including preserving the relative position of each subdial regardless of that rotation, something that’s vastly more impressive.
If Copernicus were alive today, he’d be wearing a Ressence.
There is one last preliminary part of Ressence to get out of the way before we get into the watches, namely the crown (or lack thereof). You may have already noticed that there is no crown extended from 3:00 on the side of the case. Instead, both winding and setting are taken care of by the case back, giving the watch an extremely streamlined design.
There are a variety of implementations of the design, but in this example you can see that you can set the time in either direction, wind in one, and set the day in the other. This means that you can actually wind the watch by setting it, a pretty interesting side effect of having only a single “stop” on the “crown.”
Of course, given that these are automatics, you won’t need to bother winding them except for after the watch has died, at which point you’ll be setting them anyway.
There is much, much more clever engineering to discuss, but this covers all of the basics you need to get started looking at Ressence watches, and I’ll be getting to the other innovations throughout the rest of the guide. We’ll begin with the Type 1 Slim, if only because I think it represents something akin to the most “normal” of Ressence watches.
The Type 1 Slim is something that, along with the Type 1², might vaguely be considered the entry level of Ressence, if that kind of concept even applies to something as exotic as this brand is. It is, in essence, a new and improved version of the original Type 1. In fact, it’s just 11mm thick, that despite having an automatic movement and a modular complication stacked on top of it. There are plenty of ordinary three-handers that are much thicker than that.
In terms of the face, it’s among the simplest of Ressence’s offerings, lacking both a date and temperature complication. That said, simple is very relative in the world of Ressence, and they’ve had no trouble filling up the dial with information in the “regulator” style of watch design.
The Type 1 Slim’s case, in terms of appearance, is a very streamlined, almost space-age design. Like nearly all Ressence watches, it’s made from titanium. The Type 1 Slim makes an excellent choice if you’re looking to wear a Ressence every day. It, along with the next watch, is the most discreet and minimalist of the watches offered by Ressence, and both versions of the Type 1 are the most reasonably sized in terms of diameter.
Like the next watch we’ll look at, the Type 1 Slim is $20,600, making them the most accessible pieces Ressence makes, the exception being the brand new limited edition Type 1 Slim X at $21,500. Click any of the watches above to learn more.
The Type 1² is also a member of Ressence’s “entry-level” collections, but it sets itself apart from other Ressence watches in a couple of important ways, however, most notably its lovely cushion case. The case is also unique among Ressence pieces in that it uses steel instead of titanium.
The Type 1² sticks to the basics, with only a day complication (excepting the ROCS, of course), which is quite rare to see in a watch without a date. This, along with its relatively aggressive case design, give it an almost tool watch look in black. Although this is not the “slim” model, it’s actually very well sized at 41 mm diameter and just 11 mm thick, the same thickness as its Type 1 Slim brethren, despite not being called slim.
Like all Ressence watches, the Type 1² receives a very healthy dose of luminescent paint, making it easily legible day or night. If you think about it, given the lack of shiny metallic hands, the use of high contrast design and luminescent paint becomes even more important, so this was probably a necessity early on in Ressence development.
The Type 1² is currently available in three colors, all priced at $20,600, making them, along with the Type 1 Slim, the most affordable models Ressence makes right now. Click any of the three above to learn more.
The Ressence Type 2 makes the other Ressence watches look conventional by comparison, and I don’t just mean visually. The entire concept of the Type 2 is radically different not only from other Ressences, but from virtually all other mechanical watches, and that’s because, strictly speaking, it’s a hybrid electronic watch. There is no quartz oscillator to be found in the Type 2, so this is not intended to be some newfangled Spring Drive competitor, but rather something that vaguely intrudes on smartwatch territory.
And that’s because of this, the basis of the E-Crown system, short for electronic crown. We’ve already established that Ressence is pretty radical with crown functionality, but the E-Crown really takes this obsession to another level. This system has no control over timekeeping (as opposed to time setting) itself, which is done entirely by an ordinary mechanical escapement, but instead takes over the duties of setting time and switching time zones, and it even manages the power reserve of the watch. In fact, it’s theoretically possible that you could go months without winding a Type 2, even if you don’t wear it often (for some strange reason) or use a watch winder.
That’s because, in a surprisingly well-hidden feature, the E-Crown locks the mainspring after 12 hours of inactivity, rather than allowing the watch to wind completely down. You could conceivably take the watch off for weeks and it would begin running again as soon as you put it back on. That’s basically the right way to look at the E-Crown, in my opinion, namely as a system that does very little to affect the running movement, but rather introduces a lot of electronic convenience to using the watch.
The better-advertised features are mainly about setting the watch, either to correct the time to the official standard or to switch between time zones. The E-Crown is there to give you the uninterrupted coolness of a “pure” mechanical movement, but it can remove any of the occasional inconveniences associated with a mechanical movement for you.
Perhaps best of all, the Type 2 never actually relies on any of this trickery. You can set or wind it the old-fashioned way if you prefer, and you can completely turn off the E-Crown if you’re feeling like a purist that day. Nothing is lost in the transition.
If you do want to use the E-Crown though, you won’t have to worry about it dying because it’s charged via photovoltaic cells beneath the dial. Some of these are fully exposed, while others are hidden behind a strange, but visually interesting, shutter system. The Type 2 basically always just works. You basically don’t really have to worry about winding it, wearing it, charging it, or setting it.
Visually, the Type 2 is arguably the most wild-looking and futuristic of all Ressence watches, which I suppose makes sense given that it happens to be borderline science fiction. Like the Type 1 Slim, it features an extremely streamlined titanium case, although it’s substantially larger than either of the Type 1 watches at 45mm in diameter and 12mm thick.
Despite being marginally thicker than the Type 1, 12mm isn’t bad at all for an automatic, particularly one with a module on top of it, and it still has a really beautiful profile.
Despite the immense work that went into the Type 2, it’s currently available only in two versions, one with a black dial and black case and another with a silver dial and case, both in titanium. The Type 2 is quite a step up in terms of pricing compared not only to the Ressence Type 1, but all other Ressence models, at $48,800 for each. You can click the watches above to learn more.
The Ressence Type 3, on the other hand, skips the fancy new E-Crown in favor of an altogether different radical redesign, this time involving 35.7ml of oil and lots of magnets. I’ll explain.
To almost totally eliminate distortion between the sapphire crystal and the dial, the top half of the watch has been filled with oil. This technique is what gives the watch its weirdly smartwatch-esque look, where, at a glance, you might confuse the dial for an LCD panel. The visual difference between the Type 3 and 5 (the oil-filled models) compared to the other Ressence watches is surprisingly large, particularly on the black dial. It basically gives the impression that the dial is directly connected to the crystal.
Ressence’s motto seems to be something akin to the classic “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing,” and the Type 3 is a great demonstration of that approach. The oil doesn’t fill the entire case, but rather, just the ROCS and dial upper half while the bottom remains filled with air. The question then becomes how to keep those two areas separate while they nonetheless interact.
The unusual solution was a magnetic transmission. Each half is divided by a titanium partition preventing the flow of oil from one section to the other, but this is no obstacle for the magnets. Of course, this solved the problem of keeping the oil out of the movement, but then Ressence had the problem of magnetism getting to the hairspring instead. That was dealt with in a relatively conventional way, via metallic shielding, although it’s worth noting that anti-magnetic shielding is generally designed to protect from outside magnetic influences, not inside.
At this point you probably think that Ressence has dealt with all of the complexities involved in the Type 3 (and Type 5, but we’ll get to that in a moment), but you’d be very wrong. You may have already noticed that the Type 3 has temperature subdial, a pretty unusual feature even by Ressence standards, but this actually monitors the temperature of the oil, and that’s relevant since oil expands with heat.
Thus, to deal with changes in oil temperature (and therefore volume), Ressence has created a series of seven tiny bellows which compensate for these fluctuations. This system can account for variations in oil temperature from -5 degrees Celsius all the way up to 55 degrees Celsius.
There are even design elements to optimize working with oil that I’m not going to bring up here for purposes of brevity, but the point is, a crazy amount of engineering went into the Type 3 and Type 5, probably as much or more than it took to do the ROCS itself. The whole concept of dealing with oil temperature and using bellows and so on gives the watch an industrial feel to me, even if that’s only for those who know and care about how the movement works.
With all of that fascinating engineering to explore, it’s easy to forget sometimes that what we’re looking at is a gorgeous watch. Not only does the Type 3 incorporate a temperature subdial into the design, it also has a very cool date ring.
One interesting, and cool, aspect of the date ring is that it’s luminescent. In fact, every complication is, so if you’re walking to your car late at night and suddenly have an urgent need to know what the temperature of your watch’s oil is (there’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever write), you’ll be ready. It is surely one of the world’s boldest dial designs, even alongside the Grönefeld One Hertz we discussed last week.
In terms of the case, they’re still titanium, but the Type 3’s design is perhaps the most conventional of anything Ressence offers. That said, it’s quite large at 44mm diameter and 15mm thick, the second thickest in the Ressence collection. That increase is no doubt due to numerous components needed to make an oil-filled half of the watch work well. It’s also has the most complications of any Ressence, even compared to other oil-filled models like the Type 5 thanks to the day and date complications.
The Type 3 is currently available in two dials (black or white) and the black dial is available with a black case. Regardless of the model you choose, they’re each $42,200, which is surprisingly quite a bit lower than the Type 2 despite a seemingly (to me, anyway) comparable level of over engineering. You can learn more by clicking on the models above.
And that brings us to our last Ressence watch, the Type 5. This watch, like the Type 3, uses an oil-filled dial and the same underlying technologies, but for an altogether different purpose, namely for diving. That oil prevents the mirror-like reflection that you can find on most watches when underwater, making it extremely legible above and below the waves.
The Type 5 isn’t intended to be a direct competitor to the Planet Ocean or Submariner, at a relatively mundane 100 meters of water resistance, but if you do spend a lot of time in the water with your Ressence, it’s clearly the one to pick.
Like virtually all dive watches, the Type 5 has a unidirectional rotating bezel. The locking mechanism shown here is actually for setting the time, not the bezel, since, unlike an ordinary dive watch, there is no crown to screw down. In theory, you could accidentally adjust the time via the back of the watch, so this little mechanism eliminates that possibility.
The Type 5’s titanium case is as close as you can get to a tool watch look from Ressence, and it’s quite interesting with a polished center and lugs surrounded by a more utilitarian rotating bezel and case back. The black version is even further along the tool watch spectrum with an entirely matte finish.
As you might anticipate, the Type 5 is the largest Ressence model, at 46mm in diameter and 15.5mm thick, again, likely due to all of the technology related to oil. But where the Type 3’s oil-filled chamber was simply a cool feature, the Type 5’s is actually a very practical enhancement.
While you still get the temperature subdial, the Type 5 skips the Type 3’s day and date complications, giving the dial greater clarity and focus.
The Type 5 comes in two colors, a dark blue and black, and the black dial is available in a black case. Surprisingly, the price is right in the middle of the Ressence collection at $35,800, much more affordable than the very similar (from a technological perspective, at least) Type 3. Click on any of the photos above to learn more.
So that’s your short primer on Ressence, or at least as short as it could be while covering how all this stuff works. As a lifelong watch collector, I’m incredibly excited to have Ressence, a brand I’ve admired from afar, in our store because it’s so incredibly refreshing and different, both aesthetically and technologically. Just when you think you’ve seen everything in this fairly ancient industry a brand like Ressence appears almost out of nowhere and surprises you.
Click the image above to see every Ressence watch we currently offer!