Ressence Type 1 Squared X Limited Edition Review

Ressence celebrated its 10th anniversary with four new limited edition green-dial watches, of which this Type 1 Squared X is the final member. It’s more significant than merely being the last of an interesting range of small-run high-end watches though, as it it’s also the most unique, and therefore the most interesting, offering of the quartet. This is no small feat given that another member of the collection featured a turbo timer specifically tailored to a single ultra-rare car. As opposed to modifying complications already available in other Ressence watches, the Type 1 Squared X finds a new way to reinterpret an old complication, the day/night indicator.

Before we get to the watch more broadly, I might as well address the part you’re most interested in, namely this weird 24 hour subdial near 12:00 (or 3:00, 6:45, wherever you like really on a Ressence), 12:00 in this photo, at least. Here you will find 48 ceramic ball bearings of four different colors, or you will, anyway, if you wait long enough, as the unique mechanism only shows three colors at a time. Yellow is for sunrise (morning), white for afternoon, blue for evening, and black for night.

Ressence, alongside Dr. Christopher Harvey, a professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical and part of the university’s Brain Science Initiative, claims that identifying time by color is a faster and more intuitive way of telling the time than reading a watch dial in the conventional manner. On an intuitive level, Professor Harvey’s assertion makes sense. Our distant ancestors, say 10,000 years ago, lacked lovely Ressence watches and so would have had to rely on naturally-occurring phenomena, such as the different colors of the sky during a sunset, for instance, to subtly inform them of the passage of time. Ressence is attempting to tap into that with these tiny ceramic ball bearings to give the wearer of the watch a rough color-based idea of the passage of time.

Of course, you don’t need a watch, much less a specific complication, to get a vague idea of what time of day it is, with fairly unique exceptions like spelunkers and polar explorers. I like this complication, in many of the same ways I like Ressence generally, because it’s weird, new, cool, and most importantly, interesting. It doesn’t actually have to be functionally better at anything to justify its existence because it adds to the joy of watchmaking. I have a suspicion that Ressence has more planned with Dr. Harvey, and that’s why they’ve bothered placing such a large emphasis on the scientific foundations of the design. Philosophy and science aside, the complication is very cool, as it’s delightfully and unnecessarily overthought by Ressence in their typical Ressence way. Another watchmaker would have been satisfied with shuffling tiny ball bearings around to indicate the time of the day, but not Ressence. They had to go the extra mile to hide one quarter of the tiny spheres for any given time of day, resulting in a relatively complex, but deeply interesting, mechanism.

Some watches attempt such a party trick in an effort to set it apart from myriad other similar watches, but one of the lovely things about Ressence is that everything about them sets them apart from other watches. Once you’ve moved beyond its unique day/night complication, you simply find yourself surrounded by other fascinating aspects of the Type 1 Squared. The first thing you’ll notice about this particular Ressence, however, is its green color, unique to the “X” series of limited editions. At first glance I’m tempted to compare it to olive drab or similarly militaristic hues, but the beautiful radial polish gives it too much character to be called “drab” in any color. Ressence calls it dark olive green, and I think that’s a very accurate and straightforward, if unromantic, description. It gives the watch a relatively sober, purpose-built look, perhaps due to our learned associations with similar colors from military forces throughout the world.

Like all Ressence watches thus far, the dial takes on a very unique regulator-like appearance in that every element of timekeeping is separated from each other, as opposed to an ordinary watch layout in which the hour and minute hands, at the very least, overlap one another. That said, while Ressence watches are laid out like regulators, they don’t actually work like them. That’s because not only do the hands rotate, but so does the entire dial (which is how the minute hand works to begin with). In my many years of watch collecting, I’ve seen numerous tourbillons and even minute repeaters, but I honestly can’t say I’ve seen quite as visually an impressive feat as the way a Ressence’s dial moves. It truly is one of a kind, but unfortunately it’s one you’ll need to see in person, or at the very least watch a video of, to fully appreciate.

Take this lovely hour subdial, for instance. The circle inside it depicts the hand, and it rotates, as you might expect, clockwise with the passage of time. That’s simple enough, but what makes this really impressive is that, while the entire dial is rotating, both the ring with the hour markers on it and the “hand” within maintain their relative position, as if unaffected by the motion. This is also a good time to point out the unique logo that Ressence is using for these 10-year anniversary watches, a creative fusion of a Roman numeral X (for 10) and an hourglass.

The same is true for this little subdial which, oddly enough, is a day complication. The two hollow marks are Saturday and Sunday, just to clarify. Like the bigger hour subdial, its relative position is preserved even as it rotates around the dial in a Copernican fashion, which I suppose is appropriate given that time is determined by the position of the earth relative to the sun. Indeed, the actual complication that makes all of this work, called the ROCS, stands for Ressence Orbital Convex System and it’s one of the most creative and interesting mechanisms in all of watchmaking. Getting into how ROCS works, precisely, is beyond the scope of this review, but if you are sufficiently nerdy that you want to get a basic idea, please refer to my other article, Our Guide to All Of Ressence, which not only covers ROCS but also all of Ressence’s other crazy/amazing designs, of which there are many.

It’s not just the dial color and day/night indicator that separate this limited edition from the “normal” (if such a thing can be said about a Ressence) Type 1 Squared watches. The Type 1 Squared is normally only available in steel, but this X model gets titanium, the first of this collection to do so. 

I like cushion cases in general, and the 41mm case in the Type 1 Squared is certainly no exception. The 41mm size is unusually reasonable for haute horology, for which I’m thankful, but more impressive is its 11mm thickness, incredibly so when you consider the size of the ROCS “complication” stacked onto the movement alone. Consequently, the watch is small and subtle enough to be worn every day if you wanted to, which is not always the situation when you get into exotic watches like this.

You may have already noticed that the case lacks any crown, at least, a crown by ordinary understandings of the term. By transferring the crown’s functionality to the back of the watch, specifically the recessed lever shown embedded into the back here, they’ve managed to create an unusually streamlined case. It also has the unique property of being one of the most ambidextrous watches in the world. Not only do you not have to worry about the crown’s position, even the dial is in constant rotation, favoring neither side. We also see some subtle design cohesion, with a matching radial finish on both the front and back of the watch.

The last in the quartet of “X” limited edition Ressences, the Type 1 Squared X is also my favorite. It’s the most interesting of the four, and in all the right ways. Of course, the others are fascinating as well, just as any Ressence is, but the novelty of a day/night complication that indicates time via the color of ceramic ball bearings is one of the most Ressence-y things I’ve yet observed. People will, no doubt, call it a gimmick, and I suppose they’re right in the sense that it’s not going to improve your life in any appreciable way, but in my opinion it’s mechanisms like this that keep myself and others returning to the singularly-unique brand. Ressence has the power to introduce new ideas to people who have been around watches for decades, and for that we should all be thankful. 

Unlike most limited editions these days, the Type 1 Squared X is really, really limited, with just 40 pieces. Priced at $23,500, it will largely appeal to collectors that have already been through the standard haute horology offerings and want something truly different. Additionally, because of its unique day/night complication, it would also make a good choice for a second Ressence since no other model from the brand replicates that mechanism.

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