Do people still wear watches? Yes, yes they do. Perhaps you have a massive watch strapped to your wrist bone. Maybe it’s diamond encrusted or touch-enabled or can survive a trip through your digestive system. However, it probably doesn’t have a liquid-filled watch face or three dials on a rotating dial which also rotates with the time of day. You know what does though? The Ressence Type 3. It’s a new watch debuting at this year’s BaselWorld Expo. The watch was designed by Benoît Mintiens, founder of Ressence, and is a feat of engineering to behold.
No Hands, All Cool
The Ressence Type 3 watch doesn’t have hands in the traditional sense. In fact, it doesn’t have a lot of the traditional parts you would see on a watch. From the crystal to the crown it’s completely unique. Instead of the typical hour/minute hands, the Type 3 has an indicator for hour, minute, second and am/pm. This sits on a dial that rotates as the minutes pass. All of this lives within an upper module that is completely filled with liquid that gives the appearance of the dial pushing against the crystal.
The Ressence Type 3 transports time from the dial to the crystal. The orbiting indications are bathed in a fluid that refracts light like air, so that the indications appear to be displayed directly onto the sapphire crystal – closer to the eye of the beholder. The high-contrast white indicators against the black dial appear to be projected onto the top crystal as if onto a screen. Type 3 offers a tangible feeling of being able to touch time itself.
There’s a bit of confusing refraction talk in there, so to make it a little more clear, here’s how it works…
The indications and their mechanisms are mounted inside a bubble crafted from extremely tough, anti-reflective sapphire crystal. The complication and indications follow the shape of the crystal. The mechanism (28 gears, 57 jewels) is enclosed in an upper compartment filled with a naphtha-type liquid that has a more similar index of refraction to the sapphire crystal than air does. Refraction bends light when it passes from one material to another, e.g. air-to-glass or glass-to-air. With the fluid-filled dial indications, refraction is greatly minimised, which tricks the brain into seeing the dial in two-dimensions rather than three. A thermal valve automatically adjusts for any expansion or contraction of the fluid.
The time display of this watch is absolutely unique and the design of the dial and discs speaks for itself… and so do they. Here’s what they have to say about the way in which the design was adapted to the familiarity we have with timepieces and telling time.
The origin of the dial concept has been the observation that reading time on hand dials, when trained, is faster than reading digits. The human brain has developed cognitive patterns that translate an image projected by the position of the hands into time conception. This knowledge has become universal. Even more than for languages, reading time with hands has become a ‘world knowledge heritage’.
One thing I really, really enjoy about this watch is the lack of a bezel and crown and the shape of the crystal. It gives it both a rounded, pebble-like appearance and a completely smooth feel. THe indicator placement stands out, but you hardly notice the movement of the discs. There isn’t a video available of the new Type 3 yet, but you can see the action of the watch on their previous Type 1001 in the video below.
What will it cost to get your hands on this one-of-a-kind watch? If you guessed north of 20k, you’re right. Later this year the Ressence Type 3 will sell for for $29,500 USD (~€23,000). (Heck, for a few (thousand) bucks more you can get a precision-manufactured bracelet.) If you happen to be in Basel, Switzerland for BaselWorld, stop by the Ressence booth and check out the new design.