A wristwatch that "sleeps" when you take it off and wakes up when you put it back on? The Type 2 from Ressence surprises in the world of mechanical timepieces with innovative functionality and revolutionary product design.
It is a unique mechanism in the world of mechanical timepieces: The watch "sleeps" when it is set down and wakes up again when picked up from the nightstand. The correct time is set automatically. In yet another unique feature, it is not the hands that move, but instead the very unusual dial of Type 2 from Ressence. This fascinating animation is powered by the smallest series motor from FAULHABER.
What would a mechanical watch look like if it was reimagined and redeveloped from the bottom up? Benoît Mintiens asked himself this question about twelve years ago. At the time, the product designer worked as a consultant and was involved in a wide range of design processes: "As a generalist, I worked with many different things. The spectrum ranged from hunting rifles to aircraft cabins – a very interesting job! But I wanted to finally develop something myself again and design an entire product new from the bottom up."
Up to that point, the Belgian had had nothing at all to do with watches. His decision to move to this industry was strategically considered. The watch – unlike a car, for example – is a clearly defined product. A large team is not required for conception and development. At the same time, aspects such as design and innovative technology play an important role for the buyers of first-class chronometers. It is precisely this clientele that Benoît Mintiens wanted to appeal to with his new development.
Instead of buying an old-timer, which he had saved for, he invested 30,000 euros in the project, 10,000 of which went towards a small exhibition booth at the world's most important trade show for watches in Basel. In 2010, he presented the first three prototypes of his watch there, for which he had newly designed all parts on a computer. "The greatest challenge at the start was to have the parts produced with the necessary precision at an affordable price," recalls the company founder. "With such small quantities, that is no easy task."
He used intermediate products for purposes other than those intended: For the axes, pieces of sewing needles were used that are manufactured with high precision and have a very smooth surface; used as sleeves were the cannulae of disposable syringes, which just happened to be a perfect fit for the needles. For the development work, Mintiens purchased the inventory of a neighboring pharmacy. "My wife then told me that the pharmacist took her to the side and, in a concerned tone, informed her of my unusual purchases," explains the designer with a grin.
Even though the prototypes could not be perfect under such conditions, his innovative watch concept was met with a great deal of interest in Basel. With the preorders that he went home with, he was able to start series production and could now also afford to pay the highly specialized parts suppliers of the Swiss watchmaking industry.
The basis of his success was – and is – an entire series of unique features that can be found only in watches from Ressence. They differ from the products of the competition already at the first glance: It is not the hands that move on the dial but instead the dial itself. To be precise, there are multiple dials – a different one for each hand: the smaller hands are integrated in the large hand – and circle one another like a planetary gearhead and are constantly seen in new constellations. In spite of the unusual picture that forms as a result, one intuitively recognizes the big and small "hands" as the markers for minutes and hours.
Also missing is the crown, the small dial on the side which, on other mechanical watches, is pulled out and used to set the time. Its function is performed by a hinged lever on the bottom of the watch. The initial winding is also performed with the mechanical movement for the setting of the time. From that point on, an automatic movement ensures spring tension and accuracy.
With the help of an accelerometer, the Type 2 also recognizes whether it is currently being worn or if it has been set down. In the latter case, the spring energy is conserved and the movement paused; the dials stop moving. In addition to the mechanical movement, this model also has on-board electronics called an "e-Crown". When first set, it saves the time and continues to measure the time during the rest phases. The sensor registers when the watch is again put on, and the electronics release the spring. The movement is started by double-tapping the bezel, and the correct time is then automatically set – even if the watch has not been worn for months.
"With the e-Crown, we expand the concept of the mechanical watch with a new dimension," says Benoît Mintiens. "The correct time is always available, and a person can also select a second time zone that the watch then likewise automatically sets. For the selection of the zone, the electronics communicate via Bluetooth with an app developed specifically for this purpose. Nevertheless, the watch remains an independent unit thanks to its automatic movement; the electronics do not interfere with its actual function. The electronics are only used for the adjustment steps that are otherwise performed with the crown."
The e-Crown consists of 87 components; its flexible PCB with four layers is just a quarter of a millimeter thick. All parts are of the smallest dimensions and optimized for minimum energy consumption. As a result, the watches get by on just 1.8 joules of energy per day. The electronics check the position of the dials at least once per day and make a correction if necessary. As occurs when putting the watch on again or when switching between the time zones, an automatic adjustment process is triggered.
During this process, the large and small dials are turned to the appropriate positions. The power for the mechanical work of the e-Crown comes from the smallest series motor from FAULHABER, the 0308…B brushless DC-servomotor, in combination with the 03A micro planetary gearhead. With a diameter of just three millimeters, the drive unit fits in the extremely small installation space present in the watch. In addition to the space, the available electric power is also quite limited there.
If flows from six micro-lithium-ion batteries, which are charged by likewise very small solar cells. They supply just 1.2 volts. "This is actually not enough to overcome the intrinsic inertia and friction of the system," explains sales engineer Hein Vos from FAULHABER Benelux. "We therefore made a number of changes to the gearhead. These include a modified shaft, an adapted gear ratio and a special lubricant."
The connection between Ressence and FAULHABER arose through the recommendation of another supplier, recalls Benoît Mintiens. There may certainly have been other products that would have been small enough for his watch. But, after looking more closely, the choice was not difficult and was clear: "One expects that a mechanical watch will function flawlessly for decades. With the Type 2, this holds true, of course, for the e-Crown as well. The technology from FAULHABER guarantees the high quality and reliability of the drive that I need."