Last year, at the SIHH 2018, Ressence introduced something very special! While the brand has been all about mechanical modules that display the time in a very unique way, the Ressence Type 2 added some connected functionalities to the package – no worries, it has nothing to do with a step counter or a conversation with a phone. It was unique, unprecedented and (very) clever. This watch features an “e-Crown”, making it the first self-setting mechanical watch (and yes, Smart-Tech can make sense). After the initial concept, here is the final version of the Ressence Type 2 e-Crown, now with an anthracite case and various updates.
The base concept
The crown, a mechanism to wind and to adjust watches, was invented by Adrien Philippe (co-founder along with Antoni Patek of Patek Philippe) in 1842 and has been an unchallenged standard ever since! We use it without thinking to wind the movement or to adjust the time. It has become so natural that no one even thought that it would be challenged one day. However, Ressence doesn’t think this way. The Type 2’s e-Crown features chips and connectivity, but it also relies on a mechanical movement. So you won’t talk to your watch as a phone or look at Instagram photos. The connected part serves the watch to make it more user-friendly, smarter if you like.
The main idea of Ressence with the e-Crown Concept is to revolutionize the way we interact with the watch by actually removing the main part we interact with: the crown. How? By avoiding the need to adjust the watch. The e-Crown Concept makes sure your watch is always on time, at the right time. It features smart technologies and connectivity, but not for apps. The Ressence Type 2 is still mechanical, still features a balance and an escapement, still features a mechanical display of the time, yet it adds a layer to the signature Ressence concept – a mechanical movement with a display module on top named ROCS.
In short, it is a technology, developed by Ressence, that replaces the crown’s function with an automated set-up system. It automatically sets and adjusts your mechanical watch to the right time, rendering the crown obsolete. How does it work? The e-Crown Concept is an electro-mechanical embedded system that is placed between the mechanical base movement and the in-house ROCS module. It replaces the traditional crown’s setup functions of a mechanical watch.
For Ressence, the e-Crown “acts as an electro-mechanical assistance the same way an automated gearbox does in a car”. First of all, to reassure those who are allergic to smartwatches, the e-Crown can be switched on or off without affecting the watch. The watch can run in full mechanical mode powered by its mechanical base movement. Compared to a Ressence Type 1, it adds an extra layer, as a demonstration of the symbiosis between old-school watchmaking and cutting-edge technology.
Placed in-between the mechanical movement (low level) and the ROCS display module (top level) is the e-Crown, an electro-mechanical cluster composed of 87 components. The module is a four-layered 0.25mm thick flexible custom-built PCB that carries and connects all the components. Being extremely small and having a very low power consumption posed two challenges to the designers. Energy is provided to the module by photovoltaic cells. When required, triple-junction photovoltaic cells, hidden behind the dial, will use the outside light as an energy source. The module is, therefore, self- sufficient.
What does this e-Crown do? First, it registers the time set manually via the caseback lever. It becomes the reference time for future monitoring, automatic setting and adjusting. At least once a day, the e-Crown monitors the time indicated on the dial. The disc’s positions will then be adjusted automatically (if needed) as long as the movement of the watch is running. When the watch is not worn, and the movement stops, it will put itself into sleep mode and wake up as soon as the watch is back on the wrist. It will then automatically reset the mechanical watch to the right time (based on the registered time). It is activated and controlled by tapping the glass.
The magic doesn’t stop here as the e-Crown also embraces connectivity. Ressence developed the e-Crown® app to reach an unseen level of convenience and modernity. Using Bluetooth to connect to the module, the app displays a scroll-down list of cities to choose from, but most importantly enables multiple time zone settings, accurate to the second.
Ressence Type 2, new design and updates
Last year’s version was still a concept model, on which adjustments were required – mainly on the tech part, as the mechanical module was already familiar and reliable. Being brand new and proprietary technology, Ressence needed an extra year to adjust its copy – but now, it is ready to be shipped and worn.
First things first, the design has (slightly) evolved, with a new dark grey PVD coating on the case and a black dial, instead of the full titanium scheme. Note that a second lighter-coloured version will also be available. The case respects it modern, angle-free shape, with very reasonable dimensions – 45mm in diameter that wears like 42mm and only 12mm in height.
The remaining evolutions are based on the functions and interaction between the mechanics and the connected module. As you can see, more apertures have been added to the dial, into the hour sub-counter. Underneath, extra photovoltaic cells provide more energy to the watch. The others, which already existed on the concept version, are still hidden between moving “vents” that open when energy is required. This was done because the kinetic energy supply provided to the e-Crown by an oscillating mass, has been removed – the cells were, in fact, even more efficient in this case.
Finally, an extra function has been added when the watch goes into “sleep mode”. After 12 hours of inactivity, the concept watch would stop to save the electric energy. Now, a new mechanism has been added to block the barrel. So, when the watch goes into sleep mode, the connected part stops and the barrel stops simultaneously, whatever the remaining torque. This means that when you “wake up” the watch, even after weeks of inactivity, you only have to double tap on it to make it work again – activating both the electronic parts as well as the mechanical part, as the barrel is released with some energy in it. And that is very clever.
The Ressence Type 2 e-Crown will be introduced officially at the SIHH 2019 in a few days, and we’ll make sure to return to this topic in a more detailed article with hands-on experience and our thoughts after playing with it. Price will be CHF 42,500 (taxes excluded). More details at ressence.com.