The e-Crown technology unveiled by Ressence at this year’s SIHH is a tectonic shift in the modern horological paradigm.
In the 1950s, pilots in the United States Air Force began to have encounters with objects in their airspace. These crafts were unusual. They sported no wings, fixed or rotary, yet they flew; their origin was unknown, they bore no markings, flags or livery. As encounters increased, pilots, and more importantly, the officers compiling the reports, needed a term to apply to them, something broad yet specific. Thus, the UFO — Unidentified Flying Object — was born.
This year’s SIHH brought watch enthusiasts many exciting new designs, complications and interpretations, but only one example of something truly difficult to define. Lucky for us, its creators did just that; the Ressence e-Crown Concept.
Like those UFOs, the latest iteration from the maverick maison has blown away traditional concepts of contemporary watchmaking by fusing the best parts of mechanical timekeeping with the most convenient aspects of digital technology. Coupled with the brand’s upending depiction of time — the use of rotating discs instead of traditional center-mounted hour and minute hands — this technology is a whole new horological paradigm.
The fusion is, at its core, fairly straightforward: a mechanical watch apparatus enmeshed with electric energy management. On the whole, the application is not dissimilar to the Mecaquartz technology pioneered by Jaeger-LeCoultre and Frédéric Piguet in the 1980s. But where the Mecaquartz relies solely on a battery for energy, the e-Crown is an electro-mechanical system, powered by a traditional rotor conveying kinetic energy to the power plant. And, should that not be enough, the e-Crown’s energy management system automatically bypasses the kinetic energy source, opting instead to deploy its photovoltaic cells artfully concealed on the dial under 10 micro-shutters.
If you feel like a pilot who was just buzzed by an alien craft, just wait.
Ressence has equipped the e-Crown system with . . . cognition, or as they would say, “self-learning, self-monitoring, self-adjusting, self-setting.” In essence, the e-Crown system regulates its own timekeeping, applying micro adjustments to the time-indicator discs to ensure precision. Further, the e-Crown is capable to powering itself down when off the wrist whilst retaining timing functions; when donned, the e-Crown system "wakes up" and resets the discs to the correct time.
But to stop there just wouldn’t be enough for a brand like Ressence.
The e-Crown has the capacity to track two distinct time zones. The e-Crown nerve center is further equipped with a touch sensor — a type of accelerometer — that allows the wearer to switch between the time zones by simply tapping the crystal.
And if all that doesn’t convince you of the otherworldly nature of the e-Crown concept, Ressence has equipped it with Bluetooth capability, allowing the watch to speak to a proprietary smartphone application from which the user can set and monitor each of the time zones to the second. Oh, and should little green men descend and wipe out our electronics, Ressence has made sure that the mechanical apparatus will continue to operate unaffected as a fully mechanical timekeeper.
As if to remind us of its futuristic capabilities, Ressence has bundled its hybridized revolution, the Ressence Type 2 e-Crown Concept, in a sleek, lightweight titanium case, hauntingly reminiscent of a flying saucer. Perhaps it’s a nod, perhaps an homage. Either way, all we can say for sure is that it’s got us itching for a close encounter.
For the meantime, the Type 2 is still in final development and won’t make a formal debut until later this year. Until then, let the words of Ressence found and lead creative, Benoît Mintiens, ring in your ears:
“The best way to envision the future of fine-watchmaking is by creating it.”
Images c. Atom Moore
*Editor's Note: All images are of protype pieces, final products may differ in appearance.