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Review: Hands on with the Ressence Type 2 e-Crown Concept- dawn of a new era

with video of Ressence's Gaëtan Gaye explaining the concept.
by Peter Chong on February 28, 2018

The concept is revolutionary. Get rid of the crown’s function for time setting. How? We filmed this video showing the functions which we released last week. For today’s article, we go in-depth, and provide you with all the details, and our hands-0n opinion on the Ressence Type 2 e-Crown Concept. But we let the cat out of the bag in the title…it is indeed the dawn of a new era.

The Ressence Type 2 e-Crown was also featured in our Chief Editor’s picks from the Geneva Shows.

The Ressence Type 2 e-Crown

What is it?

First, please see the functional demonstration video found in this link here. 

 

In the following video, we have Ressence’s Gaëtan Gaye explain to us what the e-Crown is and does.

 

 

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? For us, this is a really excellent application of technology and is perhaps the first real useful extension of the Smart Watch concept. It works flawlessly in tandem with a Smartphone connected, and works equally well without the phone.

 

Ressence Type 2 E-Crown

 

Case, dial and hands

The case will be known as the Ressence Type 2. Ressence first came to the scene with the Type 1, and later they introduced the Type 3, and Type 5. It would seem that the naming nomenclature was based on odd numbers, but then for the e-Crown prototype, they released the Type 2.

What we saw in SIHH was a single working prototype presented by Gäetan and Benoît Mintiens (Ressence founder). They also revealed that they are hoping that production models can be made for sale by 3Q2018, and will be priced similar to the Ressence Type 3  (approx CHF 33,000 before taxes).

 

 

The case is round, with smooth, curved surfaces. The immediate impression is that is a well worn pebble to the touch, smooth in almost every direction. The hand feel is quite extraordinary, as if it has taken an organic persona. Well the feel is not extraordinary as far as Ressence watches go, but generically speaking it is reminiscent of one.

The strap, to which the watch is attached is very soft, very flexible, and feels very comfortable on the wrist. The watch itself is no thicker than the Type 2 with a case size of 44mm x 15mm height. When handled and worn on the wrist, the rather large case dimensions seems to shrink due to the curved sapphire glass on the dial side which creates the impression of the watch wrapping around one’s wrist.

 

Ressence Type 2 e-Crown

Ressence Type 2 e-Crown

 

As usual with Ressence watches, there are no hands. but the entire main dial rotates, as do the sub-dials. On the Type 2 e-Crown concept watch, the dial is laid out such that the main rotating dial carries the minutes indication. To describe the layout, we need to fix the time, as the display and sub-dials continue to move around the dial with the time indication. For this purpose we use noon as the reference. At noon, the hour disc will be at the 6 o’clock position, with the arrow pointing up at 12. The minutes are carried on the main dial as mentioned, and the arrow also points to 12. Three slots are cut into the dial just inside the circumference of the minutes chapter ring. These allow a peek into the e-Crown mechanism, and is purely aesthetic. At 10 o’clock a sub-dial indicates the seconds and at 2 o’clock, there is a sub-dial which is used as a selector (more about this later).

 

The lume of the e-Crown is quite strong and bright and easy to see in the dark.

 

As with all Ressence watches, the main dial and subdial is in continuous rotational motion when the watch is running. And the interesting design achievement is that though all the components are in constant rotation, the markers which act as hands are set up in such a way, that they retain the traditional relative position to the center of the dial, allowing intuitive reading of the time as in a conventional watch dial. In the photograph immediately above, the time is 8:38:34.

 

e-Crown: the concept and execution

So far this is as conventional a watch as in any Ressence timepiece, with one exception. There is a selector subdial. What does it do? The watch is woken up by double tapping the sapphire crystal as one would tap an Apple Watch or  FitBit. When awaken, each tap will advance the selector indicator one step.

 

Graphic taken from the e-Crown booklet, showing the detail of the selector dial.

 

At 12 on the sub-dial, the e-Crown is off. Double tap to wake the module up, and one tap enters the watch into the mode to manually adjust Timezone 1. In this mode, a large lever can be deployed at the case back, and can be used to adjust the time to the correct time in Timezone 1. As the seconds hand does not hack, time can be set to the minute.

 

The case back, showing the lever which can be deployed to set the time.

 

A further tap will place the watch to indicate Timezone 1, with e-Crown connected. This is important as e-Crown does some automatic updates. A third tap will cause the watch to enter into automatic adjustment mode. This will turn on the Bluetooth connection and the watch will communicate with the application residing on one’s Smart Phone. We saw the demo on an iPhone X. In this mode, the time for both timezones are set using the app, and the watch can be set to be accurate to the second.

Four taps will bring up the adjustment mode for Timezone2, and five will bring the watch to show the second timezone.

Surrounding the indicators are a set of shutters, which can open to allow light to charge the photosensitive cells within, or when sufficient power is available for the electronic components, the shutters are automatically closed. To also allow the watch to work in environments where there is no light, the electronics can also be charged with a rotor which is built into the e-Crown module. A separate rotor runs the mechanical ETA movement below the module.

 

The automatic rotor, or what Ressence calls the kinetic generator uses the wrist to power the e-Crown cluster.

In the e-Crown mode, the watch also has the ability to self-set. It does this at least once a day. The system monitors the disc’s positions and will adjust the positions automatically to correct the time, as needed. It will do so as long as the mechanical movement is running.

When the mechanical movement is not running, e-Crown will go to sleep, and awake when the watch is put on the wrist. As an automatic watch, the ETA movement will start once the rotor moves and acquires sufficient power for the mainspring. As it does so, the e-Crown will automatically set the discs to the correct time.

 

The watch has thus three modes:

  1. no e-Crown. The Ressence Type 2 e-Crown runs like any regular mechanical watch. It is only able to display one timezone, and setting for the time is performed by the lever.
  2. e-Crown + manual setting. In this mode, entered by tapping the crystal once after waking it up with a double tap. Two timezones can be displayed. Timezone 1 by tapping the crystal 2 times, and Timezone 2 by tapping the crystal 5 times after waking the e-Crown module up with a double tap. Time setting is performed with the lever at the caseback, and time can be set up to the minute. The e-Crown module will update the time on the dial once a day.
  3. e-Crown + App setting. This is the fully automatic mode, entered with 3 taps after waking the watch up. In this mode, the setting is done via the smart phone for both timezones. And time setting can be set up to the second. Date information is also uploaded into the module. Although the watch does not have an indicator to show the date, this is important for the dual timezone display,

The competitive landscape

The concept of the e-Crown is completely revolutionary, and we have not seen anything else like it. The auto setting function is perhaps similar to the Citizen Eco-Drive and Seiko Kinetic systems. But both these systems are quartz based, while the Ressence has a fully mechanical heart. In addition the use of the ROCS system of using oil and magnets to move hand-less dials to indicate the time is unique.

 

Concluding thoughts

In summary, the Ressence Type 2 e-Crown is a tremendous achievement. Setting the watch via the crown was invented by Adrien Philippe (of Patek Philippe) in 1842, and it took till 2018 for a tiny company in Belgium to re-invent it using modern technology. We think it remarkable! And are very impressed with the achievements.

The watch itself is a beauty. The photographs and videos shown here is the prototype, and not the final design, we are confident that the Ressence e-Crown when delivered as a commercial product will be just as beautiful. And not only beauty, but with a magnificent brain to match. Bravo Benoît!

 

The Ressence Type 2 e-Crown on the wrist.

 

 

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