Ressence Type 2 e-Crown Concept: The Right Combination At The Right Time (With Videos)
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know,
We all want to change the world
– John Lennon/Paul McCartney
Sometimes you don’t know the future until you see it.
Throughout the modern industrialized world, there have been millions of inventions that have sought to change everything, and dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, have actually made the world a very different place. From the internal combustion engine and the transistor down to super glue and the staple gun, numerous inventions have literally reshaped the way we live, eat, sleep, and even clean (I’m looking at you, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser).
There aren’t any areas of our lives that haven’t seen at least one revolutionary idea fundamentally alter the way things work. High-precision capacitive touchscreens took the less capable resistive touchscreen technology to a whole new level, allowing for the creation of touch-sensitive surfaces that were only a dream a few decades ago.
Advances in material science drastically changed the outlook of energy storage and battery capabilities, which allowed fully functional computers to fit in your pocket.
Most interestingly, many inventions couldn’t have been predicted due to unintended or accidental discoveries, while others were predicted in science fiction dating back to the nineteenth century.
And there are just times when you won’t realize that something is going to be the future until you see it, and the realization seems like it should have been inevitable all along.
In high-end watchmaking, this is rarely the case: the vast majority of “innovations” are barely (if at all) worth the name and don’t fundamentally change the genre or create a new one. With the introduction of the electronic or quartz movement, the reaction was pretty clear: this was going to change everything. But since then, with few exceptions, the two branches of watchmaking have kept going in largely the same direction.
Some innovations have changed small parts of the genre, like titanium or composite materials, the ubiquitous use of CAD to develop ever more complicated mechanisms, or even ultra-high-frequency escapements; but all in all, digital and mechanical watches have fundamentally remained the same.
The new category of smartwatches changes things a bit, but that could be compared to the introduction of the iPad: it was a much more capable portable computer in a new form, but it still was a portable computer.
Smartwatches are along the same lines: a digital watch and a smartphone have been combined to create a much more capable digital watch, one that does what multiple separate products did before.
But this year, thanks to the very unique brand Ressence, we have a solid new category: smart electro-mechanical watches. And I really think they are gonna be a thing.
The new Ressence Type 2 e-Crown is not the first electro-mechanical wristwatch, and it isn’t even the first smart electro-mechanical wristwatch. Those things have been done, and done rather well, by other brands: from Seiko’s Spring Drive to Urwerk’s EMC and forthcoming atomic-electro-mechanical AMC.
But the e-Crown Concept from Ressence is what I would call the first truly holistic approach to making an intelligent mechanical watch, something that might actually bridge the gap between traditional horology and the desires of younger, tech-oriented generations.
What it does seems simple, but the achievement is something to be celebrated. The e-Crown is the first fully mechanical watch with an added electro-mechanical system to set or adjust the time automatically every day (or on demand) when the watch is put on after a long period of time or when changing time zones.
The e-Crown is a system invented to replace the functions of a crown – the relationship with the crown was one of the founding principles of Ressence – yet not interfere with the regular operation of the mechanical movement. The e-Crown never does anything to the movement; it simply adjusts the time on the brand’s ROCS display module to maintain to-the-minute accuracy of the time (or to-the-second accuracy with an app).
The electro-mechanical system is separate from the regular mechanical movement. It features its own automatic winding rotor called the kinetic generator, its own auxiliary photovoltaic panels, and a mechanical interface to mesh with the time display for adjusting the time on the dial. Since the original movement and dial display module (the patented ROCS mechanism) are separate by design, it was perfect to add the electro-mechanical system between them.
How the Ressence e-Crown works
The e-Crown cluster makes the magic happen, where a variety of components come together to connect to a tiny circuit board of four flexible layers that is only .25 mm thick.
The cluster boasts 87 components, including energy storage, a micro motor and gearbox, hand position reader, setting mechanism for minutes and seconds, mode selector, and sensors and systems management. There are no fewer than half a dozen gears just on the cluster alone. It really is electro-mechanical.
This cluster gets input from a variety of sources, one being the kinetic generator. It functions largely like a regular winding system as an oscillating mass rolling on ball bearings, but it drives a miniature onboard gear train that winds a small spring barrel, which powers an energy generator. The kinetic mass with onboard energy generator is rather cool considering it is completely separate from the regular movement and its own automatic winding mechanism.
Another unique structure outside of the e-Crown cluster is the photovoltaic shutter mechanism for charging, consisting of ten shutter windows. These open when the power level in the e-Crown cluster falls below a certain point; the shutter windows can also be opened via the phone app for constant charging. This allows you to maintain an accurate timekeeping reference even if you don’t wear your watch for a long time and the electro-mechanical systems can’t charge.
This is by far the most sci-fi aspect of the watch, seeing the tiny little shutters rotate open.
How you interact with the Ressence e-Crown
The amazing crystal on this watch is much more than just a crystal: it actually functions more like a phone screen, having capacitive touch capabilities thanks to a multilayer design.
The crystal can register touch, and with two taps the wearer brings the system into action. Then, with another tap one of three modes can be selected: fully mechanical (with no electronic interference); e-Crown “lite” (uses the onboard electronics to monitor and adjust the time once a day to within a minute); or full e-Crown mode, which incorporates the app functions for more precise time adjustments and full time zone functionality.
Without the app, two time zones can be set on the Type 2 e-Crown.
This is the other interesting thing: the e-Crown cluster does not need a GPS signal to update the time. When the watch is set using the case back lever, it will register the time setting and keep that as a reference time on a separate internal clock to be used when it checks the displayed time for adjustments.
If that reference time is never reset or updated with the e-Crown app, it will remain as accurate as any digital clock on any computer. But if the app is used, a Bluetooth receiver on the e-Crown cluster can adjust the time not only down to the minute, but down to the second. The app is not needed for functionality at all, but it does expand capabilities.
Without the app, the user can manually set two time zones to switch between using just a finger. But by connecting with the app, any time zone can be selected from a dropdown menu, instantly updating that second time zone reference time. The app also allows the ability to switch in and out of daylight savings time and will notify the user should the watch eventually need to be serviced based on measurements made monitoring the time.
All of this would be awesome incorporated into any watch; it would mean an entirely new genre of fine watchmaking.
But it is the perfectly natural evolution from Ressence since its watches were already groundbreaking in terms of functionality. Without the separate ROCS display module, which is an awesome example of engineering, the design would require the invention of it. Two fully mechanical systems, which were already separated by design and driven by magnets, now find themselves sandwiching high-tech electronics that can help them do their jobs.
Taking the route partially inspired by ideas seized upon by Urwerk (going back to Abraham-Louis Breguet) with a separate system updating a “slave” timekeeper like in the Sympathique clock, Ressence found a way to keep the traditional alive while adding the modern in a whole new way.
One of the main reasons I have never been a big fan of quartz and digital watches was the lack of the mechanical heart, that very analog method of making something function. Gears, levers, pulleys, springs: these are the things that really get me excited.
I love electronics as well, and I love the capabilities introduced since the invention of computers. But I’ve kept them separate in my mind, as if they shouldn’t mesh.
But in reality, they mesh all the time, and engineering wouldn’t be what it is without the intersection of mechanical and electronic technologies. The Ressence Type 2 e-Crown is the first watch to bridge that gap for me in a way that I can honestly see getting excited about the combination of the two.
I have loved other things brands have done over the years combining electronics and mechanics, but for some reason I kept them in a different category.
Now I feel ready to combine the two, putting behind my desire to keep them separate. No longer am I that kid that doesn’t want his mashed potatoes and peas to touch, now I want to swirl it all together and mix in some stuffing, turkey, and even cranberry sauce.
The Ressence Type 2 e-Crown is the bridge from a world where things are separate to a world where everything is connected. It really could be the future.
Now the breakdown!
- Wowza Factor * 9.91 When something makes you change how you feel about an entire technological area, that is a sure wow!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 120.5 » 1,181.701m/s2 Simply knowing what it can do makes me stay up all night thinking about the possibilities!
- M.G.R. * 66.7 The base movement is pretty straightforward, but once you include the ROCS system AND the e-Crown mechanism, it is a pretty geeky movement!
- Added-Functionitis * Severe It only has a few extra functions but they are seriously complicated to achieve! I would suggest extra-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the shocking horological swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 11.05 Dropping a dumbbell on your toe! When you haven’t worked out with free weights in a while and you are sweating up a good one, those things can become slippery. Yet I would do it again, both for the health benefits and if it meant I might get the e-Crown on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * It isn’t built into the movement, but is separate?! All it takes is the right combination and I am looking at tuxedos!
- Awesome Total * 0111110100 When you take the approximate number of components in this new creation (500) and write it in the appropriate binary form you have one very digital awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.ressencewatches.com/watches/type-2.
Quick Facts Ressence Type 2 e-Crown
Case: 45 mm, titanium
Movement: concept movement with ROCS and e-Crown systems, automatic mechanical base
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; mode selector, e-Crown functions
Price: TBD – final version due in the second half of 2018
Also published on Medium.