While I have yet to fully review the Ressence Type 5 watch out in the wild, I can enthusiastically say that I wish to. Belgium-based small watch maker Ressence released their first “dive watch” with the 100-meter-water-resistant Type 5 watch in titanium that is offered in cases with and without black DLC-coating. It is particularly bold on the wrist being the independent brand’s largest watch to date. It is also incredibly fun to look at, and in a world of “me-too horological design,” Ressence has a look as well as technology that no one else is going to offer anytime soon.
Ressence founder Benoit Mintiens comes across as one of the hardest working micro engineers in the industry, and typically has a smile on his face that at the same time says “no one can copy what I do” and “what I do is really hard.” Mintiens exists in a unique place because the corner stone of his brand are the unique solutions he’s devised to having a modern mechanical watch that indicates time the way he wants to read it.
The Ressence Type 5 diver is one of his more difficult-to-produce watches that has a mineral oil liquid-filled dial. Much of the case is filled with the liquid, but not the movement which begins with a base Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic, but is heavily modified by Ressence. The movement is sealed in a container and controls the watch indicators via magnets. It’s all very tricky, and totally proprietary, which is why Benoit can smile longer knowing his tricks are safe, but at the same time consumers can be shocked by Ressence watch prices which are arguably at the level of haute horology. As beautiful and well-made as Ressence watches are (and their exclusivity is real), the casual elegance of the brand will always be at odds with more “luxury-focused” products which also inhabit a lot of what is offered at this price level.
The brand claims that the Ressence Type 5 design is inspired by a sea turtle. It is an apt analogy given the stubby lug “feet” of the watch and the fact that it is meant for diving (and looks rather friendly). Like a turtle body, the Ressence Type 5 has a sleek profile with mostly smooth edges that looks designed for underwater operation. While the middle part of the case is titanium, most of it is produced from pieces of sapphire crystal. This gives the interesting optical illusion that the dial merges with the case to make for a spacey, out-of-this-world look in a timepiece that doesn’t seem like something that was supposed to exist in our lifetimes, but rather at some point in a more civilized future.
At 46mm wide and 15.5mm thick, the Ressence Type 5 clearly isn’t a small watch but wears well for something this bold. Those in love with the look but concerned about the size of the case will benefit from looking at the slightly smaller Ressence Type 3. Each is nice, with the Ressence Type 5 being the superior sport watch given the water resistance and beefier case. It even has a rotating diver’s bezel which is super cool on a watch like this.
The combination of curved dial and the fact that it is filled with mineral oil makes the face of the watch look like one seamlessly merged item – which is just so interesting-looking. It also helps the watch to be superbly legible from a series of angles. Photographing the dial is tough, though, since no matter the amount of AR-coating used, there will be glare on crystals curved this much. The use of oil in the dial cancels out “Total Internal Reflection,” allowing for the look of the face, which also happens to be ideal for underwater viewing.
Reading the Ressence Type 5 face is simple enough if you understand the principle of regulator-style dials. That means there is a subsidiary dial for the hours and running seconds (oddly enough, the running seconds dial makes a full rotation each 90 rather than 60 seconds). The main dial is used to indicate the minutes, and the dial also includes a temperature gauge. Moreover, the entire dial uses lume, which is important for good viewing in darkness.
Thankfully, the Ressence Type 5 watch has a bellows system that allows for the oil to expand and contract naturally with temperature fluctuations. Inside the case making the watch work, you’ll also find Ressence’s proprietary ROCS 5 and Orbital Convex System. As the case is designed with no crown, time is set via the caseback (along with manual winding, if needed) which can be turned in both directions and takes a bit of explaining to figure out how to use.
I also like the fact that the Ressence Type 5 doesn’t have any calendar information on the dial. This would just make setting the time even more complicated for an already complicated system. With a time-only set up, the Ressence Type 5 will prove easy to live with, as well. Of course, the movement retains the automatic winding feature of the base caliber.
Even with the modifications, the movement offers a power reserve of 36 hours operating at 4Hz (28,800bph). It is almost easy to forget this is a mechanical watch because the Type 5 doesn’t immediately remind you of one. Then again, perhaps that is why people are so attracted to Ressence as a brand – because they make watches with movements that we want, with designs we didn’t know we wanted.
Included with each Ressence Type 5 watch is both a black barenia leather strap as well as a “hook-and-loop” secured military/professional-style nylon fabric strap that I find really comfortable to wear. You can see the green nylon strap that I was wearing, and I can attest to the fact that it is comfortable, and way more convenient that a NATO-style strap. Ressence Type 5 watches are a rare joy and, of course, a bit more delicate than your average high-end sports watch. Its one of the nice ones you want to take on your “low-impact” adventures since you want its company, but you don’t want to risk hurting this exotic turtle. Price for the Ressence Type 5 in either titanium finish is $38,500. ressencewatches.com