An Owner’s Relationship With Their Watch Is of Utmost Importance for Benoît Mintiens
The industrial designer-turned-founder of Ressence sheds light on his thought process, brand mission, while offering Hypebeast a closer look at the new TYPE 1° M.
Just days prior to Ressence unveiling its TYPE 1° M timepiece on November 30, Hypebeast had the chance to sit down with Benoît Mintiens, the brand’s CEO and founder for a closer look at the new watch. Described as functional, playful, and didactic by the Ressence CEO, the TYPE 1° M also marks the debut of the first polychromatic dial for the TYPE 1 model.
Mintiens tells Hypebeast that the idea for the new TYPE 1° M has been in planning since 2022. “It was based on the idea that we wanted to make an art watch,” he notes that after finding a suitable artist to work with, they realized the proposed concepts were far too elaborate and expensive to produce. Consequently, Mintiens and his team at Ressence pulled the plug on the idea, noting that even if they went ahead with production, the timepiece would likely not function properly. Nonetheless, the Ressence CEO remained adamant about introducing a more playful model into the brand’s core collection, hence the initial concept for the new TYPE 1° M.
Made up of 188 components, the timepiece is a far cry from being a simple time-teller. While the new TYPE 1 boasts a 42mm case size, it appears a lot smaller on the wrist – thanks to its unique and ergonomic proportions. The new reference features a white base for its dial, with each of its indicators highlighted in a different hue. In the case of the TYPE 1° M, blue indicates the minutes, green for the hours, red for the week, while yellow serves to highlight the running of seconds. The resulting design is very graphical as Mintiens explains, “The idea behind these watches really is to put more emphasis and more attention on the graphical aspects of our products.”
“For Ressence, colors are always a balance of wavelengths,” says the Ressence CEO, as he elaborates on his thought process behind the TYPE 1° M’s multicolor palette, “If you invert the colors, it just doesn’t look as good. It’s not objective, but something you feel by instinct.” On the coffee table in front of Mintiens lies the other watch he has been wearing through his recent travels – the Eucalyptus Green TYPE 3 EE that premiered during this year’s Geneva Watch Days. Seeing the TYPE 3 EE and the new TYPE 1° M side by side, the latter appears to sport a much more colorful and vibrant palette. In truth, both timepieces feature the same amount of colors on the dials, with only minor tweaks to some of their hues.
When asked about the challenges he experienced in developing timepieces, Mintiens discloses that all Ressence timepieces face a common and inevitable problem. “A Ressence dial is actually a mechanical part,” he says, pointing to the fact that very few watches on the market feature a truly three-dimensional design. “These components work like discs, as we don’t have hands on our watches,” and with this comes all sorts of technical difficulties. One example the Ressence CEO cites is that there needs to be a 0.05mm distance between each moving disc. But when the paint is applied to these parts, the thickness increases, and so the discs won’t move as it is intended. In addressing this issue, Ressence developed a special coating that is used specifically on their timepieces, thus allowing more freedom for the team to explore.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Ressence as a watch brand is its approach to watchmaking. Benoît Mintiens, who’s both the CEO and the founder of Ressence, comes from a background in industrial design. He points out that nearly all watch brands are founded by watchmakers, and expoundings on the common practice of the dial, hands, and watch cases being designed only once the watch caliber is finalized.
“For Ressence, colors are always a balance of wavelengths.”
It’s precisely because of Mintiens’ design background that makes Ressence’s creations so uniquely different. His creative process always leads with a brainstorm of questions: Why do one wear a watch? What is the function of the watch? And what does a time-teller provide its user? In actuality, Ressence watches are always conceptualized with external elements first. For the Belgian-based watch brand, the movement is always a consequence of its exteriors – a completely disparate approach from that of a watchmaker.
Undoubtedly, Ressence watches are design-focused with an emphasis on user experience. This is evident in the designs alone, as all branding and logos have been omitted from the dial. “There’s no added value to the watch to have the brand on the dial anyway,” he remarks. “As a designer, your job is to put yourself in the skin of the person who will use the product. An engineer puts themself in the skin of the mechanics they are developing – both aren’t the same and the results they produce will also not be the same.”
Another design-related question that Mintiens points out highlights the lack of evolution in the design of watch crowns. As an invention from the 19th century, its modern iterations haven’t strayed too far from its early examples. Nearly all wristwatches feature its crown on the side, and most commonly on the 3 o’clock position. “Putting yourself in the skin of the person who wears the watch is something that is very rare in our industry,” Mintiens states, remarking on the component being typically too small, hard to use, and uncomfortable on the wrist.
It’s precisely because of his user-oriented mindset and design training that led Mintiens to conceptualize Ressence’s crown-less silhouette. “The crown is the entire caseback,” he says, highlighting that ”it’s like a wheel. And by turning the caseback, you can set the watch.” Even between the TYPE 3 EE and the TYPE 1° M, there are some definitive differences and improvements in its functional caseback design. While the entire caseback can be turned to set the time and date on the TYPE 3, the new reference features a lever that makes winding the timepiece even more effortless.
In recalling Ressence’s first-ever timepiece, Mintiens tells Hypebeast that the idea was to create an ergonomic and recognizable watch. “A watch provides a service, and to provide the service in the best way it needs to adapt to you [the user]. Very often that’s forgotten in watchmaking, as watches require you [the user] to adapt to them.” From Mintien’s perspective, traditional watches are tend to be hard to read and uncomfortable to wear. Of course, as a watch brand founder and CEO, Mintiens was asked many times before to tackle a tourbillon. His stance on this is best explained through a hypothetical scenario: Imagine being a pilot preparing to land a plane in a low-visibility environment, but your landing instrument of choice is a skeletonized tourbillon watch. “I think you will crash with the tourbillon watch dial because it’s so unreadable,” notes Mintiens, who circles back to Ressence’s brand mission that is “to make a product that fulfills a function and gives you the information you need.”
While there is a myriad of timepieces available in the world that pride themselves on their ease in reading, these usually have to make compromises by employing a plain or simple dial design. Eventually, an idea came up from the Ressence team while deliberating on the question, “What is more readable than something printed on paper?” In response to this, Mintiens explains that the human brain usually process text from a digital screen in a slower manner than text printed on paper. “We all have smartphones now, and there are even screens in cars now. The advantage of a screen is that it’s dynamic, it changes. You can have it on the same surface, you can have different information and that’s a bit like a watch dial. But the watch dial also changes to represent the time it turns. What I decided to do was to combine the readability of paper with the dynamics of a screen, and so I made a mechanical screen that’s the Ressence dial.”
“When I create watches, I first think of the relationship the user will have with the watch – that’s the starting point.”
Looking back on Ressence’s journey in the past 13 years, Mintiens tells Hypebeast that the brand is still in its adolescence. “When I first started Ressence, I had the feeling that I needed to make the products look more serious, as the whole concept was already not so standard,” Mintiens recalls the pressure he felt to abide by industry codes in order to be accepted. Now, nearly 14 years later, the Ressence CEO is much more relaxed as the brand has proven itself along with its technically complex offerings in the field of high-end watchmaking. With this hard-earned ease, Mintiens says they can finally take away the constraint of appealing to others, thus begin their explorations for ways to appeal to collectors on a more emotional level.
“Your emotional relationship with the product doesn’t usually come from a black or a gray dial,” says Mintiens, explaining that Ressence’s plans are to deviate from monotony and embrace expression as a brand. “It’s a bit like when we were children, our parents would tell us how to dress. But as you enter adolescence, you’re a little more expressive, as you start to wear different types of clothes – that’s where Ressence is now.”
“When I create watches, I first think of the relationship the user will have with the watch – that’s the starting point,” says Mintiens. It’s also because of this thinking process that led the brand to create watch cases in a more organic-looking silhouette. However, organic shapes are not only more complicated and expensive to craft in comparison to flat, geometric shapes, which can be easily machine-manufactured. Despite knowing the full consequences, Mintiens’ unwavering desire to create organically shaped watches is all for bridging that emotional connection and relationship between the timepiece and its owner. “We, as humans, feel closer, and have more empathy for objects that are organic,” he notes, elaborating on the fact that nothing in nature is flat. From animals, produce, minerals to plants, “These shapes unconsciously refer to something that is organic, and so it feels closer to us than something that is geometrical,” he adds.
In anticipating the new year, Mintiens professes his plans to further increase the functionality of Ressence watches. He teases that forthcoming models will take on an even more functional, ergonomic, and economic approach. The new TYPE 1° M is only the beginning of an exciting new chapter in Ressence’s brand history – signaling that the brand’s continual goal in establishing its unique identity.