ressence type 2 e crown concept 5

A Look at Three Watchmakers Reinventing the Watch Display

Although they entered the world of watchmaking through the door of industrial design and mechanics, these three personalities, despite their different backgrounds, all brought a particular vision to the display of time.

By Joël A. Grandjean

MeisterSinger, the lone hand bias

The visual pitfall with MeisterSinger watches is that they all look like traditional watches at first glance. They are round and the codes to which they belong are those of assumed classicism, never deprived of contemporary impulses. It is only when you take the time to visually enter the heart of the object, perhaps simply because you want to know the time, that you realize that only one hand is about to give it to you. But where is the second or even the third hand? In other words, it is an approximate time since the traditional division of a watch dial into 12 units has been maintained and must be read between the lines to get an idea of the minutes. Finally, the lover of fine watchmaking gets caught up in the game, especially since, as in any exercise that imposes a rigid environment and strict rules, there is still a wide spectrum of possible combinations.

Founded 2001 in Germany by designer Manfred Brassler, whose office was rather renowned for its industrial designs, this brand was given a deliberately Germanic name from the very beginning. A musical name that transforms the unique hand into a kind of conductor's wand. A brand whose technical base is mainly composed of Swiss Made calibres. In 2018’s Baselworld, the Lunascope was launched, an astronomical moon-phase watch only requiring  correction after 128 years of operation, powered by an ETA 2836 calibre, imposed the vigor of its various shades of blue on the sector's trends.

Ressence, the resetting without crown

"Graphically, the system brings the time outside the watch" confided Benoît Mintiens, the founder of the Ressence brand, a name that incarnates the "renaissance of the essential". This industrial designer based in Belgium has taken it upon himself to comprehend the horological product, the watch, in another way, from the point of view of a user who would not necessarily have integrated into his sensory experience the fact that only a hand must be responsible for transmitting time indications. He then wanted to get out of formatting, to offer himself an 'out of the box' ride. And his project, punctuated by a disruptive creativity and a faith in moving mountains has succeeded rather well. The result is a watchmaking complication that recovers its essence, namely to simplify the life of its wearer.

Announced in June 2018 but presented as a prototype at the SIHH in January, the Ressence Type 2 e-Crown Concept decides to replace the crown by a small double-tap on the watch glass, which restarts it and above all, which sets it on a specific time that a specific Bluetooth application has predefined. There is a zest of provocation when this barrier-free creator proclaimed that after almost 200 years, the crown of a watch is about to disappear. He may have been brilliant in the functional approach of a time display inspired by the revolving magic of the old merry-go-rounds of yesteryear, but he is not the first to embark on this new field of inventiveness.

There was already the historical epic of the Ventura brand, pioneer among the pioneers, which could pick up a radio-controlled signal to set itself on the exact time, well before the era of iPhones operating in continuous connection. More recently, there is also François-Paul Journe's Elegante, which also occupied a neighboring stand for the first time at SIHH 2018 in the "Carré des Horlogers". His watch is the first to have also this ability to stop when you put it down for a while, then to get back in step with the race of time when you take it back in hand or strap it to your wrist. Anyway, more and more real watches, thanks to hybrid approaches in particular, are entering the world of these connected objects which remain subject to irreversible damage from their planned obsolescence... And so much the better since the period is serious: in our western countries, more and more young schoolchildren know no longer read the time the old-fashioned way, that is to say on a normal dial punctuated with indexes and swept by hands.

Nord Zeitmaschine, moving micromechanics

This brand, Nord Zeitmaschine, can simply make you lose your way as its models are re-imagining the display and functions. The very first time I was introduced to a Variocurve, Daniel Nebel's first creation (whose initials are found in the word NorD), I didn't immediately understand where this former mechanic converted to complicated precision watchmaking wanted to take me. The only way I could observe the progress of this timepiece as complex as it was different in the way it modelled the kinetics of its displays on the elliptical race of time, was to watch a video in accelerated mode.

I had the feeling then that this central hand, in the way it moved, staggered and even wobbled, propelled me into the misty atmosphere of a Parisian morning. One of those sunrises when, at the bottom of the Butte Montmartre, I could have meet the Eiffel tower with in the background, the grandiloquent declamations of a Parisian evening improbably covering Jacques Brel's song "Ne Me Quitte Pas".

Strange! The persistent and courageous work of this watchmaker builder who seems to have transformed the armatures of his calibres into industrial territories where derricks and dockside aesthetics are profiling themselves, extends beyond his exhilarating Variocurve. Two other distinct models perpetuate this disruptive approach, the Quickindicator served in 4 versions of finishes and the recent Freesdial, a chronometric construction enriched with 14 bearings and a telescopic hand. In this form of artistic expression, there are the same deviances as in the curiosities within M.A.D Gallery, even the same signals as an Urwerk or MB & F watch.

On the gambling side, while casino fever has infected women, the auction virus has not been as successful, except for jewellery. Almost non-existent are the mythical fights led by women for female watchmaking covetousness. However, the woman who takes part in such agapes is generally in the arms of a partner who adopts two attitudes: either he lets himself be restrained in his compulsive impulses, or on the contrary, he distorts the game by sleeve effects intended to make his financial capacity ostentatious.

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