Ressence Founder Benoit Mintiens Creates Unique Timepieces by Focusing On The User Experience

From watches filled with oil to distinctive time displays, the independent brand’s avant-garde designs are all about optimising user-friendliness.
by Lynette Koh

Photo: The Hour Glass

When you first glance at a Type 3 model or Type 5 dive watch by Belgian horology brand Ressence, you might well mistake it for a smartwatch. All of its regulator-style displays — featuring separate subdials for the hours and minutes — are unusually crisp and appear to be placed directly on the watch’s curved sapphire glass.

What makes this possible is the oil that fills the upper chamber of these watches. The refraction of light through the oil creates the illusion that the dial displays are floating on the surface of the watch glass. It is not just about aesthetics: For Ressence founder and designer Benoit Mintiens, it is about optimising the function of a watch, which is telling the time. (Indeed, for the Type 5 dive watch, this all-around clarity takes on added importance by enabling the dial to be legible from every angle while its wearer is underwater.)

The Type 3 BBB from 2021 is a monochromatic version of Ressence’s oil-filled watch. (Photo: Ressence)

Thanks to this revolutionary design, the Type 3 was awarded the Horological Revelation prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve in 2013, the year it was launched. One of the key models for Ressence, the timepiece also showcases the brand’s signature aesthetic: In a crown-less case that comprises mostly curved sapphire glass, the time is shown via pointers on continuously revolving discs that orbit the dial, like moons around a planet.

A unique perspective


Ressence founder Benoit Mintiens. (Photo: The Hour Glass)

Ressence watches are like nothing else on the market, and one can’t help thinking that it is because its founder is rather atypical in the fine watch industry. A native of Antwerp, Belgium, Mintiens is a trained industrial designer whose wide-ranging portfolio includes high-speed trains, aircraft cabins, and luggage. Starting a watch brand was a way of melding his interests in design and engineering. In 2010, he established Ressence, seeking to create something new in an industry he felt lacked innovation.

His watches’ distinctive time display is made possible by a patented module named the Ressence Orbital Convex System, which is driven by a customised self-winding ETA 2824/2 base calibre. Ressence timepieces have numerous components that have to be custom-made for the brand.


The latest colourful Type 1° M by Ressence. (Photo: Ressence)

Speaking to The Peak at L’Atelier by The Hour Glass during a market visit, Mintiens — looking decidedly down-to-earth in a blue long-sleeved shirt and khaki trousers — elaborates on the multi-faceted thought process behind his distinctive designs. “There are different dimensions in which one can be creative when designing a product. It can be aesthetic; how does it look? Then you have ergonomics; how does it feel, how does one interact with it, how do you read the watch? Then you have the technical aspect; how does it work, and how do you produce and develop the systems accordingly?

“What I think is interesting about Ressence, and what I’m proud of as a designer, is that I was able to bring each of those dimensions to another level and to create something different. It’s totally new and coherent because all the dimensions we challenged and modified work together.”

Of the essence

For Mintiens, whose brand is a portmanteau of the words “Renaissance” and “essence”, successful design removes superfluous details to optimise the relationship between a user and a product. “Our watches look simple because the idea is to remove everything you don’t need. Our watches have no brand or logo because the dial is our logo. We removed the hands, the crown, and the (traditional) case. When you look at our watches, you see the dial, which is the only important thing.”

The Type 1° Round in Night Blue and Black was launched in 2023. (Photo: Ressence)

While other brands tend to make plenty of noise about exercises such as removing the logos from their watches, shaping sapphire glass in unusual ways, or putting a crown on the left side rather than the right, Mintiens shakes his head dismissively when asked why Ressence does not market its unusual features more aggressively.

He says, “That’s not important. The most important thing is the relationship people have with the watches. I want you to be happy every time you wear a Ressence.

“There are other ways to achieve this — for example, by branding. There are people who maybe drive a certain car, and when they see a cool commercial, they’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s my car!’ But if this satisfaction can come from the product itself, I think that’s even better.”

This story originally published on The Peak Singapore.

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