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The Watch Worthy of an Astrophysicist

Ressence Type 3

Last Friday, my colleague Dave Kaiten wrote about the Constant Escapement LM from Girard-Perregaux. The Constant Escapement won the “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix  in the recent Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve. Being somewhat of a scientist, I wanted to briefly write about another Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve category winner (the Horological Revelation Watch category), a watch that leverages several aspects of modern physics: the Ressence Type 3.

All mechanical watches owe much to the physical laws of Newtonian mechanics. The Ressence Type 3 does as well. However, the Type 3 also owes much to the laws of optics and magnetism.

You see, the Type 3 is made up of two elements, the movement module (a modified ETA 2824) and the timekeeping display module. The two are totally isolated from each other because the display module is hermetically sealed and filled with naphtha, a liquid with a refractive index almost exactly that of sapphire. Due to the laws of optics, the effect of the liquid-filled display is that the markings appear to be on the surface of the sapphire crystal rather than on the rotating spherical segments which lie beneath it. A striking effect indeed.

The Type 3, which has no conventional crown, is wound and set by various manipulations of the rings which make up the back of the watch.

Back of the Type 3
Back of the Type 3

But if the display module is physically isolated from the watch movement, how is it driven? One is tempted to say, “By magic!” But the truth is nearly as magical – strong magnets drive the mechanism via micro-magnetic fields which penetrate the titanium wall between the two modules. This portion of the watch is still proprietary, so we haven’t yet seen details – or the components of the Type 3 themselves.

Suffice it to say, this is a watch worthy of a scientist’s full attention.

A hearty congratulations to Ressence and founder Benoît Mintiens!

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