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Hands-On With The Ressence 1003 (Live Pics & Video)

We've shown you the high-design replica watches from Ressence before, and have even been fortunate enough to film an explanation by designer Benoit Mintiens, but only now were we able to get our hands on one for long enough to give it a full once-over. After some time wearing it around New York City, here are my thoughts.

First things first, let's review the basics: the Ressence Series One (I had the 1003, which is the stainless steel and titanium option) takes a wholly new approach to displaying the time. There are neither hands nor dial in the traditional sense. Instead, the "dial" is a multi-piece unit with the "hands" built right in. It gives the appearance of a flat surface butting right up against the crystal; we're used to looking for depth on the dial of a watch, but Ressence asks us to appreciate the complete opposite. It's an intriguing proposition. Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy time-telling became just a few short hours after strapping the 1003 on my wrist.

The Ressence 1003 on the wrist

Like with some other out-of-the-ordinary timepieces, creating the 1003 was fraught with problems. Getting a movement to turn the dial pieces, instead of thin, lightweight hands, was a bit of a challenge. Thus the Ressence Series One is built on a heavily customized ETA 2824 movement, which was chosen because of it's massive torque capabilities. You could choose to be disappointed that the Series One isn't built entirely from the ground up, or you could admire Ressence for implementing such an original idea starting with a fairly common movement. It's not dissimilar from what MB&F has done with the GP 3300 in both their HM2 and HM3. All three of these replica watches take the underlying strengths of an existing movement and use them in ways the original creators never imagined. Very cool stuff indeed.

As far as reading the dial, it's not too difficult to figure out. There is a fixed minutes ring around the outside, touching the case edge, leaving no real bezel. Within this is the minutes indicator disc, with it's "hand" pointing to the various minutes as it rotates. The slightly off-center orientation of the indicator visually accentuates the disc's movement over time. Within this main disk are three more indicators, each with a fixed-orientation scale and a rotating inner indicator disk: hours, running seconds, and AM/PM. The interesting thing about this display system is that it uses the familiar iconography of hands and circular indications, but presents them to us in a way we're not used to seeing; the Series One uses old vocabulary to tell a new story.

A Closer Look at the 1003's

All of the indications are set together on the unique crown. There is a small latch built into the Series One's crown that you pop out to set the time. You'll notice the bright green coloring inside (there is a different color for each of the five Series One models) that lets you know you have the latch pulled out - just fold it back up and push back in to lock the crown again.

While interesting in theory, the crown is where a lot of my gripes with the Ressence 1003 arise. First off is how the crown feels. There are three pins entering the movement from the crown to alter all the indicators simultaneously, but, even with so many anchoring points, the turning action feels tinny and unsubstantial. When turning it, you feel like it might break at any second, and there was some "wiggle-room" that left me feeling unsatisfied. That this three-pin system negatively impacts the water resistance of the Series One as well didn't help the matter.

The Special Crown System

The case is 42mm in diameter, but wears on the small side. You might not expect this considering the lack of bezel, but at 13mm thick with wire lugs, I found it quite comfortable. The sapphire case back seems a little superfluous, since the matte grey rotor takes up the entire diameter and you can't see the movement at all. As I said above, the dial is clean, easy to read, and the layout becomes intuitive very quickly, though glare off the highly-polished surfaces can make reading in very bright sunlight a little annoying. That said, the sand-blasted titanium that makes up most of the dial is quite beautiful and subtle.

Overall, the Ressence Series One is an interesting fake watch with a lot going for it. The dial is intriguing, easy to read, and will certainly start a lot of conversations. The design is clean and crisp, and the movement of time is enjoyable to fake watch on your wrist. There are certainly still some issues to be worked-out though, including a tinny crown that lets in water, too many high-polish surfaces, and that sapphire case back.

The Full Rotor on Back

At $19,500, the Ressence 1003 is a pricey acquisition. This price-tag put the 1003 in a price bracket with a number of really amazing watches. That said, you're getting something very interesting for your money here: You're getting a unique design concept, that from movement to indicators has taken the raw elements that make up a very standard, unremarkable fake watch and created something new and intriguing.

In a way, it's actually more impressive that the Series One was built from an ETA 2824 and doesn't really use hands at all. Looking at these as creative constraints, it's easier to see just how much Mr. Mintiens has achieved here; he has taken things we thought we knew, and made them feel fresh again.

For more info on the Ressence 1003, click here.

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