The Watch Designer Behind Ressence Drops a Splashy New Model

“I realized that you don’t have to be 400 years old and have 5,000 people in the company,” he said. “I wanted to define what a watch might look like if it were being invented today, without the rearview mirror that most brands have.” (And yes, his diamond merchant friend, who had encouraged him to do something with the gems, also got the watch he had asked for.)

At the time, Mr. Mintiens had been considering taking 30,000 euros ($32,823), his entire savings, and splurging on what he described as a “drivable-condition” Porsche 911 from 1972, his birth year.

He decided instead to gamble on his own creativity, using a simple movement that he had sourced from Switzerland, components from aeronautics companies, and hobbyist tools. In what he called “a eureka moment,” he got the idea of using sewing needles and needles from syringes from a local pharmacy to make axles that he otherwise could not have afforded to buy.

He presented his “zero series” prototype at Baselworld in March 2010. Fifty orders were placed, at 10,500 euros per watch, selling out the first production run. Less than a year later, at the Geneva Time Exhibition in 2011, the timepiece was the runner-up for the Superwatch award.

Today, Mr. Mintiens describes the company as “self-sustaining and in a growth phase,” with a total of 14 employees, including five watchmakers at the Antwerp headquarters. Last year, the company delivered 650 watches, and had about 7 million euros in sales.

Ressence continues to purchase standard Swiss movements and “customize them heavily,” he said. A minimalistic variation of its Type 3 model is scheduled for release next month, and the company plans to introduce what Mr. Mintiens called a “very expressive” new design at Watches and Wonders Geneva in April. And there are other developments planned for the next nine years. Yet Mr. Mintiens said he will continue to keep complications hidden on the inside of the brand’s watches.

“What we’re selling is a relationship, a ‘why’,” he said. “To me, watchmaking isn’t about accessories. It’s more fun to create companions that feel meaningful, lovable and also essential.”