Collaborations within the world of horology are a pretty common sight these days. But whenever the name Alain Silberstein pops up, I’m all ears. The legendary French watch designer has a design signature that always stands out. He is able to surprise me constantly and brings a smile to my face every time. His style of design has that power. And my anticipation grew even bigger when I read that Silberstein teamed up with Benoît Mintiens from the Ressence. The end result is the brilliant Ressence × Alain Silberstein “Carpe Diem'” that is presented by the new platform Grail Watch. 

Generally, I do not live with a lot of regrets when it comes to buying watches. However, I have mentioned before that not pulling the trigger on the Laventure Transatlantique is one of my recent regrets. A second one is not getting my hands on Le Régulateur Louis Erard × Alain Silberstein II from last year. The watch was an absolute joy to see and wear.  The combination of the remarkable case with Silberstein’s colorful dial design resulted in a unique timepiece. It was part of a set of three collaborative efforts that all looked amazing. It not only showed that Silberstein and Louis Erard were a great match but also the love watch fans have for Alain Silberstein’s work.

Ressence × Alain Silberstein "Carpe Diem"

Two of the industry’s unique names

The key to the success of Silberstein’s work is that he pushes the limits far beyond the designs we normally see. His work is a combination of colorful details and playful shapes that are inspired by art and architecture. These elements have given him a unique design signature that never fails to stand out. But what I appreciate most about Silberstein’s work is its power to surprise people every time. With most brands, you have a pretty clear idea of what to expect in terms of design. But with Silberstein’s creations, despite the familiar colors and shapes, there is always something new to discover.

The same can be said about his collaborative partner for this new watch. During Watches And Wonders 2022, Ressence founder Benoît Mintiens presented his latest offering, the Ressence Type 8 C. As Dave explained, this new timepiece is the brand’s entry-level offering for those who want to enjoy Mintiens’s unique creations. Ressence timepieces combine minimalist design with unique technological solutions. Mintiens is a Belgian industrial designer, and he incorporates ideas into his watches that you just have to see in real life to fully appreciate. His unique approach to watchmaking is the perfect match for Silberstein’s approach to watch design.

The Ressence × Alain Silberstein “Carpe Diem”

The story of the new Ressence × Alain Silberstein “Carpe Diem” is first and foremost a story of two people who did not grow up in the traditional Swiss watch industry. Additionally, both of them take influences from far outside the watch industry. As a result, both men are not limited by the traditional boundaries of watch design. By ignoring this traditional approach, both men have been able to come up with creations that have raised an eyebrow or two at first but quickly have gained them both great respect and admiration.

Ressence × Alain Silberstein "Carpe Diem"

For this new Ressence × Alain Silberstein “Carpe Diem”, the two collaborated on a unique version of the Ressence Type 1. The collaboration was made possible by Wei Koh, a friend of Fratello and the founder of Revolution Magazine. He started a new platform called Grail Watch, which is dedicated to bringing together independent watch brands in order to create amazing limited-edition timepieces. For this Grail Watch #1, Wei Koh definitely set up an amazing collaboration that yielded spectacular results.

Ressence × Alain Silberstein "Carpe Diem"

The spectacular results of combining design

When Wei Koh first talked to Alain Silberstein about who he would love to work with, Silberstein immediately mentioned Mintiens’s name. In Silberstein’s own words: “He created this amazing brand, Ressence. I would love to do something with him because, like myself, he comes from outside of watchmaking and is open to new ideas. I love the watch that he created, and I would love to work with him on a project.” When Wei Koh contacted Mintiens, he was also very open to creating something special with the legendary Alain Silberstein. “Alain has always been so kind when I was launching Ressence, with advice and help. Of course, it would be a pleasure to collaborate on a watch.”

The result is a new take on the Ressence 1 that incorporates Silberstein’s unique approach to design perfectly. The Type 1 Slim is one of my favorite Ressence timepieces along with the Type 3. The Ressence Type 1 Slim debuted at SIHH 2019 as an evolution of the first-generation Type 1. As Balazs explained in the introduction article, the Type 1 Slim features a slimmer case compared to its bigger brother that debuted in 2014. The new Ressence × Alain Silberstein “Carpe Diem” is based on the regular Type 1 Slim models. It features the same Grade 5 titanium case, which is 41mm wide and 11mm thick. The case is milled from one block of titanium and features beautifully integrated lugs.

Ressence × Alain Silberstein "Carpe Diem"

The unique playful dial design

It’s the dial design where things get completely different. In order to explain the dial, I have to explain the inner workings of the Type 1. The watch features Ressence’s unique ROCS 1 (Ressence Orbital Convex System) caliber. This patented display module features a main disc with three sub-dials, or satellites, that are constantly in motion. The three satellites display the hours, seconds, and days of the week. Silberstein took the liberty to completely redesign the entire dial to great effect. The rotating central matte blue part of the dial has a light blue indicator displaying the minutes on a peripheral track. The minute markers are executed in white and light blue on the same dark blue background as the central part.

Without a doubt, though, the big eye-catcher is the red hour track with the tulip-shaped hour indicator. The tulip is executed in white, pink, yellow, and red. Silberstein also designed a playful spinning skull for the running seconds. The third satellite indicates the day of the week. A contrasting yellow triangle points to one of seven indicators, with the yellow one representing Sunday. In my opinion, Silberstein has created a brilliant new take on the Type 1 design. It perfectly shows that the work of both men is instantly recognizable. You can instantly tell that this is a Ressence watch, but the dial immediately communicates Silberstein’s design signature.

The idea behind it

For the design, Silberstein was inspired by one of his favorite paintings, the still life “Vanitas, Still Life with Tulip, Skull and Hour-Glass” by French artist Philippe de Champaigne. But the English title of the painting does not reflect the meaning behind it. As Silberstein explains: “You see on the table a tulip that will wither with time, a skull reminding us of our mortality, and an hourglass that shows us that time is passing. This is what is called in classical art a ‘memento mori,’ a reminder that time is fleeting and that the passing of each second is something we never get back. So how shall we react? What shall we do when faced with a reminder of our own mortality?”

Ressence × Alain Silberstein "Carpe Diem"

Silberstein likes the idea of carpe diem, the Latin phrase commonly translated as “seize the day”. It’s why he has taken the elements of the memento mori and incorporated them into the dial design. But he obviously did it in his own unique and playful Silberstein way. The tulip displays the hours and the skull the seconds. The hourglass, however, is replaced by the yellow triangle that points to the day of the week. It’s a great reminder to seize each day and make it yours, according to Silberstein. As you can see, the different elements light up in darker light conditions. It creates a fun picture to look at even at night.

The ROCS 1 display

The patented ROCS 1 (Ressence Orbital Convex System) caliber inside the case is based on an ETA 2892-A2. It is highly modified to create its unique visual display system. The automatic movement features 212 parts, operates at 28,800vph, has 40 jewels, and provides a power reserve of 36 hours. The ROCS 1 module features 27 gears which consist of 107 parts. The gears calculate the seconds, hours, and days. Only the minutes are taken as a reference from the movement. The slim profile of the watch is achieved by placing the winding and time-setting system on the case back. The entire system is operated by a fold-out lever.

Final thoughts

The new Ressence × Alain Silberstein “Carpe Diem” is a limited edition of 36 pieces. The watch will come on a blue calfskin leather strap with red contrasting stitching and a polished Grade 5 titanium buckle. The first collaboration Grail Watch #1 “Carpe Diem” will be available for purchase on on May 1st, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. CET / 10:00 a.m. EST / 10:00 p.m. SGT for CHF 22,500 (excluding tax). It probably does not come as a surprise that I love this new release. The Ressence Type 1 is a very nice timepiece that I already greatly admired without Silberstein’s involvement. But by getting the French designer to add his touch to the watch, Ressence has created something extraordinary. I have no doubt all 36 pieces will go quickly. But seeing this timepiece also begs the question, what will be the next Grail Watch collaboration?

Let us know your thoughts on the “Carpe Diem” and guesses for Grail Watch #2 in the comments!