‘I am not a watch freak’: Benoit Mintiens, founder of independent watch brand Ressence

Mintien’s foray into watchmaking was rather accidental. “I had a friend in the diamond business who asked if I could design a watch for him. It never got further than a good drawing and a prototype, but after that I started to look around and see what the industry was doing.” Curious to see how far he could take his own ideas, Mintiens took the plunge in 2010, bringing the first Ressence prototypes — the now-discontinued Zero Series — to Baselworld.

“When I arrived, guys like [Maximilian] Busser and [Felix] Baumgartner came over to introduce themselves and said, ‘Well, you look like an alien here. So if we can help you, just give us a call.’ It was amazing,” Mintiens recalled. “I called my friend that evening going, ‘Can you believe my competitors are helping me? Where else do you have that?’ So I was extremely charmed by my early days in the watch business. Independent watchmaking was not what it is today. We were stronger together.”

Certainly, the interest in independent watchmaking has flourished over the past decade, which Mintiens attributes to the growing sophistication of buyers. “The industry is like a savannah, and the major corporations are like the lions that can catch the zebra. I’m too small to do that, but their leftovers are more than enough for me, so it’s fine,” he stated. “But I think many people are starting to realise that the big brands have an agenda, and thanks to social media they are discovering more profoundly what is out there, and they can see the depth or the shallowness of certain propositions.”