August 23, 2015
This incredibly attractive new piece comes from a young, independent brand you’ve very likely never heard of: Manufacture Royale. Though its heritage dates back to a famous (though not “watch famous”) founding father, Manufacture Royale was nothing but a dormant brand for the last 250 or so years. In 2010, watch industry veterans set out to restore this brand of long-ago, and Manufacture Royale was again born. And that famous (though not “watch famous”) founder? None other than Voltaire, the famous French author and philosopher — now there’s a bit of interesting trivia!
Heritage aside, it must be noted that this is the first time I have written about Manufacture Royale. Indeed, Manufacture Royale is a brand that perhaps has not gotten the attention and accolades it deserves. But with a watch like this — my jaw literally dropped when it was presented to me a couple months ago — how could I not shine a spotlight on this independent watch brand? With the 1770 Voltige, I must say that Manufacture Royale’s time has come and accolades are due.
In retrospect, though a focus on mechanics and finishing was apparent, I must admit that many of the brand’s releases were not appealing to me… which is why Manufacture Royale long remained on my radar but nothing more. In a nutshell, interesting mechanics, but gaudy design. For example the Opera, a minute repeater tourbillon inspired by the Sydney Opera House, is simply monstrous if not intimidating in its form, and also a seemingly unnecessarily complicated attempt at improving repeater acoustics. Other models such as the Androgyne, with their huge sword-style hands & bridges, riveted bezels, and complex though unrefined looking cases simply did not resonate with me, on any level. Finally seeing all of the pieces in person did improve my favorability a bit, but it was not until the 1770 Voltige that I could finally say “wow, this brand has something really special here.” And here we are.
Though not the first to embrace such an architecture, very rare is the watch whose heart (the escapement) beats above the dial as you see here. Not only is it enjoyable to look at, but it reflects the expertise and creativity of the manufacture’s movement designers. It is a pure aesthetic and I love it.
The 1770 Voltige is well-finished & mechanically interesting (though not overly complex), with a special architecture & cohesive design. And while the Voltige still says “look at me”, it does so in a very tasteful and harmonious manner that even horological purists should be able to appreciate.
Priced at $33,000 in steel ($51,000 in rose gold), the 1770 Voltige seems like one of those pieces worth putting into a collection, if up-and-coming independent brands are your thing. One day, perhaps the 1770 Voltige will be a pivotal piece in the (new) history of Manufacture Royale.