Manufacture Royale has always been an interesting, if somewhat unconventional brand. Elaborate case designs, complex movements, unusual aesthetics, you could always be sure of discovering something new and surprising. The unfortunate reality though is that unconventional is not always sustainable, let alone profitable. As consumers we desire creativity but we also crave consistency, even if we are loathe to admit it. To some degree we like to know what to expect next and we like to rely on the fact that if we buy something, there will still be a company around in a year’s time to service it.
For small companies like Manufacture Royale this is arguably one of the greatest challenges; convincing consumers to eschew traditional mainstays and to instead take a chance on them. It’s critical therefore to do everything possible to increase the chances of this happening, which sometimes even includes selling the company to new owners.
For Manufacture Royale this was arguably the best option, as it freed up the company’s original founder to focus on what he does best; developing and manufacturing complex movements. At the same time, it paved the way for two extremely talented industry veterans to bring their unique set of skills to the company in the form of new owners and brothers David and Marc Gouten.
That was six months ago, and as you can imagine there has been a flurry of activity at the company ever since. After many sleepless nights, heated discussions and of course hours of good old fashion hard work, the brothers did the impossible and unveiled the brand’s first new timepiece at Baselworld 2014.
Manufacture Royale 1770 Collection
Now many of you probably think of Manufacture Royale as a fairly new company, and to be fair it is, at least in the conventional sense. In its current form (including the recent change in ownership) it has been around since 2010, but actually the brand traces its heritage all the way back to the year 1770 when the philosopher and entrepreneur Voltaire first established the original Manufacture Royale whose workshops were close to Geneva.
It is this rich history that has served as the inspiration for the brand’s newest collection, aptly named ‘1770’. A wonderfully refined timepiece, the 1770 still embodies many of the creative flourishes of other models in the Manufacture Royale line-up but offers them in a much more subdued format.
Conceived by well-known watch designer Eric Giroud and presented in a 43mm case in your choice of either stainless steel or rose gold, the 1770 sits comfortably on the wrist. The case is just big enough that you feel like you are wearing something substantial but at the same time the watch can easily be banished away under a jacket cuff if and when needed.
However it is the subtle details in the case design that really impress me. For a start two beautifully proportioned bumpers, secured by functional, visible screws, hug the outside of the case gently curving in at each end to form the lugs.
They are only visible when looking at the watch from the back however due to the convex design of the polished bezel. The idea is that Manufacture Royale cases are constructed in accordance with a pre-defined principle: the movement is housed inside a case, which in turn is contained in a sometimes mobile structure.
Although in this instance the aforementioned structure is not mobile, the visual cues provided by the design suggest otherwise, thus creating a case that is both conventional but still sufficiently different to stand out.
The steel version of the 1770 watch comes with either an anthracite or openworked, slate-coloured dial while the rose gold case is matched with an opaline silvered dial. Personally I prefer the aesthetic of the open-worked version as it has a slightly more modern feel to it.
All three dial variations of course however have a large cut-out at seven o’clock to provide uninterrupted views of the main attraction; the flying tourbillon. An essential component since it determines the watch’s precision, the escapement embraces the ultimate innovation with a pallet fork and escape wheel in silicon. Thanks to its resistance to variations in temperature and to magnetic fields, among other qualities, silicon makes an important contribution to the movement’s performance.
As you can see in the photos it is possible to view the construction of the escapement in intimate detail. Minutes pass by as you sit mesmerized by the whirring cogs and spinning wheels, truly it is a thing of beauty to watch this flying tourbillon in action.
This is just one element of the beautifully constructed, manually wound MR03 movement however, in total there are 208 parts to admire and appreciate, including a screwed balance and a flat balance spring. Perhaps most impressive of all though – well, second only to the flying tourbillon – is the incredible power reserve the movement of the 1770 offers; 108 hours or four and a half days in total, as shown by the power reserve indicator on the dial.
As you can see through the sapphire exhibition caseback the back of the movement has been embellished with Côtes de Genève, whilst the fine-sandblasted bridges and mainplate, which are also hand-chamfered and black-polished with satin or perlage finish, catch the light beautifully.
All versions are presented on an alligator leather strap with alligator lining and a pin buckle fastening. Pricing is set at US$48,000 for the steel versions and US$70,000 for the rose gold.