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Review: Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige

by Peter Chong on July 22, 2015

Manufacture Royale is one of the new independent manufactures which have become quite the vogue these days. Revived from an old company founded by French philosopher Voltaire in 1770, they celebrate the original founding with an interesting timepiece: The Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige.

 

We had the opportunity to photograph the watch and handle it first hand when one of the founders (re-founders?) David Gouten was in town recently. The watch was embargoed till late last week. And here we bring you our hands-on first person review of the watch.

 

Manufacture Royal 1770 Voltige.

Manufacture Royal 1770 Voltige.

 

The Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige

Based on the Manufacture Royale 1770, the Voltige is a new watch which wear its heart – the escapement on its sleeve (rather its dial). This is not a new concept. MB&F have their Legacy Machins, The LM1 was released in 2011 and feature a suspended balance. As did the MB&F LM2 and LM101. Arnold and Son also released several watches with a suspended balance, the most interesting of which is the Dial Side Dead Beat Seconds.

While the concept is not new, placing the escapement center stage reflects the importance timekeeping is to the makers. The visible escapement is a mesmerising sight. Like a voltigeur, French for acrobat, which inspired the name, the 1770 Voltige suggests precision and high technique, and also a kind of risk taking.

 

The case

 

The Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige. A suspended balance with the escapement from the third wheel is exposed and visible from the dial side.

The Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige. A suspended balance with the escapement from the third wheel is exposed and visible from the dial side.

The case is typical Manufacture Royale. A domed crystal over a rather large 45mm case with a transparent back gives the 1770 Voltige a pleasant, curved silhouette. Like other watches in the collection, the case is held by two tubes which hugs the sides of the case, extending to form the lugs. Compare this to the Manufacture Royale 1770 Micromegas which we reviewed earlier. As with the Micromegas, the case is designed by Eric Giroud.

Read also:   Baselworld 2017: Czapek & Cie Place Vendôme Tourbillon Suspendu "Ici et Ailleurs" 

 

The dial

The most amazing talking point of this watch is of course the dial, and the suspended escapement visible on it.

 

The suspended escapement, in full view.

The suspended escapement, in full view. The sand blasted matt finish on the bridge looks a bit raw. We would have preferred the bridge to be be polished and feature a nice gleaming anglage instead.

 

The balance, visible at about 11 o’clock, suspended by its own semi circular bridge is made of titanium, and is ultra light. The rest of the escapement:  the escape wheel and the pallet fork is visible, and is held in place by another semi circular bridge.  The balance beats at 21,600 bph, and can be quite mesmerising to watch. The balance seems to be in a state of levitation, the dial having been swept free to leave space around the escapement. The hands are placed high, above the escape wheel and also appear to be floating.

 

The movement

 

Manufacture Royale MR05: inhouse mechanical self winding movement. 36mm diameter, 9.45mm height with a power reserve autonomy of 40 hours.

Manufacture Royale MR05: inhouse mechanical self winding movement. 36mm diameter, 9.45mm height with a power reserve autonomy of 40 hours.

 

The movement is the house manufactured MR05 caliber, and displays the hours, minutes and small seconds. It is automatic winding with a power reserve autonomy of 40 hours. The case is water resistant to 30m.

 

Finishing

 

Movement finishing is unexceptional. We judge the finish to be at a good engineering level. Decorative and fine finishing is limited to the Côtes de Genève on the mainplate. Anglage is applied to the bridges, and visible from the sapphire case back, but the bridges themselves have a smooth, curvy shape, devoid of any sharp angles to show off the watchmaker’s craft. The bridges on the dial side look to be simply finished, and decorative and fine finishing seem absent, and is a bit disappointing.

Read also:   The ALS Richard Lange Pour le Merite Tourbillon

The dial itself is rather interesting. The small seconds hand at 6 o’clock has a sieve structure. A ring surrounding the small seconds hand and the cartouche at 3 o’clock, provides a visual break to the dial’s satin sunray finish. The dial is available in either a grey anthracite or a rust coloured red dial which we feature in the pictures above. Also available is an 18 k rose gold version with a deep brown dial.

 

manufacture-royal-1770-triple

The Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige is available in a stainless steel case with two dial options – a grey anthracite or a rust brown, and on the left, in 18k red gold case with a dark brown dial.

 

At CHF 27,000 (excl tax) for the steel versions and CHF42,000 (excl tax) in gold, it seem to be a reasonable price to pay for a unique movement in a unique case by an independent manufacture.

 

Concluding thoughts

 

Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige on the wrist. Rather comfortable for a watch with a 45mm diameter.

Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige on the wrist. Rather comfortable for a watch with a 45mm diameter.

 

We continue to applaud new small manufactures who are independent, and continue to make interesting and unusual timepieces. This Manufacture Royal 1770 Voltige is a good attempt, and targetted at a rather entry level independent price. The spectacle of the suspended balance and hands is almost worth the price of entry alone. We just wished the finishing is at a higher level, but understand that a finer finish would mean a higher price, and a balance need to be struck somewhere. For us, we feel that this balance is tilted a tad too much away from the finishing aspect. But overall, we think this is a worthy consideration for a collector intending to enter into the world of independent watchmaking.

Read also:   Review of Ludovic Ballouard Half Time Chinese with Specs and Price

 

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3 Comments
Leave a response
  • Kunal
    August 2, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    Peter, thanks for your response. I agree with you. Watch prices have shot through the roof and I found it strange that CHF 27K / CHF 42K not considered extraordinarily expensive. Also strange is an Apple watch selling for $15. But such is the world we live in. I totally agree with your comment that as an independent with no large backing, their costs would be higher.

    I think the issue with MR is something else – they need a stronger brand identity. I think they need a better ‘story’. A stronger brand identity / story will alleviate issues of slightly less than excellent finishing as they so frequently do for some other brands.

  • KK
    July 22, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    Peter, thank you for this excellent review. I had the chance to see Manufacture Royale firsthand lat year when Marc Guten visited Singapore. I find this brand interesting and feel it can have a bright future. I really like the 1770 Tourbillon, as well as the Androgyne. I am happy to see them make a unique time only piece at a relatively affordable price.

    My only concern is that even at these ‘relatively affordable’ prices, there is no excuse for less than stellar finishing. These prices might get you an entry-mid level VC, Lange, PP, FPJ (exact price depending on model and possible AD discount); all which have exceptional finishing. No reason why an independent manufacture with low annual volume cannot give its entry-level the same stellar finishing. Besides the guys behind MR are ex-VC, and ex-other Richemont brands, so no excuses from them in the finishing dept.

    Other than this I find the model interesting, especially the red dial.

    • July 23, 2015 at 10:06 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Kunal. But think of it this way, if an Apple Watch in gold sells for $15k, MR is not extraordinarily expensive, especially considering that as an independent with small volumes, cost is higher than a larger manufacturer or one with a big group behind.

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