For 2015, Manufacture Royale presents what I believe is the brand’s first non-tourbillon timepiece with the Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige. Officially debuting today, we got an exclusive hands-on look at the 1770 Voltige collection with Manufacture Royale and chatted about where the brand is going. With some serious backing and in-house movement production, Manufacture Royale is working hard to be an “it” independent watch brand with a distinct aesthetic and some interesting watch movements.
When we last spoke about Manufacture Royale, we covered their also new for 2015 1770 Micromegas collection (hands-on here). With two tourbillons that rotate at different rates, the Micromegas is one of Manufacture Royale’s more premium offerings, with prices starting at about $150,000. Starting at just over $30,000, the Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige is in fact the entry point for the brand.
It would be difficult to not compare the Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige to the MB&F Legacy Machine 101 (LM101). These two watches are thematically similar, even though they certainly have their differences. Based on the larger and more expensive Legacy Machine 1 (LM1), the LM101 is all about a large suspended balance wheel on the dial. There are pluses and minuses to the Voltige versus the LM101, but they are obvious competitors, with the MB&F LM101 actually being priced about $8,000 more than the Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige when in a gold case. There is no steel option for the MB&F watch.
So even though these aren’t cheap watches, it is useful to consider them in the larger context of luxury watch prices – even from the niche brands. Voltige in French means “aerobatics,” and I think it is a term meant to apply to the slightly raised balance wheel and other movement components which are visible on the dial. Come to think of it, another very logical competitor to the Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige would be the Arnold & Son DSTB watch (hands-on here) which, in gold, is about $46,000.
Maybe Manufacture Royale will come out with a super modern sister model called the “Voltage.” That would be interesting (especially for a purely mechanical timepiece). While the case is round and more or less traditional looking, there are a number of fine details on the case which make it unique – such as the four screws mounted to the side of the case. In steel or 18k rose gold, the Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige case is 45mm wide and 13.8mm thick. You certainly sense that Manufacture Royale is going for a more simple, and possibly mainstream look with the case, but not in a way that totally abandons their aesthetic.
Inside the watch is the purportedly all-in-house made Manufacture Royale caliber MR05 automatic movement which is visible through the sapphire crystal caseback window on the rear of the case. The design of the automatic rotor allows you to see a lot of the movement without obstruction – which is a good thing. I also like that the MR05 movement actually has a unique look to it and from a visual perspective is easily not a mechanism you’d find in other watches. The movement has a power reserve of 40 hours operating at 3Hz (21,600 bph), and the balance wheel is 14mm wide. The movement is large and relatively simple, but enjoyable to look at, and with clear indicators on the dial. The movement offers just the time with subsidiary seconds dial. The main “trick” is the placement of the regulation system on the dial without necessarily having a skeletonized dial.
I continue to like Manufacture Royale’s signature hand design which looks like cartoon claymore swords you’d see in some Japanese action fantasy cartoon. Here, the hands are skeletonized a bit – something that isn’t really necessary, but doesn’t ultimately effect legibility too much. It might have been nice to fill these sections with luminant. The overall three-dimensional look of the dial is interesting, but it doesn’t appear as though a designer at Manufacture Royale was trying too hard to impress anyone. The relative simplicity mixed with some decorative elements is appreciated.
Manufacture Royale will begin with three versions of the 1770 Voltige watch. There will be steel versions offered with either a gray anthracite dial or a rust-colored red dial. The 18k rose gold Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltiage will have a deep brown dial (that I am going to refer to as “espresso”). Attached to the watches are hand-stitched black alligator straps. The Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige watches are not part of a limited edition and retail for $33,000 in steel and $51,000 in 18k rose gold. manufacture-royale.com