Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige

Angus Davies reviews the Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige.

This detailed review of the Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige - ESCAPEMENT magazine - watch review website by Angus Davies

A man who has never dreamt of flying like a bird clearly exhibits a lack of imagination. Whilst sleeping, I have frequently felt the sensation of the wind kissing my cheeks and often enjoyed an elevated view of the earth passing beneath my wings.

Every adult should strive to retain the ability many children possess, to wish, to imagine and to create. It is only by embracing these concepts that one is able to exercise ingenuity, looking at life from a different viewpoint and conceiving unique ideas.

I suspect Eric Giroud is a man with a profound capacity to dream. Over the years, he has penned several amazing watch designs that have provoked opinion and led to much comment within the horological press. His client list reads like a who’s who of avant-garde watch companies, including Harry Winston, MB&F, MCT Romain Jerome and, in this instance, Manufacture Royale. Indeed, it is this latter company which has garnered my attention with its latest offering, imbued with inspired aesthetics and an impressive technical virtuosity.

The challenge facing any watch designer is to devise an attractive timepiece which proves functional and unique. The majority of watches will have a tendency to be round, sport two hands and feature a dial. Indeed, this description could easily be applied to the Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige. However, make no mistake this timepiece from Manufacture Royale has a distinct character all of its own, encapsulating wonderful sculptural forms that confer a horological vista unlike any other I have seen.

The dial

Set aside preconceived ideas of a typical dial, this watch breaks the rules with splendiferous results. Available with a choice of red or anthracite grey dial, I am attracted to both variants, but would probably favour the latter option as I suspect it will retain eye-appeal for longer.

Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige - ESCAPEMENT magazine - watch review website by Angus Davies

The dial canvas of both models incorporates a sun-ray motif emanating from the centre, engaging with light magnificently. This leads me to a key aspect of this watch, namely the exquisite and accomplished exploitation of the sun’s rays. Ambient light bathes each element of the dial, accentuating its beauty and augmenting lucidity.

The slightly arcing profile of the sapphire crystal, treated with anti-reflective coating on both sides, proved difficult to photograph sans glare. However, in reality, with the watch residing on the wrist, this did not prove an issue and the indications were simple to read.

Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige - ESCAPEMENT magazine - watch review website by Angus Davies

A curving balance bridge follows the profile of the case, rising above the dial canvas and according a fabulous depth. The balance wheel appears to float in the air and the minimal bridgework confers a comely lightness to the dial layout.

A smaller, second bridge, imitating the aforementioned balance bridge, holds the escape wheel in position. As a result, the wearer is rewarded with an unhindered view of the pallet lever interfacing with the escape wheel, portioning units of energy and driving the hands at a pre-determined rate.

Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige - ESCAPEMENT magazine - watch review website by Angus Davies

The polished and faceted hour and minute hands are open-worked at their tips and communicate succinctly with clear diction.

A further attribute of the dial design is the balance accorded with the size, design and positioning of the constituent dial parts. For example, the cartouche, proudly proclaiming the maison’s nomenclature, arcs along the easterly region of the dial, acting like a visual counterweight to the balance bridge located opposite.

Positioned at 6 o’clock, a small seconds display, adorned with a grid-like motif, completes the inventory of functions.

This timepiece successfully navigates around the potential flaws of some watches and bestows an uncluttered and simple to read dial.

The case

The stainless steel case of the Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige measures 45mm in diameter. This proved surprising to me. Indeed, whilst this watch has superb wrist presence, it appears smaller than the stated dimensions. Moreover, the watch nestled comfortably upon my arm and did not impinge on the free movement of my wrist.

Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige - ESCAPEMENT magazine - watch review website by Angus Davies

The Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige eschews convention with two brancards hugging each side of the case, extending outwards beyond the caseband, forming the lugs and drawing the hand-stitched alligator strap close. Each brancard is joined steadfastly to the case, courtesy of four screws, two positioned either side.

Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige - ESCAPEMENT magazine - watch review website by Angus Davies

Adorning the caseback, a large sapphire crystal delivers a wide-screen view of the self-winding movement within. The metalwork encircling the dorsal pane of sapphire crystal is narrow and retained with four screws.

Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige - ESCAPEMENT magazine - watch review website by Angus Davies

The Manufacture Royale logo occupies the vertical surface of the crimped crown. The depth of the crown is not too great, mitigating the risk of chafing the wrist. However, there is sufficient volume to readily grip the crown, facilitating ease of adjustment.

The movement

The self-winding, in-house mechanical movement delivers a sublime horological tableau which captivates the beholder. Beyond the resplendent form of the open-worked oscillating mass, a sea of Côtes de Genève motif sparkles, exhibiting a shimmering beauty. This movement is exquisitely decorated by hand and indulges my obsessive craving for flawless finishing.

Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige - ESCAPEMENT magazine - watch review website by Angus Davies

Gracing the movement, the Manufacture Royale logo is presented in 5N gold, adding a touch of luxury to this handsome horological ensemble.

The frequency of the balance is 21,600 vph (3Hz) and features a flat hairspring. The Calibre MR05 contains 17 jewels and has a power reserve of 40 hours.

Closing remarks

By producing the 1770 Voltige, Manufacture Royale has delivered a highly practical timepiece which embraces innovative and alluring design codes. This Swiss maison has wonderfully reminded me, not that it was needed, why I adore independent watchmaking companies. Indeed, the brand’s strap line ‘Enlightened Horology’ seems most befitting.

The successful exploitation of the different dial depths, with each component capturing light on its various surfaces, is delightful. I am also drawn to the levitating balance wheel, oscillating to and fro, floating above the industrious pallet fork and escape wheel, busily collaborating to release discrete pulses of energy to the hands.

The unusual case structure of this timepiece with its brancards affixing the strap to the case is superb. Indeed, once again, the highly creative, ingenious composition of the Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige engages with prospective buyers by employing a new way of thinking.

Voltaire, the famous French philosopher, who founded Manufacture Royale in 1770, masterfully created an impressive body of literary and rhetorical work. He is often cited as a man who expertly employed language with great prowess, although it is argued by some academics that his contribution to Enlightenment philosophy was minimal. However, after thumbing a book of his quotations, it soon became clear to me that his creative use of words was exceptional and he clearly had the capacity to dream.

This timepiece from Manufacture Royale is imbued with a high quotient of inventiveness. The collaborative efforts of the assembled creative minds working at this independent watch company in Vallorbe show an innate ability to dream. By embracing their imagination, Manufacture Royale has created a thought provoking timepiece, which I have no doubt will appeal to many adults, including some, myself included, who choose never to grow up.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige
  • Reference: 1770VT45.01.A (anthracite grey dial)
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 45 mm; height 13.80mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds.
  • Movement: Calibre MR05, self-winding movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 17 jewels; power reserve 40 hours.
  • Strap: Hand-stitched alligator leather strap, presented on a stainless steel pin buckle
  • Price: CHF 27,000 (excluding taxes) (RRP as at 20.12.2015)

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