Watches: Manufacture Royale 1770 Flying Tourbillon Collection (live pics)
By Thierry Ané on April 15, 2014
Since its rebirth in 2010, the Manufacture Royale initially founded by Voltaire in 1770 has worked hard to present superlative pieces of watchmaking entirely developed, produced and decorated in-house with an aesthetic like no other.
The absolutely jaw-dropping Opera Minute Repeater Tourbillon presented in 2010 set the bar very high from a horological viewpoint and also defined the design codes of this unique manufacture: a superlative movement housed inside a case of generous proportions that is in turn contained in a mobile structure (in this instance, an innovative folding-unfolding case inspired by the architecture of the Sydney Opera!), the absence of a dial to offer the best possible view at the intricate calibre and sword-shaped hands and the most beautiful large-scale alligator straps secured by an elaborate pin buckle.
A little less exuberant but absolutely stunning nonetheless, the Androgyne Tourbillon released in 2012 retained all the values of fine watchmaking and distinctive design that have made the success of the first model. Although my favourite rendition is certainly the black DLC steel version with rose gold accents on the openwork dial, many versions have been made to cater all tastes while retaining this extremely unique and immediately recognisable look.
In 2013, the brand played with the structure of the case again and unveiled the VolteFace Tourbillon, a timepiece similar in aspect to the Androgyne but with a revertible case allowing you to choose between an open view on the movement or the presence of a dial.
I really love the steampunk look of these models and particularly appreciate the fact that it does not come at the expense of the finishing: one may be taken aback by the visually intriguing construction of these timepieces, but a closer inspection tells you that they are crafted with the utmost respect for the Haute Horology tradition. I was thus particularly excited to discover their new models this year and was certainly not expecting what they had to show us during Baselworld!
Indeed, this year, the brand unveiled a more restrained model that is certainly the closest they will get to a “classic” timepiece. The 43 mm case of the 1770 Flying Tourbillon surely looks more sober and refined than its predecessors. It remains nonetheless faithful to the brand’s DNA and features all the details that have made the brand unique. The perfectly polished round interior case is hugged by two beautifully proportioned brancards that extend beyond it and gently curve to form the lugs. They are secured by two visible screws on each side as a nod to those present on the cases and bezels of previous models. The crown still bears the initials “MR” engraved in its centre.
Inside the case beats the MR03 calibre, the brand’s third in-house movement. This manually-wound movement with a flying tourbillon escapement features a silicon escape wheel and pallet fork. Beating at the frequency of 21,600 vph, it offers 108 hours of power reserve. Its sandblasted bridges and mainplate are hand-chamfered and black-polished with satin or perlage finish. The back of the movement is embellished with Côtes de Genève.
There are two versions of the 1770 Flying Tourbillon, one in steel and one in rose gold. For the very first time and maybe to give a more understated aspect to the timepieces, the brand decided to hide the movement behind a dial: anthracite on the steel version and opaline silver for the rose gold model. The presence of sword-shaped hands and the originality of the layout, though, make it perfectly in line with the brand’s unusual aesthetic. Indeed, Eric Giroud (who designed the watch for the brand) decided to place the tourbillon cage at 7 o’clock creating an unexpected and much welcome asymmetry enhanced by the presence of the sectorial power reserve at 10 o’clock. This indeed leaves most of the right-hand side of the dial uncluttered, a good opportunity for the owner to admire its superlative execution. If the presence of a dial bothers you, a second version of the steel model is also available with an openwork face.
All models are presented with a beautiful large-scale alligator strap (black or brown depending on the case metal) that also features an alligator lining (this is of course more comfortable, lasting and pleasing to the eye than the lining used by most high-end brands) and the pin buckle is nicely crafted, proving that a great care has been placed in all details.
I really have a hard time deciding which version I prefer as they all look absolutely gorgeous. In my book, these timepieces have the perfect blend of classic and original details in their design to ensure that the owner will be as pleased to look at its watch today as he will be in many years from now.