Manufacture Royale showcases a new travel watch. In characteristic MR style, it is all at once quirky, beautiful and an interesting timepiece from an independent watchmaker. We take it through its paces in this detailed review of the Manufacture Royale ADN.
There are not that many people who know the true history and heritage of Manufacture Royale, a brand which was revived by Alexis Gouten, David Gouten and Marc Guten in 2010 with the launch of an intriguing and spectacular wristwatch called Opera. The modern workshop from Vallorbe, in the heart of the Swiss Jura, is actually the distant relative of the almost forgotten watchmaking workshop opened by Voltaire. After the king of France Louis XV banned him from Paris, the famous satire writer, which was also a great entrepreneur, opened in 1770 near Geneva, more precise in Ferney (where he bought a large real-estate), a successful watchmaking workshop that supplied the French nobility with complicated watches with striking mechanisms. The brand founded two and a half centuries ago was Manufacture Royale.
The new facility manages to be in parallel not only an in-house research & development department plus production for their high complicated mechanical movements and watches, but also an OEM supplier for other great names of the horological industry. In the last years we witnessed some original designs that began to shape a distinctive and recognizable Manufacture Royale signature: the Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige with the heart beating above the dial or the mythical double flying tourbillon 1770 Micromegas and his brother, the newer Micromegas Revolution.
This is also the case of the new Manufacture Royale ADN, a timepiece that represents perfectly the brand’s genetic inheritance, being the direct descendent of the Opera and the Androgyne timepieces, reinterpreting elements and bringing new ones on the scene.
Manufacture Royale ADN
The Manufacture Royale ADN is available in three variants: Stainless steel or DLC and forged carbon or rose gold and forged carbon.
The case, dial and hands
The most striking resemblance to the previous collections is visible on the case. The case, at 46mm diameter and 11.72mm thickness is mid-size, between the smaller Androgyne 43 mm diameter watch-case and the bigger 50mm diameter Opera timepiece.
If you consider this size quite big, you have to know the wrist appearance is marvelous and very comfortable even for a smaller wrist due to a complex construction with 67 components and studies conducted to obtain a more modern and ergonomic design with softer and rounder curves for a desired “steampunk” style. The comfort is improved by the mobile lugs that stretch on the wrist, too. At the same time, the watch is quite light, but has a robust feel.
For the case of the ADN three combinations of materials were chosen: a stainless steel version with a more classical look, black DLC steel with forged carbon for a sporty variant and a rose gold with forged carbon with an interesting contrast. All three models are produced in a 28-piece limited edition.
The black DLC (Diamond like Carbon – amorphous carbon) is a vacuum melted material deposited in a very thin layer on a steel base that brings the properties of the carbon diamond as high resistance to wear and corrosion, increasing the stability and improving the friction coefficient of the surfaces.
The forged carbon is a strong and lightweight material obtained by mixing carbon threads with a special epoxy resin and molded to create a uniform and complex structure with high resistivity to hostile temperatures and pressures.
The round polished metal bezel is fixed to the brushed case with 12 metal screws, the case back with four screws and another eight screws are used for the mobile lugs system. The screws, in the same metal as the bezel and the back case, have beveled edges and a high polished finish. The crown comes in the same material as the bezel: stainless steel, black DLC or rose gold; it has hand-polished surfaces and features the MR logo on a sanded, satin finish background.
The ADN watch is covered on top with a sapphire crystal with double-sided anti-reflective coating and on bottom with another sapphire crystal offering an unobstructed view to the brand’s 9th caliber.
On the watch’s face are visible the satin finishes of the inner case walls, the one minute flying tourbillion at the virtual 6:30 o’clock position, the second time zone at 4:30 o’clock with a size comparable with the size of the tourbillon and the main time, with bigger dimensions, on the highest position – 12 o’clock. The wrist view is spectacular; you have all the time the instinctive reflex to have a look, not only to read the time, but also to admire the joyful tourbillon.
The second time zone has a circular brushed open dial with painted Arabic numerals and indexes, the time setting is done using the crown’s second position, the minutes being independent – usable especially for the time zones, which vary by 30 or 15 minutes from the GMT reference. The absence of a push-button or extra crown for the second time-zone keeps the case clean and increases the refinement of this timepiece. This indication uses two sculptural sword shape hands with lacquered indication. The second time-zone can be very useful in everyday life: setting the hands as a timer for the pizza in the oven or the time till your next favorite TV show.
The main-time dial occupies the upper part of the watch’s face being approx. two times bigger as the tourbillon cage or the second time-zone. This dial is a modern and unusual, but beautiful interpretation of the jumping hour complication.
The minutes indication is placed on the inner dial, and not on the outer side as in, let’s say traditional watches. For the minutes indication is used a black circular brushed with an arrow tip disk: the minutes’ hand indicator is obtained by cutting out two symmetrical arcs from the disk and through lacquering a beautiful sword shape is obtained. The other side of the disk has a 180 degree circular “Manufacture Royale” printed name. The entire minute’s hand concept keeps the minutes dial well balanced and removes the monotony of a fixed writing positioned somewhere else. The minutes’ indexes disk is offered in three versions, depending on the case material: the steel version has a light disk with black printed numerals and indexes, the gold and forged carbon uses a dark grey disk with white printing and the black DLC timepieces use a darker grey disk with the same white printing as the gold version.
For the hour indication is used a lowered fixed white disk with black printed Arabic numerals for the steel and gold version and a red disk with white printing for the black DLC. On top of this, there is a dark circular brushed disk with an aperture to reveal the hour. Instead of the hour disk to jump under a fixed window, the aperture disk is jumping every hour. This complication has a familiar view due to the natural positioning of the hours, the reading is easy and fun.
This approach is bold and shows the determination of Manufacture Royale to innovate and to stand out from this somehow rigid world of classical horology.
The movement: MR09
Due to the sapphire crystal sandwich, the view to the magnificent Manufacture Royale Calibre MR09 is unobstructed. The entirely hand-decorated manual movement has a diameter of 36mm, 15 jewels, a heart beating at a low 3Hz or 21,600vph with screw balance and a silicon escapement wheel and pallet, offering an impressive power reserve of 80 hours.
The movement construction is precise and technical without any unnecessary components and with superbly executed finishes: the bridges are gently angled and feature a satin dark NAC finish for the forged carbon models or a shinier rhodium finish for the stainless steel version. All the main elements, like the flying tourbillon on ceramic ball bearings (this type of mounting is also met on other Manufacture Royale collections), the skeletonized and circular brushed barrel, the main and the second time zones are connected with overlapping circles. In this way, every detail is visible and every element can be studied. The back of the bridges has a perlage finish (circular graining) visible only through the case-back. The contrast between the satin brushed surfaces and the polished edges is very beautiful and highlights the clean and architectural design.
To make everything more interesting, the black DLC stainless steel version’s back crystal is tinted red offering spectacular light reflections.
The Competitive Landscape
It’s hard to compare the ADN with other timepieces available on the market – it’s always a question of what you really want.
Perhaps the direct competition comes in the form of the Jaeger-Lecoultre Geophysic Tourbillon Universal Time that has a flying tourbillon on a wonderful dial with 24 time zones, summer time indicator and a price that reflects all the complications – a little bit over S$ 200,000. The JLC does not feature a jumping indication. But is perhaps a brand from the establishment, rather than an independent.
Another way to look at the landscape is to approach it from a budget perspective. For the same money, what else can you get. A traditional approach is perhaps the Patek Philippe Ref.5320G priced at S$ 109,000. For the money, one gets a classical and beautiful perpetual calendar. And watch with a rich heritage and history and which one leaves as inheritance. Or used as a fire starter to incite other collectors’ jealousy. But at that price point, Patek does not offer a tourbillon nor second timezone. If the tourbillon is a must than another lovely piece is this year IWC’s flagship model, the Da Vinci Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph: an interesting case with voluptuous curves and articulated lugs. A nicely executed complication and a price of S$ 156,000. But no second timezone.
All these are beautiful timepieces coming from reputable houses with serious complications and a good collecting value, but they all miss the bold appearance of the Manufacture Royale ADN.
The Manufacture Royale ADN timepieces represent perfectly the brand’s genetic code: high-tech materials, original three dimensional case construction, haute horlogerie finishes, a beautiful one minute flying tourbillon and an innovative and patented jumping hour. The entire watch elements scream in the ear of the one willing to hear about this fascinating watchmaking creation.
This independent timepiece has a great potential as an everyday tool watch, it’s light, robust and it looks good.
Manufacture Royale ADN Specifications and Price
The Manufacture Royale ADN stainless steel watch is offered on a hand-sewn alligator leather strap with a stainless steel folding buckle and comes with a price tag of CHF 86,000 (approximately S$ 120,406) tax free. The carbon version watches have a flexible black or red rubber strap with DLC stainless steel folding buckle and have a price of CHF 93,000 (approximately S$130,207) for the forged carbon black DLC and CHF 111,000 (approximately S$154,008) for the rose gold model, tax free.
Editor’s Note: Andrei’s passion for horology goes way back, as his fascination began with his grandfather’s automatic Swiss-made wristwatch. A few years ago he discovered his interest in independent watchmakers, whose pieces of haute-horologerie have spectacular finishes, great complications, but more importantly a ‘soul’. Writing about watches is a new occupation for him, as until a while ago he dedicated all his time to his other passion, developing new technologies for the automotive industry.
Type: Manually wound mechanical
Dimensions: Diameter: 36 mm
Power reserve: 80 hours
Frequency: 3Hz, 21,600 vibrations per hour
Tourbillon: Flying tourbillon, one rotation per minute, on ceramic ball bearings
Functions: Jumping hours and sweeping minutes, independent 2nd time zone
Material: Stainless steel or DLC and forged carbon or rose gold and forged carbon
Dimensions of the case
Diameter: 46 mm / Thickness: 11.72 mm
Crystal: Double-sided anti-reflective sapphire
Crown: MR logo, sanded caseback, hand-polished surface
Caseback: With crystal sapphire
Water resistance: 3 ATM
Material: Alligator, hand-sewn or rubber
Buckle: Folding buckle in stainless steel or DLC stainless steel