Opera And Manufacture Royale: Performance Art At The Highest Level
Opera has been considered one of the highest forms of performance art for more than 400 years, and in the modern age many people have rather lost touch with it.
Big surprise? Not at all. It’s not that opera has gone the way of the dodo; in fact there are high-definition opera broadcasts and screening opportunities at many local cinemas; many cities have opera houses; and operas are performed around the world probably every night of the year.
So why is opera generally regarded as highfalutin-fancy-pants stuff that only snobs and Europeans even care about?
The biggest factor is the media, or the numerous types of media, that have driven innovation and styles over the last 150 years. Once music, concerts, plays, and operas could be recorded and listened to at another time, people started to have a much wider range of access and knowledge on the performing arts, thus driving desires for something new.
If you think about it, the television show Glee is as popular as it is for the same reasons Handel, Wagner, and Strauss were (or are): because they provided entertainment that the masses wanted.
We just happen to have more masses and more entertainment now, so certain types will be more popular (and more easily accessible) to the modern audience. But opera (and its modern descendent, the musical) still holds a very special place as a difficult performing art that requires acting skill while also engaging some of the best singers in the world.
Not to mention wearing costumes that would make film actors grumble while doing this live on stage, every night, with no chance to say “cut!” Meaning it has to be as perfect as possible or the egg is on your face.
While we may lament the fact that opera is often in an incomprehensible foreign language (translated performances have generally gone out of style), and the beats do not compare to a Beyoncé concert (though the orchestration is usually superb), opera is still rightly regarded as fine art. However, the general population might not describe it as a popular, preferring to watch Jersey Boys or shuffling through the latest Taylor Swift album on iPhones.
This is nothing new to any artistic medium, the latest and most modern often gets an unfair amount of attention. The Apple Watch, which technically is barely functional as a stand-alone device, has gotten ridiculous amounts of coverage because it pushes the boundaries of what the public is familiar with.
But there are others out there pushing different boundaries while being to the watch world what the opera is to the performing arts world.
Player of “note”
One such brand is Manufacture Royale, which stands poised to become a player of note on the scene, but since it plays by some different rules than the likes of Rolex (or even Hublot), it remains sadly under-adored.
Just look at the pieces from the Manufacture Royale Androgyne collection, which is luxury steampunk, and the 1770 collection, which plays more to the moderate watch wearer. They are fantastic with impeccable movements (all featuring tourbillons) and definitive styling cues that make them stand out as a Manufacture Royale timepiece.
But the brand’s most controversial, and undoubtedly most incredible, piece is the highly complicated Opera, which features a minute repeater, tourbillon, and, most anachronistically, a hinged telescoping case.
Seeming like something that would be found in 1860 instead of 2010 when it was released, the Opera stands defiant as a unique solution to amplifying sound for the delicate minute repeater mechanism while maintaining the use of luxury materials and not bowing to conservative style sensibilities.
Basically, it’s big, it’s bold, and it rocks. And like the opera (theater), the Opera (watch) is not for everybody. But those that like it love it. I love it. I simply love the idea, which is based on sound (no pun intended) science.
The two problems with many modern minute repeaters are a tightly sealed case, which is required for water resistance, and dense case materials, like gold or platinum, that absorb sound vibrations. If you wanted to make a super quiet watch, then using gold or platinum and sealing up the case good and tight is your best bet.
But it usually makes for a very quiet minute repeater.
The entire Opera case unfolds like a bellows, hinged at the bottom. The shape was inspired by the Sydney Opera House, which is also revolutionary in design. The rear of the main case is hinged as well and opens to allow even more sound propagation to occur from the rear-mounted repeater gongs.
This all occurs via a lever on the left side of the case. The exterior case houses three pivoting sleeves and the inner case, which is where the repeater activation slide is mounted.
There is no dial on the Opera since the movement and the repeater are the stars of the show, regardless of what the case says. The case might tell you that it is the reason that someone has bought a ticket, but we know that we attend to hear the ringing bells.
And they definitely sound good; the telescoping case does its job.
And so while the style might not be what you are used to, the ideas are definitely unique and interesting. And the movement, with that tourbillon and exposed repeater mechanism, makes any WIS drool.
I couldn’t help but stare and repeatedly activate the repeater just to watch the delicate dance of the repeater racks. The style and finishing of the movement is first-rate and the simple sword-shaped hour and minute hands make sure you know what time it is, but don’t distract from the mechanics underneath.
Modern watch wearers
If I had my way, I would actually remove the straps and turn the piece into a desk repeater. It is perfectly pocket-sized for a great traveling companion and yet begs to be displayed in its fully opened glory.
But that’s me; I would also do the same with the incredible (and incredibly sized) 4N Watch (see The Jump Hour: A Love Story). And yet, the real draw about a piece like these is knowing that you can strap it to your wrist and have such an amazing creation on you at all times.
I feel this is the main criticism that modern watch wearers would have: whether this watch is suitable for daily wear. Actually, I hear that debate over any incredible (and atypical) timepiece.
This is also the argument that the modern population has with a lot of historical entertainment (like opera); it just doesn’t suit our busy modern lifestyles. To this I say balderdash! Your lifestyle is what you make it, and if you want this amazing watch on your wrist everyday, then you make your lifestyle fit.
It’s all a matter of priorities. Why relegate the watch to invisible accessory status?
Whether or not you want your watch to be invisible on your wrist should not be used to justify the awesomeness of a timepiece. It’s inherent to the piece, and I like that.
So to Manufacture Royale I say please continue making watches that appeal to the casual wearer, but also please continue making crazy pieces that watch nerds like me love. Because that is what you will be remembered for: the visions of unbridled creativity.
And on another note of unbridled creativity, here’s the breakdown!
• Wowza Factor * 10 It has a giant unfolding case in alternating gold shells and a clear view of a minute repeater movement. It can be nothing but a wowza!
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 93.2 » 913.979m/s2 Almost one hundred Gs of lust appeal, more than enough to kill you upon impact to your frontal lobe. And it’s awesome.
• M.G.R. * 69.9 Tourbillon, minute repeater, and more than 100 hours of power reserve, this is one serious movement!
• Added-Functionitis * Serious Minute repeater inclusion always calls for prescription strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream to manage the horologically serious swelling!
• Ouch Outline * 10.2 – Attempting A Flip On A Trampoline And Launching Yourself Right Off The Side! Any self-respecting kid has done this; many a questionable adult as well. It might hurt, but I would do it all day to get my hands on this bad boy!
• Mermaid Moment * A Press Of A Button And A Flip Of The Case The moment that case hinges open and you can appreciate the repeater at full volume, you might just need to book the florist!
• Awesome Total * 493 If you add together the number of components in the movement (319), the number of components in the case (60), and the power reserve (108) you come to this very impressive total!
For more information, please visit www. manufacture-royale.com.
Case: 50 mm, 18-karat gold, hinged, bellows-like folding/unfolding case, 60 individual components
Movement: manually wound Caliber MR01 with one-minute tourbillon with silicon escape wheel and pallet lever, 108 hours of power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes; minute repeater
Price: 350,000 Swiss francs