Why The Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige Has No Need To “Humble Brag”
There is an art of communication that only recently was renamed thanks to social media. This newly dubbed but very old practice is the art of “humble bragging.”
Humble bragging, or displaying false modesty, has been around for as long as people have wanted others to admire them (basically forever) because above all we are social animals.
It’s a difficult concept to master since any amount of insincerity is easily noticed and quickly rejected. Seeking attention and admiration is rather transparent and as such when done in the wrong way usually creates the completely opposite response from people than intended.
The secret to a successful humble brag is to not attempt to humble brag at all. Mind-blowing advice, I know.
But the reality is that many people can appreciate a person’s pride in their accomplishments and give credit where credit is due. What people tend not to want to do is to feed a person’s ego, which is exactly what a humble brag seeks to do under a false pretext.
If, for instance, I had been practicing baton twirling for weeks and was finally able to smoothly stick a double wrist roll, I should by all means be very proud. And I could tell my friends that I’m happy to have worked so hard to learn that trick and finally get to share it with them.
But what I wouldn’t want to do is act like baton twirling is so hard that it took me forever just to learn a move perfectly, one that all my baton twirling friends haven’t accomplished for themselves yet. That’s one way to ensure a lonely Saturday night.
So what is a proud pretender to do? The answer lies in taking pride in what you know is good, being modest about how much you have done, and letting others fill in the rest. This way you can say, “Hey, look what I did” without everyone wanting to throw mashed potatoes in your face.
A perfect watch example
In the watch industry, there are many brands struggling to find just the right balance of modesty and pride in their accomplishments, but one brand that does a pretty darn good job of that balance is Manufacture Royale. And one of the best pieces of evidence for this is the 1770 Voltige.
The Voltige is all sorts of awesome, and Manufacture Royale could rightly boast pretty heavily about it; but the modest restraint being shown definitely helps the watch stand out as incredible for its own sake.
I think you’ll see why.
It all begins with that balance, oh that balance. The concept behind the Voltige is the act of exalting the heart of the watch (the balance and escapement) to an honored position on the dial where it stands as a testament to mechanics and ingenuity.
This idea is not new, exactly, yet still very rarely seen like this in watchmaking. Of course, most watch nerds will be aware of the MB&F Legacy Machine 1 (and its children, like the Legacy Machine Perpetual) and some may even have seen the Gagarin Tourbillon by Bernhard Lederer. These are both stylistic and conceptual forbears for the 1770 Voltige with their very visible balances on the dial.
The Voltige’s escapement is not hidden under the balance or the arching bridge, but is proudly right on the dial for better appreciation of its animated motion. The balance bridge arcs around the edge of the dial and turns sharply in so that the escapement mechanism is not concealed.
Add the fact that the balance has a whisper-thin aluminum profile and the view opens up even more.
The material used for the balance isn’t a toss-up either; it’s actually quite a feat. Experimentation with the balance material went through many stages and iterations before finally landing on Peraluman, which is an old trade name for the 5000 series of aluminum alloys that use magnesium as the primary alloying metal.
This specific series of aluminum alloys tend to be a bit more rigid than some, though sits right in the middle of the alloy strength range with the 2000 series (copper as the main alloying ingredient) and 7000 series (zinc as the main alloying ingredient) taking the top spots for hardness and density.
This aluminum alloy provides a good balance between workability, ease in machining, and hardness. The Voltige Black Feather features a striking blue aluminum balance matching the hands, screws, indications, and right-centered MR logo.
Cool factor also has a say in design as the layout proves. The suspended balance is only the tip of the iceberg, and it complements other stylistic choices around the dial. The split dial with inset groove (where the balance bridge and somewhat mirrored name plate are found) echoes the balance and reinforces a pattern of dots that continues with the small seconds ring at 6 o’clock. Inside the ring a new pattern jumps out at the observer with a squared mesh screen providing color and textural contrast to the rest of the dial.
Category-bending style cues
The dial itself features a brushed sunburst pattern and, depending on case metal, comes in anthracite grey, red, or black. This added texture helps the “lumeless,” hollow, polished sword-style hands float, even above the balance wheel and bridge, which means there is a boat load of depth in this dial.
This depth is used to create one of my favorite aspects about the Voltige, something that many people might not even notice on the first viewing: encircling the dial is an unusual type of vertical flange that extends up to the sapphire crystal. In this space there is an unlikely addition: twelve small, gold or black (depending on the case material), curved pyramids added to replace the lack of numerals or hour and minute indications thanks to the restrained design details of the dial.
These little nodes are attached using an adhesive in the waiting holes. They provide a reference point for the hours and minutes while keeping the dial itself unmolested from additional markings.
The entire presentation of the dial is a rare treat, something that almost anyone can appreciate as a unique display raising and praising mechanics above all else.
The package isn’t complete without something to contain it all, though, and this is where Manufacture Royale has called in the big guns.
It’s nice to have friends
The case design of the 1770 series is something drastically different from previous Manufacture Royale designs and borders on purely traditional. I say borders because the brand called in contemporary designer Eric Giroud to provide the case with his special design touch. You may recognize that name from dozens of other incredible watch designs including all MB&F pieces.
The case design of the Voltige 1770 is a subtle adventure into something different.
A central case is suspended between two curved outriggers, one on each side of the case, with each outrigger attached via two very visible screws. The lugs are then created by these outriggers and the strap attaches to these. This design creates a sophisticated-looking shape, while at the same time allowing for design exploration.
The bezel of the case hugs the outriggers from above, with the edge of the bezel and the outriggers extending about the same amount. This keeps the sides of the case feeling smoothly agreeable to the touch.
The rear of the case emphasizes the case architecture and gives a better view of the construction technique. It also provides a window into the movement, which was developed with Manufacture Royale’s technical partner, TEC Ebauches, a company that was integral with Manufacture Royale under the leadership of Arnaud Faivre before they were split to become two separate entities.
The movement is clean and simple, reminding the viewer that the real show is up front. But before you head back to the dial you will notice the skeletonized rotor bearing Manufacture Royale’s engraved catchphrase “Enlightened Horology.”
The Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige – whose name means “high wire walker” in French and also contains a historical reference alluding to the year that Voltaire helped found this brand’s namesake workshop – is a fantastic example of a simple yet surprisingly difficult exercise: promoting and displaying the balance above the dial while keeping the presentation clean and clear of distractions.
I think the result is spot on for the goal. Superfluous decoration and extraneous design could have overwhelmed the concept, but considered restraint has been smartly applied. Manufacture Royale could very easily have used this model as an opportunity to humble brag, but instead it stands as an example of how not to overdo a new(ish) idea with extras that don’t make sense.
The star of the show rightly gets the attention with this piece, and so the 1770 Voltige goes down in my list of increditastic independent horology timepieces that definitely need more wrist time by everyone.
So let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.55 Suspended balance above a really clean dial with some intriguing details . . . oh yeah!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 92.78 » 909.860 m/s2 The lust is palpable as you watch the balance swing to and fro.
- M.G.R. * 62.91 A straightforward movement with a couple key changes, like putting the balance fifty feet up in the air over the dial!
- Added-Functionitis * N/A Time only, if only time. No matter, the Voltige is still amazedible without the Gotta-HAVE-That cream.
- Ouch Outline * 10.66 – Getting your knuckles bruised by a door jam! It’s a weird occurrence for certain, and yet it can happen when you are running out the door to the airport. The flight would be a bit more painful, but with this on my wrist I wouldn’t mind.
- Mermaid Moment * Five oscillations! Once you start gazing at the suspended balance, it will only take a few swings before you are on the phone to the florist!
- Awesome Total * 560 Multiply the power reserve in hours (40) by the diameter of the balance (14 mm0 and that simple equation finds a seriously awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.manufacture-royale.com/1770-voltige.
Case: 45 x 13.8 mm, stainless steel, red gold, or black PVD-coated stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber MR05 with extra-large balance wheel and visible escapement
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: 27,000 Swiss francs in steel; 42,000 Swiss francs in red gold
Also published on Medium.