The 18th century French philosopher and writer Voltaire was an influential voice during the Enlightenment. He dared to go against the status quo of the time, calling for freedom of expression and separation of church and state. Because Voltaire was so noted for his publications, his other achievements sometimes get overlooked. For example, he established the horology brand Manufacture Royale in 1770, producing watches for royalty and the upper class. Revived in 2010 by brothers David and Alexis Gouten, Manufacture Royale takes inspiration from Voltaire’s free thinking spirit. Veterans of the watch industry the Goutens felt constrained and wanted to produce watches solely based on their own ideas.
The most recent addition to the young brand is the Androgyne. What distinguishes this timepiece at first glance is the case. Don’t ever say you can’t put a square peg in a round hole, or, in this case, vice versa. A round bezel surrounded with polished screws fits inside a square, also with prominent screws, that hugs the wrist with smoothly articulating lugs. With its brash and throwback visage, the Androgyne might aesthetically fall into the steampunk category.
New independent haute horlogerie brands seem to lead with the fashionable tourbillon to demonstrate technical prowess, and so the Androgyne features this high complication in a hand wound time-only movement. Secured by a high polished arrow shaped bridge that is reminiscent of the famed Girard-Perregaux rendition, the tourbillon incorporates the modern and nearly friction free material of silicon into the escape wheel and lever. It is intended as the highlight of the dial as it dominates the view in the 6 o’clock position. However, the thick polished spade shaped hands circling the open worked movement are also lookers, both unusual and in keeping with the overall design.
The Androgyne comes in several combinations of full black, shades of gray and models with rose gold. All are finished to haute horlogerie standards with hand beveling and polishing.
Although a watch with characteristics appealing to men, the name Androgyne suggests the piece is androgynous and can befit a woman as well. To cater to customers’ personal tastes, each piece in the Manufacture Royale can be customized.