David Gouten: Five Questions With Manufacture Royale’s Managing Partner And Co-FounderWritten by Melissa Kong
“Clients today want true luxury.”
Manufacture Royale is a small independent brand. Do you have plans to expand?
We always wanted to keep it small and dedicated, even though the world has changed—it’s tougher now—but we’re not compromising. We have developed a true bespoke concept, really crafting the watches according to the client’s brief and what the watchmaker thinks is feasible. Why do we do this? Because the structure of the business has changed and we want to interact with the client. Clients today want true luxury.
Manufacture Royale Opera
What is true luxury?
Look at China—a famous French luxury brand opened many stores there, but in the end they saw that it was mass luxury. Is mass luxury truly luxury? It’s the same in the watch industry. Okay, maybe Rolex makes one million watches a year, but then they are all made in Switzerland. Some brands cheat their clients by making their cases in China. Clients are more knowledgeable now. They want something with intrinsic value, not resale value.
What do you think is the future of e-commerce?
It’s tough to be online if you don’t have a physical presence somewhere. People won’t dare order an independent brand if they have not touched the product. If it’s a cheaper brand, it may still be okay, but not for expensive products like luxury watches. For us, I don’t believe in the big online platforms at this stage. I prefer the small ones, with a curator that you trust, with his or her own client base. There must be a relationship and trust with the client.
The Manufacture Royale ADN Spirit
Was it difficult for you to revive an old brand like Manufacture Royale that was started in 1770?
No, it was just a learning curve. The difficulty was probably in the timing because when we restarted, it was at a time where the industry was starting to go into a difficult period. Also, Manufacture Royale is an old name with a heritage that goes back 250 years. Between that and our modern looking watches, the stretch is large. So you have to convince and explain that you are playing with the value on purpose. A lot of people will ask, ‘Why don't you do watches like Vacheron Constantin or Patek Philippe?’ Well, because such watches exist already. Our brand keeps on evolving and we will also evolve the image of the brand soon.
What do you think the founder, Voltaire, would think about the Manufacture Royale watches today?
If Voltaire was alive today, I think these are the watches he would be proud of, because they are unusual. The watch industry in his time was simple. It was pocket watches, either with no name on the dial or just the name of the watchmaker. Everybody was doing the same thing—round pocket watches with a white dial and black numbers. It was boring. But since he wrote the Treatise on Tolerance in which, "dare to think for yourself" was one of his quotes, I think he would be proud. We are going in the right direction, trying to do something different.
Like most people these days, Melissa tells the time with her phone. She considers serious timepieces works of art and thinks the perpetual calendar is the handiest complication to date (pun not intended). She's also a Grammar Nazi but promises not to judge if you can't tell the difference between "guilloche" and "guillotine".