Charles Gérald Genta was a Swiss designer and jeweler, known for his watch line of watches and for his design work developed with other watchmaking brands such as: IWC, Universal Genève, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. Christie'sin New York calls Genta's work "the Fabergé of watches", while The Wall Street Journal considers his watches "world's most complicated and pricey watches".
Gerald Genta was born in 1931 in Geneva,Switzerland, to a Swiss mother and father from Piedmont. From a young age he showed a strong interest in the arts, especially painting and sculpture. At the age of 20 he undertook a training course in jewelry, obtaining a diploma in gold and jewelry processing.
Gerald soon realized that jewelry design, rather than their creation, was what put his talent to good use. For this reason he began working as a freelance designer, selling his designs to jewelers and watch manufacturers. His pay at the time was only 15 Swiss francs for each job, and thanks to his growing fame came commissions also from the United States, Italy, Germany and France.
Considered one of the most important watch designers of the last 50 years, at the age of 20, Genta he obtained the Swiss federal diploma specializing in gold and jewelery.
At the time the design of the watches was usually the result of an exchange of ideas between the houses and those who provided them with the various parts. The years after World War II were also a less than brilliant period from the point of view of the aesthetics of the watches, which abandoned deco had taken on an austere and purely utilitarian aspect.
Thanks also to this context, in the early 1950s many important maisons came forward in an attempt to secure the ideas of Gerald Genta.
THE BEGINNINGS: The Universal Geneve Polerouter
In 1954, the Universal Genève at the time one of the best known watch manufacturers in the United States and in Europe, commissioned him to design a new watch: thePolarouter. Gerald was only 23 years old.
In those years, Genta designed for the maison two models of watches: the Polerouter and the Golden Shadows, which, specifically, contained a micro-rotor movement, considered for the time a technological innovation.
The Universal Genève at the time provided the watches to the crew of the Scandinavian Airlines System and decided to pay tribute on the occasion of the important milestone achieved with the inauguration of the routes that connected New York to Europe passing through the North Pole.
Traveling over the North Pole was not a trivial problem, as the navigation system had to be completely overhauled to cope with the high magnetic fields at the Pole. Time measuring instruments suffered from the same problem, including wristwatches worn by the crew.
The Polerouter it remained in production until the late 1960s, being proposed in various incarnations. The case of the first Polerouter had a diameter of 34.5mm and was characterized by the particular bombé anse. The tuxedo dial was composed of two sectors, which played on the sharp chromatic contrast and three-dimensionality of the raised outer ring, which, in addition to being raised, this external part, was worked and had embossed indices. The black and two-dimensional interior leaves the scene to the silver dauphine spheres and the crosshair.
On subsequent references was added a window of the trapezoidal date, which probably gave rise to the Polerouter of the collective imagination.
The years in Omega: Seamaster and Constellation
From 1960 to 1965 Gerald was signed byOmega. His task was to interface with suppliers of cases, dials and bracelets. theSeamaster (two examples in the photos below) produced in those years from Omega was born by putting together the case, dial, bracelet and indices that Genta he had designed separately. But they were not child elements of a single project.
With regard to theOmega Constellationinstead, it looks like two examples of design Genta are the references14900 and168.009, two totally different models both in terms of the case and the dial.
the14900resubmits some elements of the Polerouter, such as the three-dimensional outer ring, the dial crosshair, and the dauphine spheres.
the168.009instead, it embodies the third generation of Constellation and has a very different design than previous models. To immediately jump to the eye are the shape of the C-case and the dial that presents itself in a cleaner and more modern capacity, interrupting with the past.
La svolta: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Genta began to collaborate withAudemars Piguetin 1953, drawing more or less all the most important models of the house. The turning point came, however, with theRoyal Oak.Georges Golay, managing director of Audemars Piguet, one afternoon in 1970 telephoned Genta to ask him for a sporty and waterproof steel watch, which was something totally new. Genta then took inspiration from the helmet of a diving boat and the next day presented his idea to Golay, who gave the green light to proceed.
It took about a year to get to the final prototype. The result, presented in 1972, was extraordinary. Octagonal bezel, integrated bracelet, visible screws and guilloche dial clous de paris are some of the aspects that make the Royal Oak a legend from a design point of view.
The diameter was 39mm, definitely oversized for the time. Size was probably one of the factors that did not achieve immediate success at Royal Oak.
The fama: Patek Philippe Nautilus
Gerald Genta had previously worked for Patek Philippe in 1968, designing the Golden Ellipse. During a Basel Trade Fair a few years later, Gerald Genta found himself sitting in the same restaurant where there were some members of Patek Philippe. Knowing the Stern family's passion for navigation, he took a pen and drew on a napkin a draft watch inspired by a porthole. The design was enthusiastically welcomed into the Patek Philippe house and Genta dedicated himself to the development of the prototype in his laboratory.
theNautilusreference 3700/1 was presented in the1976, but only achieved success in the 1980s. The design of the Nautilus, 42mm in diameter, is reminiscent of that of the Royal Oak, albeit with some differences. The bezel takes the form of a porthole making itself more sly and blunt, the dial is worked with horizontal stripes, the screws are not visible and on the sides of the case appear two showy shoulders. The bracelet is also integrated in this case, balls and indices applied remain stick.
A dream career: IWC Ingenieur
TheIWC Engineerit had been in production since 1954, and was a classic watch designed for scientists. In the 1970s IWC decided to age its lines by entrusting the work to Gerald Genta.
The design of the new Ingenieur, presented in1976, had little in common with the original one. The case designed by Genta was tonneau and had a round bezel with visible screws. The diameter was40mm, which is why the reference was called Ingenieur Jumbo. In general, you could see this new Ingenieur as a Royal Oak where all the edges disappear and the lines become curved.
The dial features checkered workmanship, with balls and indices applied to a stick. The IWC engineer it was one of those watches that Genta designed but never owned. This fact should not surprise us, however: his collection was not particularly large and on the other hand he saw watches as the antithesis of freedom.
His firm ideas on watches did not stop there. He couldn't stand the ones that were too thick, which is why he thought the Royal Oak Offshore a mess to his project. At the same time he did not appreciate the JLC Reverso because she saw him too feminine on a man's wrist. A watch that for him represented perfection was the Rolex Datejust, of which he never had the opportunity to draw a copy.
In 1969 Genta founded his own brand, whose catalogue mainly included luxury watches with minute repetition and other complications, such as theOcto Granda Tourbillion Ringtone.
In the 1980s Gerald signed an agreement between his brand and theWalt Disney Company, which allowed him to create luxury watches using Disney characters. The project was initially created to meet the demand of a private individual, but gained a lot of fame and was further developed into a collection calledFantasy.
They were specimens of high watchmaking containing complications such as tourbillons, retrograde minutes and second deaths. Among the characters on his watches were Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck and Scrooge Duck.
Also in the 1980s, Gerald Genta was asked to redesign theBvlgari Bvlgari. Again the revision was initially received with little enthusiasm, only to later prove to be Bulgari's greatest success.
The concept of Bulgari Bulgari were the coins of ancient Rome, so Genta had the idea of adding a double engravingBvlgari Bvlgarion the bezel. An idea that of course turned out to be very right.
In 1999 Bulgari even acquired the brand of Genta, which in turn devoted a couple of years to painting. In 2001, however, he returned to watches and founded a new brand called Gerald Charles. The previous models he produced remained under the Bulgari brand, which since 2011 has been part of the Louis Vuitton–Moët–Hennessy company.
In the 1930s, the Pasha of Marrakech commissioned toCartierthe creation of aTankwaterproof, which could also be worn while bathing. Cartier fulfilled his request by providing him with a modified version of Tank, in which work had been done in particular on waterproofing the crown.
Recalling this fact, in 1943 theCartier Pasha, a waterproof watch whose lines referred to the luxury of marrakech pasha. The Pasha was equipped with a metal grid to protect the crystal and a screw crown cap connected to the case via a small chain.
in the1985Genta was tasked with modernizing its design. The most obvious change he made was to deprive him of the protective grid, increasingly giving new life to a historical clock.
The Gerald Charles brand
Also in the 1980s the genius of watchmaking Genta, after having ceded to Bulgarian the brand Gerald Genta, found a new brand, Gerald Charles, dedicating itself to commissioned projects for private clients, including theSultan of Brunei. (Under: Gerald Charles Carrée Chrono Tourbillon Master is Carrée Tourbillon Maestro)
With the "new" brand, however, monsieur Genta it did not have the same universal fame obtained thanks to the creations made for other brands. Nevertheless, the "gentleman of yest" has nonetheless gone down in history as one of the pillars of modern watchmaking.
Gerald Genta: The Myth
Gerald Genta has left behind a design trail that includes some of the most iconic watches in history. The ones we've listed are just some of Genta's designs.
Under his name, Genta made the Great Tourbillon ringtone, at the time the most complicated watch in the world. In addition to the octagonal stepped case, eight were also the specimens produced and the complications present in the movement. The minute repetition of the movement reproduced the chimes of the Big Ben through the use of four gongs.
The famous collectioneightof Bulgarian takes up the concept of the octagonal case, reviewing it in a more sporty and minimal key.
Clients Gerald Genta included athletes, managers, musicians, rappers, actors, politicians as well as royals, such as the Prince Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, King Hassan II of Morocco, Re Juan Carlos I of Spainand Queen Sophia of Greece, King Fahd of Saudi ArabiaAnd theQueen Mother of England.
In 2000, the watch house founded by Genta was purchased byBulgariwhich, since then, has been the holder of all the rights to trademarks, designs and patents of the Gérald Genta SA, continuing the distribution of Gérald Genta brand watches. In 2019, Bulgari celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Gérald Genta brand with the launch of a new watch. Genta he died at the age of 80 in August 2011.