Charles Gérald Genta was a Swiss designer and jeweler, known for the homonymous line of watches and for his design work developed with other watch brands such as: IWC, Universal genève, Patek Philippe e Audemars Piguet. Christie 's of New York calls the work of Genta "The Fabergé of watches", while The Wall Street Journal consider his watches "World's most complicated and pricey watches".
Gerald genta was born in 1931 a Geneva, from a Swiss mother and a father from Piedmont. From an early age he showed a keen interest in the arts, especially painting and sculpture. At the age of 20 he undertook a training course in the field of jewelry, obtaining a diploma in gold and jewelry processing.
Gerald he soon realized that the design of the jewels, rather than their creation, was what put his talent to good use. For this reason he began to work 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, commissions also came 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 watches was usually the result of an exchange of ideas between the houses and those who supplied them with the various parts. The years following the Second World War were also a not very brilliant period from the point of view of the aesthetics of the watches, which abandoned the Deco had taken on an austere and purely utilitarian aspect.
Thanks also to this context, in the early 50s many important fashion houses stepped 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 Europe, commissioned him to design a new watch: the Polarouter. Gerald was only 23 years old.
In those years, Genta he designed two watch models for the maison: the Polerouter and Golden Shadows, which, specifically, contained a movement with a micro-rotor, considered a technological innovation for the time.
La Universal genève at the time it supplied watches to the crew of the Scandinavian Airlines System and decided to make a tribute on the occasion of the important milestone reached with the inauguration of the routes that connected New York to Europe via the North Pole.
In fact, traveling over the North Pole was not a trivial problem, since the navigation system had to be completely overhauled to cope with the high magnetic fields at the Pole. Timekeeping instruments suffered from the same problem, including the wristwatches worn by the crew.
Il Polerouter remained in production until the end of the sixties, being proposed in various incarnations. The case of the first Polerouter had a diameter of 34.5mm and was characterized by the particular bombé lugs. The tuxedo dial was composed of two sectors, which played on the sharp chromatic contrast and on the three-dimensionality of the raised outer ring, which, in addition to being raised, this external part was worked and had raised indexes. The inner part, black and two-dimensional, leaves the scene to the silver dauphine spheres and the crosshair.
On subsequent references a trapezoidal date window was added, which probably gave birth to the Polerouter of the collective imagination.
The years in Omega: Seamaster and Constellation
From 1960 to 1965 Gerald was signed by Omega. His job was to interface with the suppliers of cases, dials and bracelets. The Seamaster (two examples in the photos below) produced in those years from Omega was born by putting together case, dial, bracelet and indices that Genta had designed separately. But they were not child elements of a single project.
As far as the Omega Constellationinstead, it looks like two examples of design Genta are the references 14900 e 168.009, two totally different models both from the point of view of the case and the dial.
Il 14900 presents some elements of the Polerouter, such as the three-dimensional outer ring, the crosshair dial and the dauphine spheres.
Il 168.009 instead it embodies the third generation of Constellation and has a very different design compared to previous models. What immediately catches the eye are the shape of the C-shaped case and the dial which comes in a cleaner and more modern guise, breaking with the past.
The turning point: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Genta began to collaborate with Audemars Piguet in 1953, designing more or less all the most important models of the house. The turning point, however, came with the Royal Oak.Georges Golay, managing director of Audemars Piguet, one afternoon in 1970 he phoned Genta to ask him for a sporty and waterproof steel watch, which was however something totally new. Genta then drew inspiration from the helmet of a diving suit 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 clous de paris dial are some of the aspects that still make the Royal Oak a legend from a design point of view.
The diameter was 39mm, definitely oversize for the time. Size was probably one of the factors that did not make the Royal Oak achieve immediate success.
The fame: Patek Philippe Nautilus
Gerald genta had already worked for Patek Philippe in 1968, drawing the Golden ellipse. During a Basel Trade Fair a few years later, Gerald Genta found himself sitting in the same restaurant that some members of Patek Philippe. Knowing the Stern family's passion for navigation, he took a pen and drew a sketch of a clock inspired by a porthole on a napkin. The design was enthusiastically received by Patek Philippe and Genta thus dedicated himself to the development of the prototype in his laboratory.
Il Nautilus reference 3700/1 was presented in 1976, but it was only successful in the 42s. The design of the Nautilus, XNUMXmm in diameter, is reminiscent of that of the Royal Oak, albeit with some differences. The bezel takes on the shape of a porthole becoming more squat and rounded, the dial is worked with horizontal lines, the screws are not visible and two showy shoulders appear on the sides of the case. The bracelet is also integrated in this case, spheres and applied indexes remain as a stick.
A dream career: IWC Ingenieur
THEIWC Engineer it had been in production since 1954, and was a classic watch meant for scientists. In the 70s, IWC decided to rejuvenate its lines by entrusting the work to Gerald Genta.
The design of the new Ingenieur, presented in 1976, had little in common with the original one. The case designed by Genta was a tonneau and had a round bezel with visible screws. The diameter was 40 mm, which is why the reference was called Ingenieur Jumbo. Generally speaking, this new Ingenieur could be seen as a Royal Oak in which all edges disappear and lines become curves.
The dial has a checkered pattern, with spheres and indexes applied to baton. L' IWC engineer it was one of those watches that Genta designed but never owned. However, this fact should not surprise us: his collection was not particularly large and, on the other hand, he saw watches as the antithesis of freedom.
His firm ideas about watches didn't 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 he saw it 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 had founded his own brand, whose catalog mainly featured luxury watches with minute repeaters and other complications, such as the Octo Granda Sonnerie Tourbillion.
In the 80s Gerald signed an agreement between his brand and Walt Disney Company, which allowed him to create luxury watches using Disney characters. The project was initially born to satisfy the request of a private individual, but gained a lot of fame and was developed further into a collection called Fantasy.
They were fine watchmaking specimens containing complications such as tourbillons, retrograde minutes and dead seconds. Among the characters of his watches were Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Goofy, Donald Duck and Scrooge Scrooge.
Also in the 80s, Gerald Genta was asked to redesign the Bvlgari Bvlgari. This time too, the revision was initially met with little enthusiasm, only to later prove to be Bulgari's greatest success.
The concept of the Bulgari Bulgari was the coins of ancient Rome, for which Genta had the idea of adding a double engraving Bvlgari Bvlgari on the bezel. An idea that naturally turned out to be perfect.
In 1999 Bulgari even acquired the Genta brand, which in turn dedicated a couple of years to painting. However, in 2001 he returned to devoting himself to watches by founding a new brand called Gerald Charles. The previous models he produced remained under the Bulgari brand, which has been part of the Louis Vuitton – Moët – Hennessy company since 2011.
In the 30s, the Pasha of Marrakech commissioned to Cartier creating a Tank waterproof, which could also be worn while bathing. Cartier met his request by providing him with a modified version of Tank, in which particular work was done on waterproofing the crown.
Recalling this fact, in 1943 the Cartier Pasha, a waterproof watch whose lines recalled the luxury of the Pasha of Marrakech. The Pasha was equipped with a metal grid to protect the crystal and a screw-down crown cap connected to the case by a small chain.
In 1985 Genta was commissioned to modernize the design. The most obvious change he made was to deprive it of the protective grille, effectively giving new life to a historic watch.
The Gerald Charles brand
Also in the eighties the genius of watchmaking Genta, after having ceded to Bulgari the brand Gerald Genta, found a new brand, Gerald Charles, dedicating himself to commissioned projects for private clients, including the Sultan of Brunei. (Under: Gerald Charles Carrée Chrono Tourbillon Maestro e 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. Nonetheless, the “gentleman of yesteryear” has nevertheless gone down in history as one of the pillars of modern watchmaking.
Gerald Genta: The Myth
Gerald genta has left behind a trail of design that includes some of the most iconic timepieces in history. The ones we have listed are just some of the designs from Genta.
Under his name, Genta made the Big Sonnerie Tourbillon, at the time the most complicated watch in the world. In addition to the stepped octagonal case, there were also eight examples produced and the complications present in the movement. The minute repeater of the movement reproduced the strokes of the Big Ben through the use of four gongs.
The famous collection Octo di Bulgari takes up the concept of the octagonal case, revisiting it in a more sporty and minimal way.
Clients Gerald genta included athletes, managers, musicians, rappers, actors, politicians as well as royalty, such as the Prince Rainier III of Monaco, King Hassan II of Morocco, Re Juan Carlos I of Spain e Queen Sophia of Greece, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and Queen Mother of England.
In 2000, the watch house founded by Genta was bought by Bulgari which, since then, is the owner of all trademark, design and patent rights 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 died at the age of 80 in August 2011.