Gérald Charles Genta
1 May 1931
|Died||17 August 2011(aged 80)|
|Occupation||Watchmaker, businessman, designer|
Gérald Charles Genta (1 May 1931 – 17 August 2011) was a Swiss watch designer and artist. He is known for his eponymous line of timepieces as well as his design work with other high-end watch manufacturers, including IWC, Omega SA, Universal Genève, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. Christie's auction house of New York has called Genta's work "the Fabergé of watches", while The Wall Street Journal has called them the "world's most complicated and pricey watches".
Genta was born in Geneva to a Swiss mother and father of Piemonte (Northern Italian) descent. At age 20, Genta finished jewellery and goldsmith training in his native Switzerland, earning a Swiss federal diploma.
Starting career with Universal Genève
Subsequently, Genta was recruited by Universal Genève SA, at the time one of the most recognized manufactures in both the U.S. and Europe for its chronograph models. After Universal Genève settled a patent dispute involving the micro-rotor caliber, Genta designed Universal's Polerouter Microtors in the 1950s, as well as the Golden and White Shadows during the mid-1960s. The Shadows contained a micro-rotor, unisonic and accutron movement, the latter two a result of the quartz crisis starting in the late 1960s.
Notable watch designs
Genta's work with Universal would be a precursor to future collaborations with other brands in Switzerland and throughout Europe, including Omega's Constellation (1959); Patek Philippe's Golden Ellipse (1968). Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak (1970), IWC's Ingenieur (1976); Patek Philippe's Nautilus (1976); and Cartier's Pasha de Cartier (1985).
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
One of Genta's most recognisable designs was that of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, which was considered to be the first luxury sports watch in the world. The watch was inspired by traditional diving helmets and therefore featured exposed screw heads as well as a unique case design. The watch also featured an integrated bracelet.
Patek Philippe Nautilus
In 1976, Patek Philippe introduced the Nautilus collection, designed by Genta, after deciding it was time to produce an exclusive sport watch with finishes of the highest quality. The first model was Ref. 3700 and was made of steel. The Nautilus was released by Patek Philippe during the quartz crisis in the hope that it would help re-attract people's attention to high-end Swiss mechanical watches.
The Nautilus collection played a key role in Patek Philippe's overall marketing strategy as it had to refresh the brand image while perpetuating tradition. The target was represented by dynamic business managers of the new generations. The Nautilus wristwatch has become one of the most popular collections from Patek Philippe, and the Ref. 5711 & 5712 models, which the company introduced in 2006 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the collection, are among the most popular models.
Eponymous brand & Designs
After starting his own brand in 1969, Genta would create the sonneries, among them the Gérald Genta Octo Granda Sonnerie Tourbillion, which contained four gongs and an emulated Westminster Quarters bell ring at each quarter and on the hour, "the same melody rung out by London's Big Ben", and priced at $810,200. In 1994, he designed the Grande Sonnerie Retro, the world's most complicated wristwatch, and priced at approximately $2 million. For private requests, Genta hand-designed the movements, dials and cases of his timepieces and employed limited or no external assistance, outsourcing or mechanization during the process; it was not unusual for a single watch to take up to 5 years to complete.
During the 1980s, Genta obtained special licensing with The Walt Disney Company and distributed a limited edition of Disney character watches to the public; previously, they had been an unofficial private request by one of Genta's repeat customers. The dials consisted of illustrations of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Scrooge and Goofy, with cases made of 18 carat gold. Designed in Le Brassus, Switzerland, the watches retailed between $3250–$3650 in 1988.
Genta's clients have included athletes, businesspeople, musicians, movie stars, politicians, and royalty, including Prince Rainier of Monaco, King Hassan II of Morocco, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother of England.
Acquisition by Bulgari
After his eponymous company, trade marks, patents and designs were acquired by Bulgari in 2000, Genta resigned and created a new venture called Gerald Charles. As of 2010, Gerald Genta watches were marketed solely under the Bulgari brand. In 2019, Bulgari celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Gerald Genta mark.
Genta died in 17 August 2011 at the age of 80.
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