Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gérald Genta

Gérald Genta, the horological legend and man behind the eponymous brand (although no longer associated with it), is responsible for some of the most (and yes this overused word is appropriate) iconic watch designs produced in the 1970s, some of which are still manufactured. The most well known of his designs are probably the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Philippe Nautilus, Vacheron Constantin 222 (Overseas) and the IWC Ingenieur.

A brief timeline of some significant points in the history of the man/ brand :

1969 Gérald Genta starts his own brand and workshop

1973 Development of the first Grande Sonnerie 3-hammer pocket-watch and of the first Gérald Genta Perpetual Calendar model.

1979 Gérald Genta is awarded the much-coveted Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark.

1988 Gérald Genta launches of the Gefica, the first model equipped with a model featuring complications dedicated to “Big Five” hunters (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceros and buffalos). The main innovation, a world first for a wristwatch, the movement is clothed with a bronzed case, a material guaranteeing the model against any inadvertent glinting that would warn the prey of the hunter’s approach.

1996 Development of the Retrograde and Biretrograde movements that are to become brand signature features.  The Retro incorporates a jumping-hour function and a retrograde minutes hand; the BiRetro combines both of these plus a retrograde date indicator.

2000 The Gérald Genta brand is purchased by the Bvlgari Group.

2004 Launch of the Octo line, referring to the Brand’s original octagonal model.

2007 Launch of the new Gefica, an unusual model featuring a complex case crafted in bronze and titanium.

The Gefica was one of the most blogged and photographed watches of 2007. An expat Sydneysider who does flying trips back a couple of times a year allowed me the opportunity to join in the fun, albeit just with my small point & shoot, since it was a random unexpected appearance by both man and watch!

I have to admit that I had not taken to the Gefica based purely on the online photos that I had seen, but seeing it in the flesh was quite an interesting experience. It sat a lot bigger on the wrist than I had thought it would, and to my surprise, I found myself liking it more than expected, though still not enough to think of it as a watch that I'd like, had I the funds.

What it did do, however, was to reinforce my long held conviction that where possible, it is best to see and get a feel for a watch before you commit to buying it.

On the day of the Gefica's visit, another Genta, belonging to Gefica Man's partner, also made an appearance.

Fantasy Mickey Sailor

The first Mickey Mouse watches were the product of a partnership between Walt Disney and Ingersoll. The first one was sold at Chicago World Fair in June 1933 for US$3.25. A roaring success, the Disney/ Ingersoll partnership lead to millions of Mickey Mouses, in various design iterations, being sold.

1933 model

The most well known modern Mickey Mouse watches have been produced by Genta.  Called the "Fantasy" models, they are a  nod to one of Gérald Genta’s most talked about creations from the 1970s, a high end mechanical Mickey Mouse watch commissioned by the Sultan of Brunei.

The Fantasy Sailor was produced in a limited edition of 150 pieces. Steel with a deployant buckle, it has a retrograde minute and jump hour and a revolving disc weather indicator, from "sunny" to "stormy clouds". At 41mm, it is not a small watch, but still of a size that can be worn easily by women.

The  more sporty Arena range is Genta's most accessible line. As mentioned earlier, the development of the Retrograde and Biretrograde movements in 1996 have become signatures of the brand, with the “biretro” range combining a jumping hour, retrograde minute, and a retrograde date indicator.

This uncommonly seen exemplar of the Arena biretro line, with its distinctive red/ green colour combination, has that renowned playful Genta approach.

A large 45mm, this Arena biretro is surprisingly wearable, and sits on the wrist lightly for its size.

Unfortunately, Australia does not have any official Genta representation, but more on Genta (the brand) can be found at their website.


1 comment:

Gaz said...

Note that Bvlgari purchased Gerald Genta from the Hour Glass. One can gleefully speculate how well the Hour Glass managed the brand during their ownership.