Gerald Genta, a visionary pioneer and legendary designer
Gerald Genta, watchmaking Master of modern times. Charles Gerald Genta was born on the 1st May 1931 in Geneva, his mother was Swiss and his father Italian. After his studies as a goldsmith and jeweller, which earned him a Swiss federal diploma, he was recruited by Universal Geneva, one of the most renowned watchmaking manufacturers, particularly for its chronographs. In 1954 and at the young age of 23, he excelled by designing the SAS Polerouter, a watch which commemorated the polar flights of the SAS airline (Copenhagen-Los Angeles via the North Pole). Polerouter became one of the brand’s greatest successes.
Following this collaboration which lasted into the mid-sixties, many Swiss watchmaking firms called upon the young designer. First of all, Omega, for whom Gerald Genta renewed their Constellation collection and the new range was hugely successful. In 1970, the Maison Audemars Piguet approached him to design the Royal Oak, which later became their most iconic model. Genta got his inspiration for this piece after having seen a diver in a helmet attached to his suit with 8 screws. This octagonal shape was revolutionary, and the first luxury watch to be made from steel, remaining even today a signature of the Audemars Piguet brand.
At the end of the sixties, Patek Philippe also hoped to benefit from the creative genius of Gerard Genta. A few years later, Gerald Genta created the legendary Patek Philippe Nautilus, inspired by a transatlantic ship. This new steel watch, with a bezel with softened angles, represents a subtle balance between a sports and luxury watch. It remained in production for 30 years.
Gerald Genta is therefore the sole creator of the SAS Polerouter, the Omega Constellation, the Roya Oak for Audemars Piguet, the Nautilus for Patek Philippe, the IWC Ingenieur, not to mention the numerous collaborations with Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chaumet, Hamilton, Bulgari, Seiko, Timex, etc.
Alongside these collaborations with the finest watch brands, he created his own company in 1969, developing his eponymous brand and producing exceptional pieces for unique clients. He was constantly creating and innovating, by combining new shapes and materials with major watchmaking complexities. Always working towards an unprecedented idea, largely inspired by painters and innovative designers, he quickly earned respect and high esteem from the entire industry and all the luxury watchmaking enthusiasts throughout the world. For example, one of his most famous pieces, the Grand Sonnerie, that made the same chimes as Big Ben’s bell, was considered the world’s most sophisticated wristwatches. Finalised after 5 years of R&D, this watch was a true masterpiece.
For his exclusive clients, which include the Moroccan King, the Sultans of Oman and of Brunei, the King of Spain, the King of Saudi Arabia, the Queen Mother of England, statesmen, leading businessmen, sportsmen, artists, singers, and actors… he personally created unique, prestigious and audacious models, some of which took several years to emerge. In the 80s, he obtained a license from Disney to design various models decorated with the most iconic Disney characters.
From 1983 to 1999, he travelled the world with his wife Evelyne to develop and promote their brand, Gerald Genta. While the designer devoted himself exclusively to the creation of iconic and milestone watches, Evelyne passionately developed markets throughout Asia, Europe and the Middle-East.
After the divestiture of his company to an Asian corporation in 1999 so the Maestro could fully dedicate himself to his life as an artist and designer. Gerald Genta pursued his activities as a watch designer under the brand “Gerald Charles”, which he launched in 2001. Several bold models were born from this new name, including the Maestro Tourbillon Carrée.
He passed away in August 2011 at the age of 80. Over his life he designed more than 100,000 watches for the most prestigious watchmaking companies and his eponymous brands.
Above all, his vision and savoir-faire helped break boundaries, shake up all pre-existing norms and rules, and bring the specific requirements of watchmaking closer to the creative power of art; ultimately establishing new standards that were to be carved into history and redefine the future. The influence and passion associated with the “Picasso of watchmaking” shall continue to inspire generations.