Gérald Genta and his influence to the watch industry

by Javier Arranz

Gérald Charles Genta, better known by Gérald Genta in the watch industry and community, was a very well-known artist and watch designer. He was born in Geneva, in 1931. At 20 years old he finished his studies and training in jewelery and goldsmith (metalworker specialized in gold and other precious metals) in Switzerland. He has worked for some very reputable brands, such as IWC, Universal Genève, Audemars Piguet or Patek Philippe.

He started his professional career in Universal Genève, designing one of the most iconic models of the brands: the Universal Genève Polerouter.

Universal Genève Polerouter Date Source: hespokestyle

This watch was designed in the 1950’s to commemorate SAS’s (Scandanavian Airlines Systems) polar flights from New York/Los Angeles to Europe. This watch started being called the “Polarouter”, although later was renamed to “Polerouter”.

Impressive that Genta was able to design such an iconic watch just in his 20’s, but his journey didn’t stop here. Later on, he collaborated with other brands making some of their most iconic and sought after designs. Among the wide list, we can find some that are must to point out:

  • Omega Constellation (1959):

Omega Constellation Source: Stem&Bezel Shop

  • IWC Ingenieur (1976):

IWC Ingenier Automatic Source: Monochrome Watches

And the list doens’t stop here. He also did design the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus. Both watches, although similar, are very different. They feature fixed bracelets, a detail that Genta surely liked (as his most iconic watch designs had one), a geometrical case (more pronounced on the Royal Oak) and really similar dial configurations (initially, time only watches, but through time they have been manufactured in several variations, featuring a date window, chronograph complications and tourbillion).

On the left, the Patek Philippe Nautilus. On the right, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Source: Fratello Watches

It seems that his carrer doens’t stop. He also started his very own brand in 1969 named after him, Gérald Genta. There, he developed some incredible complicated watches, such as the Gérald Genta Octo Granda Sonnerie Tourbillion, a watch that contained a sonnerie mechanism with four gongs and emulated Westminster Quarters bell ring at each quarter and on the hour, it had the same melody that rung London’s Big Ben. Of course, this watch didn’t cost what we can have in change in our pockets, it went for US$810,200.

If this is not impressive enough, he also developed the Grande Sonnerie Retro, the wold’s most complicated wristwatch at that time and priced at close to US$2 million.

His career was broader that what we can cover with this article, but one thing is for sure, he was one of the most renouned watch designers of all time, and he will always be appreciated by collectors.