Watch Industry Icons- Gerald Genta

Watch Industry Icons- Gerald Genta


Picture credit: geraldgenta-heritage.comGerald Genta

Gerald Genta was born in Switzerland in 1931. He went on to become one of the most influential artists and designers of the last century. Genta is often regarded as being in the same league as Cezanne, Picasso, Dali, and Kapoor. Genta designed more than 100,000 watches in his lifetime. Many of his designs were never altered since they left his drawing pad. Genta designed for so many top brands it is difficult to keep then straight. In the early years in the ‘70s, he gave us the Royal Oak and the Nautilus. One could argue that a designer would be happy with one iconic watch like that in a career. Genta had his hand in many different designs. He was a prolific freelance designer and built many prototypes with his own hands. His mark on watch design is indelible. Genta built long-lasting relationships with watchmakers and collectors around the world. It comes as no surprise that collectors place great importance on Genta designs. As a designer, Genta could work on the outside and inside of the watch. Shaping a case or detailing a bracelet is one thing. Genta loved complications. He created some of the most complicated watches known to man. If you own a Patek Philippe, an Audemars Piguet, or a Breguet, you’re wearing a Genta. One of the most influential and prolific designers in any industry. No one will surpass Gerald Genta contribution to watch making. With such a grand lifetime output, where did he find the time?


The most well-known Universal watch of the post-war era was the Polerouter. Universal produced the Polerouter in various configurations until 1969. Scandinavian Airline System commissioned the design. Genta set out to design a watch which needed to be resistant to electromagnetic fields. This was critical for flights over the North Pole. The Polerouter was dressy, with a pitch-black dial. Look again, there is a little hint of the future Nautilus in the bezel.


This is a cool design. It does look like a pie pan. That’s how it got its name. Genta’s design is pure mid-century chic. One could imagine Sinatra on stage with a pie pan peeking out from under his cuff. It was available in three different finishes ranging from standard to grand luxe.


Before the Royal Oak, AP and others were famous for opulent gold watches. The Royal Oak changed that. Genta changed how people thought of high-end watches. This is an important watch by today’s standards. It took a little time to catch on. Talk to today’s Royal Oak owner and they’ll tell you it is the only watch they wear. Many Royal Oak owners have more than one. Genta was on a roll in the early ‘70s. He created the Royal Oak and a luxury sport watch niche at the same time. With only 24 hours to create a design, Genta drew the Royal Oak from the scaphander. A diver mask worn by underwater welders. The helmet's faceplate attaches with eight screws on the front. The bezel resembles the front of the divers' helmet.


Genta does it again. Genta sketched the Nautilus, as the story goes, on a napkin at a Basel trade fair. He took the design over to a table of PP executives and pitched his design. The Nautilus was born. Like the Royal Oak, this watch has a loyal following. It is a great thing to get a good look at this watch. Take your time with a lupe, the detail fascinates.


1976 was a big year for Genta. The Royal Oak and Nautilus were already a big success. Now working with IWC, he created something new. He pulled some of the design language from the Royal Oak into the Ingenieur. Genta designed the Ingenieur to be highly resistant to magnetism. A favorite feature with scientists and engineers of the day. Genta was in stride. Some call it chops.


Genta updated the Bulgari-Bulgari. He took the inspiration from the Bulgari Roma, a digital watch in a run of 100. The story goes that Bulgari didn’t the design with the name circling the bezel. It took a while to catch on and today the design Genta borrowed from an old Roman coin is now the face of the brand.


The creative genius who gave us the Royal Oak and the Nautilus would go on to design Mickey Mouse watches? The complicated MM line is one of his most famous and successful endeavors. Genta signed an exclusive with Disney in the ‘80s. He produced watches depicting the best-loved Disney characters. Genta’s Disney watches included Haute complications. The tourbillon, retrograde minutes, and jumping hours all made it to his final designs. If you own a Patek Philippe, an Audemars Piguet, or a Breguet, you’re wearing a Genta. One of the most influential and prolific designers in any industry. No one will surpass Gerald Genta’s contribution to watch making.


Not content with a watch that only tells time? Special watches are out there. If you are asking yourself how do I choose a watch like this? What should I pay? Is there value behind the brand and price? You owe it to yourself to look closer into the buyer decision making guides. shows you your options as a buyer. Our guides are indispensable while trying to decide which brand and model is right for you. is ready to help.  Our passion is timeless.

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