You may have seen this man’s name before, Gerald Genta. He is the man behind the distinctive design of the Patek Philippe Nautilus, the AP Royal Oak, the IWC Ingenieur and numerous other watches. He even started his own watch brand with his name, a true testament to his long lasting designs.

Christie’s auction house described Genta’s work as “the Fabergé of watches“. His designs have extended to some of the most complicated and expensive watches ever seen. What’s his secret? Genta focussed on dramatically changing the design of sports watches to help other manufacture’s compete with Rolex’s dominance in this areas. IWC, AP and Patek brought Genta onto their teams one after another and what an amazing team they created. Genta was born in Geneva and finished his jewellery and goldsmith training when he was 20. Finding it difficult to secure a job, he throw his tools into the Rhone River and vowed never to work as a goldsmith or as anyone’s underling every again. From here on in, he worked as a freelance designer sketching everything from jewellery to fashion. He first designed for Universal Geneve, a very well known manufacture at the time. He then went onto to design the following:

  • Omega’s Constellation (1959)
  • Patek Philippe’s Elipse (1968)
  • Audemars Piguet’s (1970)
  • IWC’s Ingenieur (1976)
  • Patek Philippe’s Nautilus (1976)
  • Cartier’s Pasha de Cartier (1997)

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IWC Ingenieur by Gerald Genta

Quite an impressive CV. During this time he created his own brand with a particular focus on sonneries (a mechanical watch that makes a sound). For example, the Octo Granda Sonnerie Tourbillon ($900,000) which emulated the sound of London’s Big Ben at each quarter and on the hour. Then he designed the Grande Sonnerie Retro priced at approximately $2.2 million. His works included custom pieces for people such as the Sultan on Brunei, Prince Ranier of Monaco, the King and Queen of Spain and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.

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Genta’s clients: The King and Queen of Spain

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Genta’s clients: Prince Ranier of Monaco

He also managed to put Disney characters on luxury watch series known as Les Fantasies after sealing a special licensing deal with Walt Disney. His company was bought out by Bulgari in 1999 but that didnt stop Genta. He went to set up a joint venture known as Genta Charles while the ‘Gerald Genta’ branded watches still exist under the Bulgari label. If that wasn’t enough, he also worked on one-of-a-kind pieces for the top French houses such as Cartier, Hermes and Fred.

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An example of Genta’s Les Fantasies watch

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is probably Genta’s most iconic design. Genta was inspired by the old dive helmets that had 8 screws to fix it onto the diver’s suit. Initially, Jacques-Louis Audemars was shocked to see the design Genta put together one night in 1970. Nonetheless they took a punt given that Audemars Piguet had never done anything like that before. He was directly involved in creating the prototype as AP craftsmen said that it was impossible to assemble this kind of watch. A run of 1000 watches was created but this was not enough as there was simply so much demand for them. There is no doubt that Audemars Piguet would not be a successful today if it wasn’t for Genta’s help with the Royal Oak being at the centre of their collection. Some would even go to say that they wouldn’t exist as a manufacture today. Similarly, Bulgari’s bottom line would not be where it is without Genta’s help.

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Icons of today’s world, and a legacy for the late Gerald Genta
Patek Nautilus (left) and the AP Royal Oak (right)

Patek Philippe on the other hand, they don’t rely solely on their Nautilus line. However, it is the sports watch most people (including manufactures) aspire to and to this day, there is no competition for it. The port-hole shaped face was inspired by the Stern family’s love of yachting.

Unfortunately Genta passed at the age of 80 but his legacy continues on with the worldwide popularity of watches such as the Royal Oak and Nautilus. If you look hard enough you can find his Gerald Genta branded watches for sale, else pop into your nearest Bulgari store, although that may have deviated slightly from his original designs.

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Genta designed modern day Bulgari

The Grande Sonnerie Retro by Genta