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EXCLUSIVE: Secret Gérald Genta Designs Revealed

From the Nautilus to the Royal Oak, the most celebrated designer left behind not only a long list of iconic watches, but some 3,400 unseen designs. There was no coincidence for Genta’s mastery of creating market hits, and his instinct for the grail watch. Our founder, Sky Sit, reveals his magic in an exclusive story, and the 50 best-seller watch designs that have been stashed away.

Gérald Charles Genta is regarded by many as the most notable watch designer of the 20th century. Exceptionally prolific throughout the course of his eighty-year long life, Genta achieved international renown and designer celebrity for his uncompromising artistry.

Among his most famous works are the Universal Polerouter (1954), the Omega Constellation (1959) and Seamaster Polaris, the Royal Oak for Audemars Piguet (1972), the Nautilus for Patek Philippe (1976), and the IWC Ingenieur (1976). Not to mention the numerous collaborations with Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Hamilton, and Seiko etc. In more recent times, the Bulgari Octo, that has garnered a cult status, owes it to the original Gérald Genta Octo (Bulgari eventually acquired Genta’s company in 2000). 

Across his life, Genta designed more than 100,000 watches for the most prestigious watchmaking companies, his own brands, and private clients in the highest circles. Among them, “some would be very iconic”. Evelyne says, “because Gérald designed what he thought would be the new best-sellers. He told me the 50 designs that would be the future Nautiluses and Royal Oaks.”

That’s why we had this wealth of watches we had never seen.

Genta did not become an overnight success without a humble beginning. For two decades before establishing his eponymous brands, he worked very hard and anonymously for many houses. “He used to take his car with a lot of designs, driving to Bienne, La Chaux-des-Fonds, or Le Brassus [along the Swiss watchmaking valley] and selling to those companies,” recalls his widow, Evelyne Genta. “He sold to Piaget, Corum, Vacheron etc. and never claimed the name. So there are a lot of designs we are not even aware of today.”

“That’s how he started. Gérald never wanted a boss,” says Evelyne. It was always freelance or contract work. Even when he did the Royal Oak, he was never an employee of Audemars Piguet. His independent spirit and artistic ego afforded him the creative genius to break the mould, but not without its ups and downs…

Evelyne Genta witnessed it all. She joined her husband’s business in 1983 shortly after they were married, allowing him to focus on the creation of watches. She became the brain and motor behind it, handling the financial and operational sides, and developing international markets. “I worked for 30 years with my husband. We woke up together, went to the factory together, travelled the world together. We were partners in every sense. I know exactly what mattered and what didn’t.”

Today a diplomat, as ambassador of Monaco to the United Kingdom, Evelyne tells Sky what the Genta family has in store to revive the maestro’s legacy. Read the full version of this exclusive story for Europa Star in the March print edition, or online: here.

Europa Star is the 90-year old most respected watch industry publication. It remains family-owned and now at the helm of the fourth generation. Its editorial stance is in-depth, intelligent, and unbiased.