More Genta than Genta

August 2003

Since 1969, the designer Gérald Genta has been shaking up the conformist attitudes of the small world of Swiss watchmaking. With his exuberant styles and technical prowess, Gérald Genta carved out a reputation as an avant-garde purveyor of luxury watches that were prized by collectors around the world ready to fork out a fortune, as in the case of the famous Sultan of Brunei. These years of folly are behind him now, and Gérald Genta is off to other adventures under the skies

As even Francesco Trapani, CEO of Bulgari, has stated, “the confusing positioning of Gérald Genta means we have to completely rethink the offer. The development of the products is going to take a bit of time, but no one will be disappointed.”

It is true that Gérald Genta himself created much of the confusion, alternating between intricate grand complications (especially the Grandes Sonneries), Mickey Mouse pieces decorated with diamonds, fantasy watches mixing all kinds of materials, and pioneering retrograde timepieces. It was enough to make one lose sight of all normal guidelines except one: unbridled creativity.

Managed currently by Gérald Roden (also responsible for Daniel Roth), the brand may still perhaps be in a developmental stage but what it has already shown demonstrates a definite continuity in the line of provocation. Obviously, the rebellious spirit of the Geneva watchmaker has not disappeared with his departure. What has disappeared, on the other hand, is the anarchy of the creative process. While the products are still new and different, the rationality of a large group such as Bulgari has imposed a stricter ordering of the collections and their development.

The exuberance is still there. Just have a look at the materials and colours used for the first collections of the brand's new era: red surfaces, dazzling yellow metal plates, bright orange elements, carbon fibre, luminous numbers, combinations of white and black diamonds, galuchat straps, veined obsidian (a first in watchmaking), mother-of-pearl, iguana skin, vertically brushed steel, engraving, rubber with metal elements, bracelets mixing square and round elements…

Technically, these watches are quite sophisticated, uniting jumping hours and retrograde minutes on the same dial (a first is the Arena Contemporary Retro), combining these two elements with a retrograde date hand (Arena Contemporary Bi-Retro), or displaying the seconds on a scale around the dial (Arena Sport Retro).

Backstage, we discovered a few models of watches in preparation that are inspired by the highest technology of certain previous timepieces, but that have been totally renewed, such as a rather exceptional tourbillon whose characteristics I cannot reveal at this point.

All the combinations of jumping hours and retrograde indications are placed in entirely new cases, whose principle characteristic, besides the wild diversity of colour, is their decorative opulence. More Genta than Genta himself, the new Gérald Genta by Bulgari will continue to shake up the neo-classics that dominate Swiss watchmaking style.