Friday 02 September, 2011 - 12:00 PM EDT
Charles Gérald Genta was a Swiss wristwatch designer and company of the same name. In addition to his own line of time pieces, Genta had contributed to the designs of Swiss luxury watch firms including IWC, Universal Geneve, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet, among several others. Genta's work has been dubbed "the Fabergé of watches" by Christie's auctionhouse of New York, and as the "world's most complicated and pricey watches" by The Wall Street Journal. It was reported in August 2011 that Genta had passed away at the age of 80.
Genta was born in Geneva to an ethnically Swiss mother and father of Piedmontese (Northern Italian) descent. At the age of 20, Genta finished jewelry training in his native Switzerland, earning a Swiss federal diploma.
A short time later, Genta was recruited by Universal Genève SA, which at the time had been one of the most recognized manufactures in both the U.S. and Europe for its chronograph varietals. After the aforementioned company settled a patent dispute involving the micro-rotor caliber, Genta designed Universal's Polerouter Microtors in the 1950s, as well as the Golden and White Shadows during the mid-1960s. The Shadows contained a micro-rotor, unisonic and accutron movement, the latter two being a result of the quartz crisis starting in the late 1960s.
Genta's work with Universal would be a precursor to future collaborations with other brands in Geneva and throughout Switzerland, including Omega's Constellation (1959); Patek Philippe's Golden Eclipse (1968). Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak (1970), IWC's Ingenieur (1976); Patek Philippe's Nautilus (1976); and Cartier's Pasha de Cartier (1997).
After starting his own brand in 1969, Genta would create the sonneries, among them the Gérald Genta Octo Granda Sonnerie Tourbillion, which contained four gongs and an emulated Westminster Quarters bell ring at each quarter and on the hour, "the same melody rung out by London's Big Ben", and priced at $810,200. In 1994, he designed the Grande Sonnerie Retro, the world's most complicated wristwatch, and priced at approximately $2 million. For private requests, Genta hand-designed the movements, dials and cases of his timepieces and employed limited or no external assistance, outsourcing or mechanization during the process; it was not unusual for a single watch to take up to 5 years to complete.
Gerald Genta's clients for both collaborative and brand name watches have included various professional athletes, business executives, rock musicians, rappers, movie stars, politicians and world royalty, including Prince Rainier of Monacco, King Hassan II of Morroco, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother of England.
After his eponymous company was acquired by Bulgari in 1999, Genta resigned and created a new venture called Gerald Charles. As of 2010, the Gerald Genta watches will now only exist under the Bulgari label. As Bulgari had been acquired by upscale French conglomerate Louis Vuitton-Moet-Hennessy in 2011, all "Gerald Genta" brand watches would in effect be products of the LVMH portfolio.
In 2011, several online watch blogs reported about the watch he recently designed for the Swedish watch brand Arlanch. Although only presented as a sketch, the watch is planned for production.
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