How much is too much Gérald Genta, and can the reputation, prolific productivity and peerless creativity of Switzerland’s most famous watch designer keep delivering commercial success for every watch associated with his name?
In the steel sports watch arena, the combination of Mr Genta’s designs and the power of Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet has created the two most desirable watches in history: the Nautilus and Royal Oak.
IWC is aiming to challenge that duopoly with a brand new Ingeneur collection. The first Ingeneur watches were made in Schaffhausen back in 1955, but Mr Genta was drafted in to redesign it in 1976, and created a look more likely to challenge Patek Philippe and AP’s strength in the luxury sports watch space.
2023 Ingeneurs are stunners, thanks largely to a return to Mr Genta’s design codes. It remains to be seen whether a closer association to the artist’s concept will be enough to tempt customers to pay over £10,000 for the watches.
Bulgari is another brand that has been using Mr Genta’s design archive to make comic character timepieces, a particular favourite of Mr Genta, as a series of Mickey Mouse watches.
Mr Genta launched his own watch brand, Gerald Charles, in 2000, which continues to produce Maestro watches that use a striking ‘Maestro’ case shape for a broad range of products from simple time-only models up to skeletonised tourbillons.
And now the latest chapter in the Gérald Genta story is the acquisition of unused designs from his archive by La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, a stablemate of Bulgari at LVMH.
Louis Vuitton says it will make small quantities of high end complications based on designs by Mr Genta, and with the blessing of his widow, Evelyne Genta.
La Fabrique Du Temps founders Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini have a historic connection to Mr Genta, having worked with him in the 1980s and 1990s overseeing the minute repeater, tourbillon, and high complications workshops.
“This combination of unfettered access to the design archive of one of the great masters of modern watchmaking and the unrivalled expertise of watchmakers who worked closely with him on his most complicated pieces creates a unique opportunity for La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton to take inspiration from the past achievements of the Gérald Genta brand in order to make 21st century timepieces once more worthy of the name,” a statement from Louis Vuitton says.
Louis Vuitton and Daniel Roth
Acquiring the rights to Gérald Genta’s archive is a second coup for Louis Vuitton’s La Fabrique Du Temps this year, having earlier announced it will revive production of Daniel Roth watches.
Established as an eponymous business in 1988, Daniel Roth was a pioneer of independent watchmaking, at a time before the genre was even recognised as historically important.
Prior to founding his own brand, Mr Roth was instrumental in creating the modern-day Breguet marque.
The final and most important project Mr Roth completed at Breguet was the brand’s first-ever tourbillon wristwatch.
So, with elegant historical symmetry, the inaugural creation of his own brand was a tourbillon, the reference 2187/C187 with double faces of 1988.
Perhaps the defining complication in haute horlogerie at the time, the tourbillon was then an exceptionally rare mechanism, especially in wristwatches and by making its debut with a tourbillon, the brand made history.
The first Daniel Roth watch from the la Fabrique Du Temps is a Souscription Tourbillon (pictured above) using an in-house manufacture calibre DR001 by Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini – both master watchmakers who will personally oversee the creation of each Daniel Roth timepiece.
On the movement, Mr Navas explains: “Our vision for Daniel Roth is to respect the brand’s history while also leveraging some of the concepts and savoir faire that Enrico and myself have accumulated in our careers.”
Mr Barbasini adds: “Respecting the origins of the brand and the craftsmanship of its foundational pieces is especially important for us, since we are both long-time friends of Daniel.
“Many of us look up to Daniel as an important figure in the industry who spearheaded contemporary independent watchmaking.”