AN ARTIST WITH A VISION
"As a child, Gérald was doing little portraits, painting scenery, and was constantly trying to find ways to express himself through designs and artistic creation.
He was fascinated by fashion and was even secretly dreaming of becoming a fashion designer one day, though he came from a poor family so he had no choice but work from a very early age.
But he never lost sight of his dreams, and in his head, he just knew that one day the right opportunity would come along."
IN PURSUIT OF THE EXTRAORDINARY
“What really struck me when I first met Mr. Genta in 1979 was his communicative energy and his undeniable creative genius! We were all sharing the same vision and working towards the same goals."
Enrico Barbasini, Head watchmaker at Gérald Genta and co-founder of La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton with Michel Navas.
Former watchmaker of Mr. Genta from 1979 to 1984 and from 1986 to 1991.
"I believe that what Mr. Genta achieved goes far beyond watchmaking. Simply put, he played a crucial role in saving the watchmaking industry at a time when very few were believing in mechanical watches anymore, and even less in complicated watchmaking!"
Michel Navas, Head watchmaker at Gérald Genta and co-founder of La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton with Enrico Barbasini.
Former watchmaker of Mr. Genta from 1987 to 1994.
Learn more about Gérald Genta here
AN ARTIST WITH A VISION
"As a child, Gérald was doing little portraits, painting scenery, and constantly trying to find ways to express himself artistically. He quickly realized that he had a passion for art and decided to focus his career on creative jobs.
He was fascinated by fashion and was even secretly dreaming of becoming a fashion designer one day. He really saw it as a superpower, the power to transform a normal person into a beautiful being, magnifying their personality traits.
Although he came from a poor family and had no choice but work from a very early age, he never lost sight of his dreams. In his head, he just knew that one day the right opportunity would come along.
He then started to learn the jeweler trade and discovered precious metals, fabulous gemstones, and all the materials that would be the basis of his future creations, like the compass and the three-haired brush, for the first-time.
However, Gérald quickly felt unfulfilled in this role.
One day, tired of designing and manufacturing the same bracelets repeatedly, he created a different model. After getting told off by his employer, he got so frustrated that he decided to leave the company immediately, throwing his work tools into the Rhône and swearing he would never have a boss again!
He thought for a while about his early dream of becoming a fashion designer, though he realized quickly that Geneva was not Paris, and his chance of success here in the fashion industry was very little. That’s when he discovered the work of Raymond Loewy, one of the greatest industrial designers of the time, who started by designing trash cans in American train stations while dreaming of designing a whole locomotive – which he ultimately did!
This example of achievement resulting from hard work and dedication resonated with Gérald, who started to wonder what he could use as a medium to express his art.
What about watches!? Geneva was the capital of watchmaking, after all!
That’s how he started designing watches and selling them to various brands, with the success that we know today.
The watches he designed for others were quickly everywhere, but at some point Gérald felt something was still incomplete. And that was precisely the fault of designing for others, Gérald could never really express his own vision fully. That’s why he decided to strike out on his own in 1969 with his namesake brand and presented his first watches in 1973.
He put all his energy into his brand, painting new models at night and working with his watchmakers during the day. Gérald had the deepest respect for watchmakers, without whom his creations would remain on paper. So, he surrounded himself with the best ones, only the ones who would be able to realize his artistic vision into beautifully crafted watches. Reaching an incredible level of high watchmaking complications while keeping its thickness to its minimum and ensuring perfect wearability and style was of utmost importance for Gérald.
The Team of watchmakers, led by Pierre-Michel Golay, did an amazing job. Just look at the number of ultra-thin perpetual calendars and minute repeaters they produced at a time when no one was betting a single penny on traditional watchmaking!
Among them, I still remember Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini, and I am particularly moved to see the brand being revived today under their supervision. Gérald would have been very happy about that."
IN PURSUIT OF THE EXTRAORDINARY
“What really struck me when I first met Mr. Genta in 1979 was his communicative energy and his undeniable creative genius.
He was radiating the energy of those willing to create and make things happen, and that was undeniable!
We were a start-up in the end, in terms of extreme reactivity and a short decision process, all sharing the same vision and working towards the same mission: creating exceptional watches for exceptional clients.
Mr. Genta was very much involved with us in every single step of the creation and manufacturing process to make sure that the watches bearing his name would be as prestigious as their owners.
The whole creation process was actually very different from what Michel and I used to know from our previous experiences. It would always start from a gouache done by The Maestro, mostly at night, and then we would work to realize his artistic vision into a horological creation. The development of the caliber was really driven by the overall design of the watch. And not the other way around.
He was himself a bit of a dandy, so a two-dimension gouache was not sufficient. I remember he was very picky on the thickness of the watch and its overall wearability. A contained thickness was a major challenge for us as we were working on the most complicated watches and were stacking up complications to the movement. But…I believe we did it. Just look at our first ultra-thin Minute Repeater, with a caliber only 2.72mm thick!”
“Taking a step back today, I believe that what Mr. Genta achieved goes far beyond watchmaking.
He took the bold gamble in the 1980s to focus on high watchmaking with strong statement designs, while others were shy and restrained to simple time-only mechanical watches, if not quartz watches.
It's important to remember the watchmaking industry was still recovering from the quartz-crisis and selling several hundreds of perpetual calendars and minute repeaters as we did was no easy feat at that time!
Mr. Genta did it, and by doing so he proved to others that this was feasible. I believe his audacity and artistic approach of watchmaking played a key role in instilling a new interest for clients in traditional watchmaking.
Let's not forget the Grande Sonnerie from 1994, the most complicated wriswatch at the time with more than a thousand components taking 5 years to develop.
He was also one of the very first to understand the importance of exclusive creations for an exclusive clientele!
I remember one day I arrived at the Manufacture and was amazed to see three of the same Ferrari cars in the parking lot, each in a different color. A client had asked Mr. Genta to create three unique dashboard clocks for his cars, in a metal matching the color of each car. Of course, The Maestro did it the Genta way and included an 8-day power reserve perpetual calendar in each of these clocks. High watchmaking in a Ferrari...bold, isn’t it?”