5 Watches Designed by Gérald Genta’s Genius

The name Gerald Genta may be little known outside the watch industry, but his creations are certainly recognizable to many. Not only was the Swiss designer responsible for many iconic watch designs than any other man, but his design aesthetics are still being used in watches today.
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Read on about the greatest watch designer of the 20th century, and his creations that have changed horology forever:
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Of Gerald Genta’s creations, it is the Constellation that is most disputed. While he is often credited online by various sources, the patent of the watch is not under his name, just like his other famous creation, the Nautilus. The custom of the time was not to credit a designer but the owner of the watch company.

However, Genta’s wife confirms that her husband designed at least two Constellation models – the Ref. 168.009 C-Shape and the Ref. 168.005, which remains the definitive steel Constellation model.

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pictured: Omega Constellation Rosegold 1958 By Noop1958 (Own work) licensed by CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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In the 1970’s, the Swiss watch industry was having troubled financial conditions due to the booming quartz watch business. Audemars Piguet realized that without a disruptive change, their business was about to collapse. The management, working on feedback from the Italian markets, decided to bring in something totally new – a sporty yet elegant timepiece.

They brought in no less than the most famous and prolific watch designer at that time, who created successful watches for Omega and Patek Philippe (Golden Ellipse). Genta designed the watch in less than 24 hours. It became the first ever steel watch, characterized by a unique octagonal shaped bezel, and was meant to be luxurious as it was robust. The luxury sports watch as we know it today was born.

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According to Gerald Genta’s own account, the Nautilus was designed over dinner, and in only 5 minutes. He was sitting across some Patek executives during a Basel fair in the 1970’s and felt the urge to design something. Knowing that the Stern family, owners of Patek Philippe, were enthusiastic yachtsmen, he designed the Nautilus with a bezel that resembles a porthole.

Following the success of the Royal Oak, Patek Philippe decided that it was time to launch their own sport watch. The Nautilus debuted in 1976, and many of its details are still alive and well in current versions of the watch – including the famous case shape and the dial’s horizontal grooves.

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The IWC Ingenieur has been around since the 1950’s, but it was only in the 1970’s that it gained iconic status, when IWC commissioned Genta to modernize the design of one of their most popular watches.

Launched in 1976, the Ingenieur SL designed by Genta featured some of the codes that were already seen in the Royal Oak, but tailored it to IWC’s demands. It featured a tonneau shape with a round bezel, a guilloche dial, and the addition of five visible screws on the watch’s bezel. The aesthetic changes were impressive, but they kept the main features of the IWC watch: great legibility and a perfect timing capacity.

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Just like the Ingenieur, the Cartier Pasha was not an original creation of Genta’s but his redesign took it into the modern times. The Pasha was first created in the 1930s for the Pasha of Marrakech. The officer wanted a watch that he can wear during his daily swims, but was also sophisticated enough to wear during his stately duties. This request gave birth to Cartier’s first water resistant watch.

Fifty years later, Genta reinvented the watch with the distinctive screw-down crown cap and bold Arabic numerals on its dial. It has since become one of the best-selling models from Cartier.

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Photo of Gerald Genta licensed by CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

 

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