“Gérald Genta was infinitely more than a designer. He was an incredible inventor, a master in watchmaking and jewellery. To put it simply, he was a visionary”
S et apart in the pantheon of great horologists, “the Picasso of watchmaking”, Gérald Genta (1931-2011), was to transform the future of the industry with his visionary designs that continue to set the gold standard today. The first true “watch designer” and acknowledged as the greatest ever in his field, Genta approached his work above all else through the eyes of an artist, spending more than 50 years at the drawing board, producing designs that remain today the biggest bestsellers of watchmaking history.
Best known for introducing the first luxury steel sports watches onto the market with The Royal Oak for Audemars Piguet and The Nautilus for Patek Philippe, Genta’s contribution to the industry goes far beyond this. His innovative watch designs, for both men and women, shaped the future of Swiss watchmaking and continue to influence many fine watchmakers and brands across the world. As well as bringing complicated wristwatches back into fashion, Genta’s genius also spread to the design and manufacture of clocks, pocket watches as well as other fine objects such as belts, sunglasses, glassware, and stationery – in fact, his multifaceted talent was how he earned his nickname of “The Picasso of Watchmaking”. For his exclusive clients, which include the Moroccan King, the Sultans of Oman and of Brunei, the King of Spain, the King of Saudi Arabia, the Queen Mother of England as well as leading businessmen, sportsmen and entertainers, Genta created unique, prestigious and audacious models, some of which took years to emerge.
In keeping with Genta’s trailblazing ethos, each watercolour painting will be paired with a digital replica in the form of an NFT (non-fungible token) that will serve as a certificate of authenticity and, for select designs, will include unseen archival material and biographical multimedia content. The physical artwork will be inextricably linked to its digital counterpart and cannot be resold without the accompanying NFT, with each artwork’s provenance committed to the blockchain. To support this groundbreaking industry standard, Sotheby’s are offering to store the physical artwork without charge to be redeem by the NFT owner within two years of the auction. It’s a radical prospect that would have appealed to the equally radical Genta, celebrated in his time for revolutionising the watch industry with his luxury steel watches and boundary-pushing case designs. Today, Genta enjoys a cult following among young, tech-native watch collectors.
One of Genta’s most famous traits was his natural flair for innovation and constant desire to push boundaries. The great success and continual influence of the bestsellers that he designed can partly be explained by how forward-thinking his designs were. From the very first luxury steel sports watches to his iconic Disney Collection, Gérald Genta was always celebrated for innovative and fresh approach.
“Gérald was always ahead of his time - it seemed only natural to continue his legacy of pushing boundaries in watchmaking, by reviving these revolutionary sketches with today’s most innovative artform: NFTs”
For the very first time, and to mark 10 years since his passing, Gérald Genta’s personal archive is to be opened, with the sale of one hundred original designs at Sotheby’s starting early 2022, the selection encompasses his most iconic timepieces, never-before-seen private commissions and a selection of innovative, forward-thinking, and unique watch designs. Each physical design has been carefully paired with a stunning NFT equivalent. The NFTs will include an artistic digital replica of Genta’s design, with select pieces also including fascinating never-before-seen archive material and multimedia biographical content. Sotheby’s has been at the forefront of bringing some of the most valuable NFTs to market from celebrated digital artists and collectors who are native to the new crypto arts medium. The sale will for the first time leverage the utility of NFTs— the ability to create an irrefutable record of ownership, proof of provenance, and authenticity— to a new category of physical artworks and collectibles. For a designer such as Gérald Genta, this is extremely important given the unparalleled magnitude of his contribution to the watchmaking industry and because many attempts have been made to take ownership of his designs.
A portion of the proceeds from the sales will also benefit the Gérald Genta Heritage Association, and their mission to encourage and reward the next generation in the watch industry, notably with the launch of the first edition of the Gérald Genta Prize for Young Talent.
Stories & Video
Cartier is synonymous with creativity. A Maison that is not simply quick to pick up on the latest trends but one that, quite frankly, leads the pack. This has been true essentially since the company’s conception in the late 19th century and, impressively, in the design of both its jewellery and it watch creations. It comes as little surprise therefore that Genta worked with Cartier to reinterpret one of their most recognisable watches, the Cartier Pasha. The new Pasha made its first debut in 1985. Its design was inspired by a vintage model created by Louis Cartier, specifically for the Pasha of Marrakech El Glaoui. The Gérald Genta touch can be recognized on complicated pieces by the sky and the moon, respectively made in lapis lazuli and gold, as opposed to be simply painted, like it was usually the case with other brands.
Founded in 1875 in the Swiss village of Le Brassus, Audemars Piguet has long been one of the most esteemed watchmakers in the world, priding itself on ancestral expertise and drive for innovation. Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet were respectively fourth and fifth generation watchmakers with successful careers in the industry. When Audemars and Piguet joined forces, the emergence of industrial machinery and serial production had already begun its encroachment upon traditional watchmaking techniques. During these times, the two friends held to hand-crafting complicated mechanisms and established themselves as masters of ultra-complicated pocket watches. It was his work with Audemars Piguet in developing the Royal Oak that, alongside the design of Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, Gerald Genta is best known.