Gérald Genta, designer of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Philippe Nautilus, IWC Ingenieur, Omega Constellation, Cartier Pasha, Bulgari Bulgari, and other icons of the modern era has passed away at age 80. Genta was born to Italian immigrant parents in Geneva in 1931. He launched his career as an independent watch designer in 1961, and in 1968 he designed the Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse.
As Lucien Trueb wrote for WatchTime in December, 2006, “A crowning moment came when Audemars Piguet commissioned him to design a sporty stainless steel wristwatch. Genta met for preliminary negotiations with Paul-Louis Audemars… and his son Jaques-Louis…. The elder Monsieur Audemars died before he could see Genta’s design for the Royal Oak, famously drawn in one overnight session in 1970. Genta presented the sketch to Jaques-Louis who was initially aghast: a sporty watch in a steel case was something entirely new for Audemars Piguet.” Though the design was unprecedented, Audemars went on to sign Genta to an exclusive contract.
Over the years, Genta designed for Omega, Patek Philippe, IWC, Universal Geneve, and many others. In 1969, Genta began manufacturing watches under his own name. He established a developmental atelier in Le Brassus, taking over Lemania’s former factory number two. His prototype for the Nautilus was created in that building, which today houses the Audemars Piguet museum.
Genta is also famous for creating Les Fantaisies, designed for the Sultan of Brunei. Never before had Disney’s Mickey, Minnie and Donald graced the dials of luxury watches.
In 1996 Genta sold his firm and his brand name to Singapore’s Hour Glass Group, and in 2000 Bulgari acquired the Genta brand. In 2001, having sold the rights to the Gérald Genta name, he founded Gérald Charles Design.