This might be the third time recently that we’ve penned a piece involving the horological maestro that is Gerald Genta. His shadow looms large over watch design, not just in some of the most iconic timepieces ever built, but in the current zeitgeist for sports luxe timepieces with an industrial twang. His name is inescapable. Except, of course, in his very own brand.
Founded in 2000, Gerald Charles have the distinction of being the label created under the auspices of the Maestro himself, despite dropping his second name. In large part, that was likely due to other brands leveraging his name, but it wasn’t just that. Gerald Charles was a chance for Genta to do something different. That something different was the eponymous Maestro collection.
Maestro is more than just a model name; it was what Genta’s friends and colleagues called him, a nickname and an honour. That alone shows just how important the new collection was to the legendary iconoclast – as does the unique case shape.
Curved, multi-levelled, bold and, in some ways, downright strange, the Maestro is defined by its silhouette. Yet while it might appear a touch outlandish at first, its aesthetics are firmly rooted in history. Specifically, a 17th century monument in Rome, designed by Italian architect Francesco Borromini. It’s a similar kind of inspiration that other watchmakers have drawn from over the years, whether that’s leveraging the golden ratio of Grecian columns, or the Art Deco looks of the Chrysler building. What really sets the Maestro apart however is the ‘smile’ at six o’clock, a quirky little touch that makes the Maestro unique. It’s more than just a quirk though; it’s a reflection of that building’s concave façade.
Sketching something like that though is one thing; building it is something entirely different. For a movement, that’s nothing, but for a case that’s a lifetime. It had to be slim and elegant, but also sporty and practical. It had to be everything to everyone. It’s a case designed by an obsessive attention to detail, and achieving a working prototype took a solid two years of development.
How successfully Gerald Charles met that brief is open to debate. While the Maestro is a lot more versatile than you might think, adaptable to both ends of the wearable spectrum. We recently reviewed the GC Sport for example, with its clay court dial, which stands as a stark counterpoint to the haute horology skeleton version. But no matter how it’s executed, the Maestro still has one of the most instantly-recognisable silhouettes in the watch world, which is always divisive.
But then Genta’s designs have always been divisive. The Royal Oak shattered preconceptions of how to style a watch, after all. And if it’s not for everyone, that’s exactly in line with the Maestro himself, who once said of his label, “we want to be a niche company producing a limited number of watches in an artisan way.”
There’s no shadow of a doubt that that’s exactly what Gerald Charles is continuing to do.
More details at Gerald Charles.