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IWC Schaffhausen

The Journal

GÉRALD GENTA AND IWC - MEMORIES (PART I)

GÉRALD GENTA AND IWC - MEMORIES (PART I)
Read Time: 4 min

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IN A RARE INTERVIEW, GÉRALD GENTA’S WIFE AND BUSINESS PARTNER, EVELYNE GENTA, OPENS UP ABOUT WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO WORK WITH ONE OF THE GREATEST WATCH DESIGNERS OF ALL TIME

Evelyne Genta, long-time spouse and business partner of Gérald Genta, remembers the work, creativity and passion of the most legendary watch designers of all time. She also reveals what the recent discovery of the original Ingenieur SL drawing means to her and how she preserves her husband’s legacy with the Gérald Genta Heritage Association.

 

 

WORKING WITH GÉRALD GENTA

WHAT DID YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH GÉRALD GENTA SO CLOSELY?

For us, working so close together is also what made for a fantastic marriage. When I look back at our life together, it really was a big adventure. We would go to the factory in the morning, work together, have lunch together, and go home together. It was actually quite fortunate that we got along so well! 

 

 

YOU ALWAYS AGREED WITH EACH OTHER?

If we had disagreements, they were only ever related to work. Gérald was a genius, a wonderful man, but not of the easiest temperament. I was more down to earth. His genius was creating and making sure that the manufacturing corresponded exactly to his vision – and I was doing all the rest. I would never argue about a model he was designing, but sometimes, he had such strong feelings for pieces that he was not very keen on selling them. That’s when I would step in because I had to run the factory and pay the bills as well as the salaries.

 

 

DID YOU HAVE TO PULL HIM BACK DOWN TO EARTH SOMETIMES?

Never. We were both pretty mad back then: we took every risk under the sun! Many people are not aware that Gérald also designed automata and larger clocks. We didn’t even have orders for these pieces, but he would create them anyway because he believed in them. Some of them took over four years to make. We had to invest so much money, the risk was huge.

 

 

I NEVER HEARD ABOUT GÉRALD GENTA DESIGNING AUTOMATA!

This is a fascinating chapter of his career. He once made a clock with a large circus wheel, and there was a little clown or columbine in each wheel. When you started the automaton, all these little characters would move to beautiful music. This is a side of his work that many people do not even know about. These extraordinary pieces are with different clients all over the world today. Sometimes I just wish they were in a museum for people to see and appreciate them.

 

 

Evelyne and Gérald Genta

— Evelyne and Gérald Genta

Throughout his career, I never saw Gérald do anything he did not fully believe in.
Legendary watch designer Gérald Genta (1931-2011)

— Legendary watch designer Gérald Genta (1931-2011)

 

 

CREATIVE. INSPIRED. WITH INTEGRITY.

WHEN AND WHERE DID YOU MEET FOR THE FIRST TIME?

We first met in the summer of 1981 at the house of a mutual friend in Monaco. He told me that my watch was shabby, and he contradicted everything I said. I thought he was incredibly rude. I put my watch in my pocket and then completely forgot about it. It then went into the washing machine and came back out in little pieces. So, in the beginning, I was very upset with this guy!

 

 

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE HIS CHARACTER IN THREE WORDS?

Creative. His creativity was nothing short of amazing. Secondly, I would mention his integrity. Throughout his career, I never saw Gérald do anything he did not fully believe in. For example, he never changed a design just to be able to sell it. I would also describe him as inspired. He would get up in the morning and just know what he wanted to design that day. He kept saying that his inspiration came from above, it was incredible.

 

 

AND HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR HUSBAND WOULD HAVE DESCRIBED YOUR CHARACTER?

Probably as a very organised person, which was not always meant as a compliment. Maybe also a bit obsessive. And down to earth. This side of my character maybe had to be developed more in order to balance his own way of being as an artist.

 

 

WHAT DID YOU APPRECIATE MOST ABOUT HIS PERSONALITY?

Gérald was a very loving person. A wonderful man and a loving husband. And then there was his curiosity. Even as he got older and ill, he was still so curious about the world! He would never talk about the old days and how everything used to be better. He would never think about the watches he had already designed. He always looked ahead to the ones he was still going to make. He was so curious about new things – he liked rap music, which to me was insane!

 

 

HE LIKED RAP MUSIC?

Yes, he did. I was stunned by that. Even our daughter could hardly believe it. She was pretty young back then and would say, “Mommy, have you heard what Daddy is listening to?”. I would listen to Tchaikovsky or Beethoven, and he was listening to rap. He would say, “This is genius, you don’t understand!”. After all these years, I still don’t understand!

 

 

Gérald designed everywhere and all the time. When we were on holiday, he would find himself a quiet spot in the restaurant after lunch and start to draw. He wasn’t fussy at all about where or how he worked, he just designed.

 

 

FROM CIRCLE TO FINISHED WATCH

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE GÉRALD’S WAY OF WORKING?

There were different places where he designed, depending on where we stayed at the time. In our house in London, he was always right at the centre of the home in his studio. He liked people to walk by when he was working. He wasn’t reclusive at all.

 

 

WHAT CHARACTERISED HIS DRAWING TECHNIQUE?

The process always started exactly the same way. First, he would use his compasses to draw a circle in the original size of the watch. Then he would draw two lines – one horizontal and one vertical. Finally, Gérald would take very fine pencils and paintbrushes and paint the watch with watercolour, down to the tiniest details. He would always go from a circle with two lines to a finished watch. There was no sketching involved in the process, no intermediary step.

 

 

SO, HE ALWAYS DREW THE WATCHES IN THEIR ACTUAL SIZE?

Yes. Some of the ladies’ watches he designed were incredibly small and detailed. He would wear a watchmaker’s magnifying glass and need a powerful light source. And I never saw him tear anything up. That’s one of the reasons why I think the finished watch was all in his head before he started to draw.

 

 

DID HE HAVE A FAVOURITE PLACE OR TIME TO DRAW?

Gérald designed everywhere and all the time. When we were on holiday, he would find himself a quiet spot in the restaurant after lunch and start to draw. He wasn’t fussy at all about where or how he worked, he just designed.

 

 

WAS HE FAST, OR DID IT TAKE HIM A LOT OF TIME?

He was fast! It was like he had the finished watch in his head already and it just needed to get out on paper. Sometimes he would show me two drawings at the end of the day and ask which one I preferred. If I said, “the right one,” he would say, “because you hate the left one?”. Therefore, I always had to be very diplomatic and careful when giving him my feedback.

 

Stay tuned for part II of the interview with Evelyne Genta.

Gérald Genta doing what he loved most

— Gérald Genta doing what he loved most

IWC Schaffhausen