A Closer Look At The Return Of Mickey Mouse With The Gérald Genta Arena Retrograde
Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me? M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!
In 1984, the legendary watch designer Gérald Genta debuted his eponymous collection at Montres et Bijoux in Geneva. At the time, his use of a cartoon mouse, a pink panther, and a famous sailor-man on the dial caused a furor that ended with Genta getting kicked out of the fair.
And now, today, of all the talked-about timepieces at Geneva Watch Days, the Gérald Genta Arena Retrograde Smiling Disney Mickey Mouse generated the most buzz. And the reaction this time was almost 100 percent positive.
We talked to Antoine Pin, the watch department head at Bulgari (which bought the Genta brand in 2000), about how this timepiece became the mouse that roared in 2021.
The Wonderful World of Disney
As I already mentioned, Walt Disney’s beloved characters have graced Genta-signed watches since the 1980s. Mickey Mouse, of course, is the most famous member of the Disney-verse, so it makes sense is that he’s back in a stainless steel, mono-retrograde watch limited to 150 pieces edition.
Called the Gérald Genta Arena Retro Smiling Disney Mickey Mouse, on paper, it would seem that this watch is meant to appeal to the nostalgic. But, in this case, the “retro” designation refers to the clever retrograde display, not vintage vibes. Nor is the design a recreation of a past Retro Fantasy Mickey. While the character design of the mouse is taken from a mid-1990s model, the case shape is based on the Arena, which Genta used for his Bi-Retro watches.
Genta sold his company to Bulgari in 2000. In 2019, Bulgari released a limited edition Genta 50th Anniversary Bi-Retro in platinum. Then, in 2020, a Bi-Retrograde Sport model, this time made of titanium, was added to the Arena collection. But one of the most interesting things about this relationship is that the watches are not Bulgari branded. You won’t even find them in Bulgari boutiques, only online.
“The revival goes under the Bulgari umbrella,” said Pin. “But the project is separate.”
The reason for this arrangement is that Bulgari wants to acknowledge the singular genius of Genta. “What I like about this project is that we own the brand but not the man,” added Pin. “He was so far ahead of branding, and we need to give tribute to this.”
Ahead of his time in so many ways that even Genta’s designs from the 1970s (Royal Oak, anyone?) still feel fresh today. His influence extends beyond just case shapes. Pin points out how the luxury world has slowly come around to embracing pop culture: “We’re just a few months after AP’s collaboration with Marvel. That is how free his mind was.”
These playful character watches became a signature of the Gérald Genta brand, with vintage models becoming highly collectible.
The team behind the new Gérald Genta Arena Retro Mickey Mouse Disney has also embraced Genta’s curious spirit. This watch is executed in stainless steel. The case measures 41mm x 11.85mm. And while the original Gentas had quartz movements, the modern Retro is powered by the BVL 300 mechanical mono-retrograde movement (although the exact movement number is not yet confirmed). If the BVL 300 is indeed the caliber used, it is a mechanical mono-retrograde movement featuring a 42-hour power reserve, a jumping hour aperture at 5 o’clock, and a retrograde Mickey Mouse minute hand jumping over a 210-degree sector.
And just like Mickey Mouse’s instantly recognizable character design, the silhouette of this Retro is simple, with straight lugs and a round polished bezel. The central caseband features a shiny, fluted finish. The crown is knurled and flanked by elongated crown guards.
The red watch band is personally appealing to me because it reminds me of the strap that came with my first ever Mickey Mouse watch. That strap was made of plastic; this Genta features a much more luxurious textured padded rubber strap with a Gerald Genta folding clasp in polished stainless steel.
There are so many elements of the revived Gérald Genta brand that appeal to different collector cliques. “There are so many requests for this watch,” Pin said. “It exceeded our expectations.”
Pin attributes this interest to the watch being something different. But Bulgari and the Genta team are also cautious about cashing in on its popularity. “We have bigger ambitions for this,” said Pin. “To honor the spirit of Genta and all watchmakers, we want to nourish the brand and each other.”
That means allowing the team to explore their own curiosity. And when asked if other Disney characters would be added to the collection, Pin noted that the company was always communicating with Disney. But he added that Genta’s non-cartoon legacy is also being explored: “We’ll take it step by step.”
The Bulgari Gérald Genta Arena Retrograde Smiling Disney Mickey Mouse will be available in January 2022, limited to 150 pieces, and priced at €16,500.
For more information, visit the Bulgari website.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)