Gérald Genta Gentissima Oursin

Stud Muffin: Gérald Genta’s Oursin from the 1990s Makes a Stunning Comeback

Androgynous yet voluptuous, the new Gentissima Oursin from Gérald Genta contrasts color and texture, enticing you to touch its bumpy contours.

By Laurie Kahle

With the unveiling of the avant-garde Gentissima Oursin in the South of France this morning, the La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton team behind the revival of Gérald Genta’s eponymous brand also celebrated the debut of the Gentissima experimental design lab.

Gentissima’s mission is to liberate watchmaking design from conventional restraints in the vein of Genta’s most audacious creations. In addition to pushing the boundaries of design, Gentissima also aims to bring to light some of the most personal and intimate chapters of the Genta story.

For its first project, it revived a 1994 model dubbed the Oursin (French for “sea urchin”).

The Original

Gérald Genta first sketched the Oursin after a family vacation in Corsica. The Swiss artist and master watch designer translated the organic form of a naked sea urchin (the deceased animal’s outer skeleton speckled with tiny bumps where the spines once connected) into a round watch case with deeply convex sides studded with beads.

Genta’s wife Evelyne, who has been deeply involved in the contemporary resurrection of her late husband’s work, was instantly smitten with his first prototypes. A year later, she received a special Oursin, which she claims is her favorite watch to this day.

“The Oursin was among Gérald’s few creations that he was the proudest of; he would have loved those new versions,” she said in the release for the new Oursin. “They are perfect evolutions of Gérald’s original design, retaining yet furthering the Oursin’s inimitable style.”

Rather than copy the 20th-century original, the 21st-century Oursin channels the spirit of the original in a capsule collection of three 36.5mm watches, a versatile size that appeals to both men and women.

Androgynous yet voluptuous, the Gentissima Oursin contrasts color and texture, enticing one to touch its bumpy contours.

Triple Crown

Each of the three new Oursins has a convex titanium case studded with 223 beads in a radially expanding series of halos. Each decorative bead is individually threaded and screwed down, while different materials – white gold, rose gold with diamonds, and yellow gold – impart very distinct personalities to the designs.

A dark, monochromatic Oursin with a guilloché-engraved anthracite dial combines the Grade 5 titanium case with polished, round, white-gold beads (CHF 22,000). This versatile design makes a bold contemporary style statement that can casually complement a pair of jeans or offer an eye-catching accent to a bespoke suit or LBD (or “little black dress” for the terminally uncool among us).

Fitted with an opalescent guilloché-engraved, pink mother-of-pearl dial, the second iteration (CHF 35,000) flirts with the Oursin’s feminine side, blushing as it does with sparkling bezel-set diamonds in rose gold beads paired with a pink calfskin strap. Finally, to cap off this model’s delicate yet strong look, its beaded crown is inset with a glittering diamond.

The third version exudes unabashed punk attitude with yellow-gold spiked beads contrasted against a matte black DLC-coated titanium case and plain black dial punctuated with gold stud hour markers (CHF 25,000). The trio’s outspoken rebel, this model eschews diamonds and guillochage ornamentation for a purist, if not intimidating, take on the form.

Eight is Enough

Genta’s favorite octagon shape is referenced at the center of a faceted, subtly domed crystal. Additionally, the inner edge of the case bezel has been cut in an octagonal shape combined with gently curved sides, echoing Genta’s evolution to more biophilic forms that reflect a human tendency to interact with other natural life forms.

Rounded baton hands are another familiar Genta signature that will surely resonate with enthusiasts.

The Gentissima Oursin is powered by the automatic-winding GG-005 based on the Zenith Elite. This high-performance movement from the Le Locle manufacture has been customized with an octagonal rotor decorated with bas-relief beads sculpted along the periphery of the mass.

Fun Fact: The Elite happens to be the same age as the Oursin, as both were introduced in 1994.

“The Oursin is a fascinating model for a designer, with an almost infinite creative potential,” said Matthieu Hegi, the brand’s watchmaking artistic director, in the press release. “The faceted crystal pays homage to Mr. Genta’s passion for the octagon, which is also hidden in the shape of the case, appearing round at first glance.”

Though it will have a limited lifespan, the Oursin will continue to develop and evolve with inspired interpretations until the next Gentissima project emerges to explore different aspects of the undiscovered Genta.

And with a vast archive of thousands of sketches and concepts, some of which have never seen the light of day, the Gentissima lab has a fertile font upon which to draw inspiration.

For more information, visit the Gérald Genta website.

(Images © Gérald Genta)

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