Watches & Wonders: Bulgari Pays Tribute to Gérald Genta With A New 50th Anniversary Watch
A conversation with Fabrizio Buonamassa, Bulgari’s Director of Watch Design, about the new platinum timepiece and Genta's watchmaking heritage.
With the 50th Anniversary Gérald Genta watch, Bulgari is paying tribute to one of the pioneers in watch design. Initially trained as an industrial designer, Fabrizio Buonamassa is the creative director of Bulgari’s watch division. Here’s what he had to say about the new timepiece.
True to the Original
Hyla Bauer (HB): Bulgari is celebrating 50 years of Gérald Genta’s design legacy. What was your design approach for the watch?
Fabrizio Buonamassa (FB): "It's not an easy topic. When we decided to make a new Arena watch, I immediately said 'I don't need to make a new watch, the Arena is very well done in terms of proportions and details. I don't need to put my signature [on it] just to say that I am the new designer of the Gérald Genta watch. I am an industrial designer, so for me, the shape [of the watch] and the functionality are the two most important things."
HB: It's a very handsome watch. What is new about the 50th Anniversary piece?
FB: “We just adjusted the proportions because we're using a new movement in the watch, it's our in-house base caliber bi-retrograde. The first Arena watch was a 36mm size. After that came a 38mm version, and after that a 45mm size. The Anniversary watch measures 41mm across. We redesigned the lugs and the case because the proportions are different. I did not need to reinvent the wheel, the watch was very well designed in the late 90's. I tried to have the same approach for the design. “
If It’s Not Broken, Don’t Try to Fix It
HB: It's wonderful that you chose to stay so close to the watch's original form.
FB: “A lot of designers and architects feel the need to change something that's already well done. I think 99% of the time, you can make a mistake [with a new design]. You don't need to re-design something that's already beautiful. A designer is not someone who just makes the sketches, they don't work alone, they work with a team. You can make the most amazing sketches in the world, but if you do not have someone who will put their trust in you, and a team that can work with you to make the watch, then you just have a sketch. A designer is not a one-man show. “
HB: What is your impression of Gérald Genta as a revolutionary figure in watch design?
FB: "I never met Genta. I have heard a lot of discussions about him. I discovered him over time. He was a designer with a very artistic approach. We have all the archives of Gérald Genta in Neuchatel. In the archives, I see two sides of Genta's work: the watches he designed for brands including Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Cartier, and Omega, and the watches he made for his own brand. For sure, he made many innovations. He was in the right place at the right time. He had the opportunity to work with amazing brands."
HB: In your opinion, what was Genta's biggest contribution to modern watchmaking?
FB: “Genta invented an entirely new category of watches - the sport chic watch. It was the first time that you could buy a steel watch for the price of gold (laughs). For me, the most important element in terms of aesthetics was the link between the bracelet and the case. Before him, you had round watches with very thin lugs, and the bracelet was attached to the lugs. The integration of the bracelet and the case was magnificent. To me, that is more important than the octagonal shape. That for me was the most important thing.”
A Piece of History
The platinum watch features a rich blue enameled dial bearing the original Gérald Genta GG logo. Genta's inventive approach to reading the time is in full force with the watch's bi-retrograde minutes and date, as well as a jumping hour indication. The watch's automatic BVL300 movement with a power reserve of 42 hours is on full display through the sapphire crystal caseback. The rotor is stamped with the GG logo and the movement has a total of 23 jewels.
Demystifying the Myth
HB: How did you feel about recreating Genta's masterpiece?
FB: “It was a great opportunity to create this watch. I was not scared, it was not a matter of ego - I don’t need to make my interpretation of the Arena. For sure, it’s a responsibility, because I have to pay tribute to the myth of Gérald Genta. I thank you can’t have a myth, sometimes you have a person who has a clever idea, it’s a human who can make beautiful things with a team behind him. I think it’s a perfect watch. It’s a watch I love to wear, that’s it.”
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)