Vintage & Auctions

BREAKING: The First Gérald Genta Luxury Steel Watch Uncovered! (Spoiler Alert: It’s NOT an Audemars Piguet or Patek Philippe)

History says that Gérald Genta’s first luxury steel sports watch was the Royal Oak – designed in 1970 – but that’s not true.

By Vincent Brasesco

Like many “facts,” it’s only true until proven wrong. And thanks to Sotheby’s, we now know that the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was not Gérald Genta’s first design for a luxury steel watch.

An Icon of Time for IWC

The below drawing, depicting an unrealized vision for an IWC chronograph, has been dated to 1967, a full four years before Genta sketched the now iconic Royal Oak. The sketch has no name, and we do not know much about it.

Here is what we do know about this newly discovered design of horology. The design and dial layout would suggest it was designed around a manually winding chronograph movement, which were, for the most part, phased out after the advent of the automatic chronograph movement in 1969.

Interestingly, IWC employee since 1972 Hannes Pantli was deeply involved in the brand’s chronograph efforts when this unrealized design would have been submittted, but had been completely unaware of this design's existence when asked about it by Dr. Seyffer, the curator of the IWC Museum.

Finally, research from the IWC Museum shows that IWC was looking to add a chronograph model to the catalogue as early as 1967, which was likely the impetus behind Genta’s sketch.

A Glimpse of the Future

While this is the watch that never was, it is clear from Genta’s sketch that future hallmarks of his two great steel icons – the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus – are present.

The bracelet, for instance, feels very Nautilus-esque, while the exposed rivets on the bezel and the tapisserie pattern on the dial bear extreme resemblance to what became the Royal Oak and Royal Oak Chronograph.

Auction Details

As is the sole surviving drawing from IWC’s partnership with Genta, it will be sold by Sotheby’s during its third and final installment of its Gérald Genta: Icon of Time auctions.

The auction will take place in New York beginning on Wednesday, June 8th, until bidding closes two weeks later on Wednesday, June 22nd. Among the lots in the auction are original designs for other icons like the Bulgari Roma, Seiko Credor Locomotive, and his eponymous brand’s famous Disney watches.

For more information about the auction, visit Sotheby’s website.

(Images © Sotheby's)

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