Gerald Charles Introduces the Maestro Anniversary

Sporty elegance revived.

Gerald Genta is enjoying something of a renaissance now, with the frenzied demand for his most famous designs. And now one of his more obscure designs is making a comeback.

One of the most acclaimed and prolific watch designers, Genta’s heyday in the 1970s and 1980s saw him design a host of iconic watches, including the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus. After his eponymous brand was acquired by Bulgari in the year 2000, Genta founded another brand named after his first and middle names – Gerald Charles.

Though Gerald Charles went dormant after Genta’s death in 2011, the brand has been revived on its 20th anniversary by Genta’s former business partner. The inaugural launch is its first stainless steel watch – the Maestro Anniversary, which is distinctive, eccentric, and very much reflective of Genta’s late-career style. And 30% of the proceeds from each Maestro sold will to donated to the COVID-19 fund set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Initial thoughts

I like Genta’s designs, and I like the Maestro. It is a unique case that manages to draw a balance between being sporty and elegant – an endearing trait that I find common amongst Genta’s designs. The new Maestro keeps the dial functional and simple, and adds a pattern rubber strap to the mix, giving it a casual yet distinctive look.

But at over US$9,600, the price is too steep, especially in light of the Soprod-based movement inside. The hefty, 30% donation to the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, however, does mitigate that.

The Maestro

Genta’s designs have always been appealing in their unconventionality, with the watches he penned towards the end of the career being the most unorthodox, including those made by Gerald Charles. The brand was established with the help of his longtime Italian agent, Giampaolo Ziviani, whose grandson Federico is now leading the revival of Gerald Charles.

Designed by Genta in 2006, the Maestro was the signature design of Gerald Charles. With an asymmetrical shape that’s a cross between a square and an octagon, it is multi-faceted and three-dimensional. The case is steel and a large 42 mm in diameter, with an entirely polished finish.

Made of rubber in a first for the Maestro, the strap is moulded with a pyramid motif that evokes the textures of the stacked, pyramidal grand complication watches made by Gerald Genta in the 1990s. It complements with the case well, accentuating the sculptural look of the case.

The dial is plain, with oversized Arabic numerals at the quarters – as well as baton markers and hands that are reminiscent of the hands used on the Royal Oak and Nautilus. Notably, the branding on the dial is relatively discreet, and the large, circular Gerald Charles logo of old is absent.

The Maestro is powered by the cal. GCA131-9391, which is actually a variant of the Soprod A10, a movement that is also found in less expensive watches. Hence, the US$9,630 price tag is too high.

While the production run is small, and the design is unique, the pricing is also perhaps an attempt to capitalise on the popularity of Genta’s 1970s luxury-sports watch designs. However, Genta fans will probably find the Maestro alone worthy of the price of admission, as a one-of-a-kind work of design and not just an automatic watch.

The Soprod A10-based movement

A big date display at six o’clock

The Maestro Anniversary will be limited to only 252 pieces – one for each month since brand’s founding until December 2020. Each watch will be engraved with the unique month-year combination as a serial number.

Key facts and price

Gerald Charles Maestro Anniversary
Ref. GC19-00A

Diameter: 42 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: GCA131-9391
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds and big date
Winding: Self-winding
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 42 hours

Strap: Rubber

Availability: Now at retailers or direct from Gerald Charles
Price: US$9,630

For more information, visit

Correction May 28, 2020: Gerald Charles is led by Federico Ziviani, and not Franco Ziviani as stated in an earlier version of the article.

Addition May 28, 2020: 30% of the proceeds from each watch will be donated to the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

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Industry: The Great Fall in Watch Exports Has Only Just Begun

Down 82% in April alone.

The Swiss watch export figures published yesterday morning by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) speak for themselves – watch exports fell by 82% in April alone, for a cumulative drop of 26% since the start of the year.

The historic, brutal fall is on such a scale that it makes us fear the worst for a year that already looked catastrophic after the first quarter. How can we explain the numbers?

Monthly change in 12-month moving average of Swiss watch exports

The FH announcement noted “the details of this generalised decline are of no particular interest – with the sole exception of China – insofar as it reflects an exceptional blockage rather than a change in demand”, referring to the relatively strong performance of China as it reopens for business.

But that nevertheless must feel like a slap in the face for the watch industry’s sub-contractors – specialists who produce components for building a wristwatch – who are suffering the most from a drop in exports to the tune of 1.8 million watches in April.

April exports by price category. (The price ranges are export prices and need to be multiplied by 2.5 to arrive at retail prices.)

Pandemic accelerating the decline

The COVID-19 pandemic and the total shutdown of economic activity around the world created an unprecedented situation that has caused supply chains and markets come to an abrupt and simultaneous halt.

While Swiss watch brands had got off to a rather good start to the year, the complete stoppage in China just before the Chinese New Year in the second week of February served as a signal of impending disaster. While January had seen a strong increase of almost 10% in watch exports, the number declined 9% in February and then fell 22% in March, heralding more complicated times for the watch industry.

The COVID-19 crisis serves as the starting point for explaining the dramatic numbers, but it is not enough to understand everything about a crisis that heralds the worst year for Swiss watchmaking since the post-war period.

Despite being a conservative estimate on my part, I still put the decline for watch exports in 2020 at -30%, which would bring us to 14 million watches and an aggregate value of CHF15 billion, which corresponds to the value in 2010. With inflation, it is difficult to compare export statistics in terms of value, but the predicted number of watches exported this year will be on par with 1947-1948, which saw 14.5 million watches sold.

Moreover, my prognosis is that 2021 will see a return to growth, but that it will take us 10 years to return to the export volumes of 2019.

Cyclical and structural obstacles

No one could have foreseen such a disaster, where public health management has taken precedence over economic interests in almost every country. But neither should we fall into the trap of trying to explain all the problems of the industry with a dramatic economic element not seen since the 1930s.

No crisis encountered by our industry can compare, not even the Quartz Crisis that lasted almost ten years from 1975 to 1984. It had a devastating effect on the industry – leading to the destruction of more than 56,000 jobs, or some three-quarters of the total, in the space of fifteen years.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on employment will be be less severe than during the Quartz Crisis, because today most manufacturing is carried out by machines, or even robots in some cases. The Swiss watch industry accounted for 59,000 jobs at the end of 2019, and unfortunately by the end of this year we will see 5,000-6,000 of those jobs disappear. The biggest losses will be in the subcontracting space, which is suffering the full force of the dizzying fall in watch volumes – already a fall of 3.1 million units last year and probably double that this year.

The structural disrupters

The structural elements that are disrupting the luxury industry in general are:

  • Smartwatches, of which Apple is the undisputed world leader, selling 14 million units in the first quarter of this year – that will probably be the number of watches sold by the entire Swiss watch industry for 2020.
  • Entry-level fashion brands make life difficult for Swiss-made watches, and one wonders whether being “Swiss made” is still a selection criterion for consumers in this price range.
  • Cultural and generational changes in relation to an object that in absolute terms is has no actual usefulness, making it functionally obsolete.

Bright future for a few

At the risk of repeating myself, the Swiss watch industry is being powered by few brands that have been outperforming for years and will benefit from the difficulties now encountered by most brands.

Note that five companies have 50% of the market, and 28 brands generate 90% of total sales

In addition to the few brands that are among the leading players, a number of niche brands have created strong positions in their respective and specific market segments.

To survive a brand either has to flex its muscles with massive investments in communication – and thus become a major player – or be strong in a niche. But either cases, a long-term vision is needed to remain calm in the storm and sail onwards to calmer waters.


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