by Tania Heikal Tayara
  • 4 minute read
  • April 29, 2022
Sotheby’s Pairs Gérald Genta Designs With Unique NFTs To Celebrate The Master Watchmaker

This spring, Sotheby’s is paying homage to the world’s most famous watch designer—Gérald Genta. On offer is a stellar mix of watercolour sketches featuring iconic timepieces, previously unseen and specially commissioned designs, and some of his most avant-garde drawings.

Two dedicated ‘Gérald Genta: Icon of Time’ auctions have taken place at Sotheby’s outposts in Geneva and Hong Kong in February and March, respectively, with the third scheduled to be held in New York from 13-27 April. The auctions comprise 100 original drawings, including paintings for the renowned Royal Oak and Nautilus, each matched with a unique NFT.

One of Gérald Genta’s early designs for the Pasha, which was never presented to Cartier for production (Geneva, February 2022)

To make the sales accessible to more people, bidding on the lots started at 100CHF (Dhs392.79) at the Geneva auction, and HKD1,000 (Dhs469.06) at the Hong Kong sale, and will start from $100 (Dhs367.25) at the New York auction. Cryptocurrency is being accepted as a form of payment.

When I had the pleasure of meeting Her Excellency Evelyne Genta, wife and business partner of the late designer, at Sotheby’s Dubai, she told me that the idea of honouring her late husband’s legacy in the watchmaking industry was always on her family’s mind.

The Grande Sonnerie World Time Repetition Montres Tourbillon Minutes (Hong Kong, March 2022)

“Gérald’s contribution to the Swiss watch industry was greater than what he felt he had been recognized for,” she said. “Of course, he was thrilled that he had created iconic models and that the brands were happy with them. Nonetheless, he felt that his contribution went beyond what he had done for each brand, as it had influenced and helped shape the Swiss watch industry,” she added.

“Gérald successively revived the Perpetual Calendar, Minute Repeater, Grande Sonnerie, and Retrograde. Not to mention, the innovative game-changing designs he made for so many brands. I realise that only today have people grasped his achievements, and I think that he would’ve been very pleased with it,” she noted. 10 years after the icon’s passing, his family has decided to open up his personal archive to the public.

“We now see new blood, age groups and clients at auctions, added to the existing customers who want to ride the futuristic wave and refuse to be left behind.”

Frederic Watrelot, Senior Watch Specialist at Sotheby’s Dubai

By collaborating with Sotheby’s, the idea is to ensure that “the Picasso of watches goes digital and viral too.” Being more than a traditional auction house, Sotheby’s offers a fitting platform to celebrate the master watchmaker. “We’re trendsetters in the world of NFTs and we’re setting ourselves up to lead the world of crypto art,” stated Frederic Watrelot, Senior Watch Specialist at Sotheby’s Dubai.

In fact, Sotheby’s inaugurated a full-fledged Metaverse department towards the end of last year. “We now see new blood, age groups and clients at auctions, added to the existing customers who want to ride the futuristic wave and refuse to be left behind,” he said.

H.E. Evelyne finds the Gérald Genta drawings and an NFT sale at Sotheby’s to be the perfect fit. “With this sale, we’re continuing Gérald’s legacy of innovation. He was always at least five or 10 years ahead of his time, working towards unprecedented ideas that radicalised, and sometimes scandalised, the industry, but ultimately transformed it.”

By offering buyers an ownership of these unique designs in both digital and physical form, H.E. Evelyne is adding new value to her husband’s creations. With proof of provenance, authenticity and ownership, and the impossibility to resell the physical painting without its digital counterpart, NFTs offer guaranteed legitimacy of each piece. A portion of the sale proceeds will be allocated to the Gérald Genta Heritage Association, whose mission is to reward the future generation in the watch industry with the launch of the Gérald Genta Prize for Young Talent.

Never seen before, this is the first design that Gérald Genta ever produced for the Royal Oak (Geneva sale, February 2022)

Frederic expressed his contentment regarding the first sale of 31 drawings that took place in Geneva on 24 February. “The results were amazing, and we’re happy to see the positive response from our clients across all continents. We’ve recorded great participation from the Middle East as well.” Sold at CHF564,000 (Dhs2,214,726.62), the star of the Geneva sale was the Royal Oak watercolour. The winning bidders were Audemars Piguet them- selves.

‘Important Watches’, Sotheby’s biannual auction that will be held in Geneva in May this year, will include Gérald Genta’s personal Royal Oak that sets itself apart from all other jumbo models with its yellow gold bezel. The watch is estimated at $300,000-500,000 (AED1,101,750-1,836,250). By coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Royal Oak, this special sale will successfully conclude the tribute to the Picasso of watches and time.

Images Courtesy of Sotheby’s; Prices in Dhs are estimates; Visit and follow @Sothebys on Instagram

Cover Image: From left to right – Gérald Genta’s original 1970 sketch for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the watch that has come to define his legacy, is near identical to the finished product, which debuted in 1972 (Geneva sale, February 2022); Gérald Genta’s original design for the Nautilus, one of his only designs to also show the side profile of the watch (Hong Kong, March 2022); Fantasia, Disney Collection (New York, April 2022)

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