Editor-in-Chief, Scarlett Baker divulges into her latest horological crush, the Gerald Genta Arena Retrograde launched last year year, uncovering the story behind the nostalgic timepiece.
I’m about to send shockwaves through the community of Disney disciples, but as controversial as it may seem, I’m not the biggest Disney fan. That’s not to say I’m not well versed in the parlance of Walt’s greatest characters, and I’ve done my time at the Magic Kingdom in Florida eating Mickey Mouse shaped biscuits and riding the teapots with Chip and Mrs. Potts. I’m not adverse to the fantasy and educational underpinnings Disney films provide children with from a young age – in fact, I’m more of a Pixar girl at heart, never quite satisfied with the appearance of my own Ratatouille that looks world’s apart from Remy’s – but I was always far more fascinated by the camaraderie of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple being played in the other room.
Which is why I surprise myself, that almost six months on from Geneva Watch Days, I’m still thinking about a particular Disney watch, with Mickey Mouse’s face on it. To be exact, the Gerald Genta Arena Retrograde. If there’s anything you’re going to learn from picking up the book of ‘Horology for Dummies,’ is that Gerald Genta is the household name. Akin to the Cristobal Balenciaga of fashion or the René Magritte of art, the design engineer conjured some of the most eponymous timepieces into existence from the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, to the Patek Philippe Nautilus.
What makes the story behind Gerald Genta’s magnetism even more exciting is the spontaneous foray into adorning his own watches in 1980s with Disney characters, at this point working independently and developing his own brand. From Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and other Disney heroes in playful poses, Genta usedtheir arms (and other objects held in their hands) as hour and minute hands to keep track of the time.
As spearheading as sliced bread, a turning point in the history of horology came about when Genta launched the first Arena watch, the first retrograde watch showcasing jumping hours. To translate: the hands that indicate the hour do not sweep in a clockwise direction from hour to hour, rather, the hand points at the present hour and jumps to the next one when the 60th minute of the current hour is over. You’ll have to see it to believe it.
After viewing the miniaturist spectacle of putting together a watch that makes time move in a complete circle, I was baffled and frankly mesmerized to the point of treating the watch as a toy, flicking between the hours like a child introduced to chocolate for the first time. But it wasn’t until I was scrolling through Instagram in the early hours of the morning after promising myself to be in bed by 9pm (!) that I was reminded of the horological fantasia. We all have our Instagram paramours, whether we like to admit it or not, and mine, simply down to the eclecticism of her wardrobe and her rejuvenating approach to, dare I say it ‘influencing,’ is Blanca Míro. Obsessed. So when my 3am hawk eyes came out to play, analyzing every inch of her outfit, I clocked a Mickey Mouse inspired Rolex Precision Oyster Date circa 1971 and it took me right back to holding Mickey in the palm of my own hands back in Geneva.
Somewhere between sitting in a plushy hotel by Lake Geneva and sipping Champagne at 10am dare I say, handling the iterations of Genta’s earlier Disney models, from Donald Duck to Goofy, I felt the bond between a watch that speaks to its wearers in a ubiquitous way, sharing not only the universality of time, but a franchise that has informed so many childhoods and upbringings.
The hardest pill to swallow is that before it even came out into the ether, the $16,500 icon had already sold out of its 150 pieces under Bulgari, which acquired the Gerald Genta watch brand in 2000. As a visionary watchmaker and designer, Gerald Genta left behind a legacy of iconic designs, not only for himself but for so many brands, including their design and their techniques. But for the most part, Genta saw a way of uniting the lost children within us that grow up and become silent figments of our memories. To me, this watch is a reminder of harnessing the sense of aimless freedom of infancy, a reminder to persevere in order to diversify the rigidity of what remains orthodox, and to quote Walt Disney himself, a reminder that “it’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” To make time tick the other way.