Nobody can argue the importance of Gerald Genta in the world of wristwatches and specifically the high profile world of collectible steel sports watches. The man whose hand created the designs for the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, amongst many others, is regarded as the savior of many brands and his designs never seem to go out of style. At Bulang and Sons we are passionate about iconic design and love to celebrate the world of collecting. Today we are delighted to introduce to you a client and friend of the brand who loves the designs of Genta and who has a thematic collection based on his work. It’s Conversation Time with MrG.
RP: MrG, please tell us a little about yourself.
MrG: I am a 39 year-old Dutchman born in Maastricht. My first company, which I founded 20 years ago in 1999, is all about my passion for the subject of ‘time’ and practical tools that help people use their time effectively focussing on the most important things in life. We teach busy knowledge workers how to effectively deal with the daily flood of email, appointments, tasks and distractions in modern work environments. My second company is a wholesale and webshop in seasonal products, which I founded in 2012. For those who might wonder; there is no link between the subject of the two companies, other than that I am passionate about entrepreneurship, using my time effectively and creating new successful ventures from the ground up.
RP: How did your interest in watches initially occur?
MrG: As a five year old I had a lot of interest in a small closet in the corner of our living room. Its drawers contained a variety of small belongings from my dad, who passed away when I was six months old. In these drawers were two wristwatches that really caught my attention. One of these watches was a simple stainless steel timepiece and the other one a gold plated Seiko dress watch.
After a lot of whining from my side during the following years I got permission from my mother to wear the stainless steel watch in school when I was about seven years old. Yes, weird sight: a seven year old with an adult watch on his wrist, but I just loved this watch. One day the crystal broke when the watch fell on the ground. Later during my secondary school time I sometimes wore the gold plated Seiko, but I never really felt comfortable with it because of the ‘old gent’ vibe that I believe it gave off.
Of course, growing up as a kid in the in the 80s and early 90s, I had several digital Casio watches, ranging from the basic time-only models, to bulky pieces with a calculator and even a TV remote control! As a kid I was hooked on these ‘electronic tool watches’ and I vividly remember the long hours I spent studying the catalogues of large Dutch postal retailers which had a section with these digital watches.
RP: When did you first begin to be interested in high-end watches?
MrG: During secondary school my interest in watches went a little to the background, only to be fully awakened when I started working in a Grand Cafe in Maastricht during my time at business school. I remember my colleagues in that workplace were talking a lot about Tag Heuer sport watches, Omegas and Rolex Submariners. I loved the stories and the prestige around these watches, but as a student I was not financially able to purchase any expensive timepieces. My desire one of these beautiful time pieces led to
a friend of mine buying me a Tag Heuer replica from his holiday in Spain. The bad quality of this replica quickly showed, because the metal left green marks on my wrist.
Starting my first company right after finishing my business school study, a few years later I was able to purchase my first ‘serious’ watch: a Rolex Submariner 16610 LV. As I preferred something different than the mainstream black bezel submariner, I choose the green 50th anniversary model.
After wearing the sub for a year, I somewhat got trapped in a restless ‘watch identity crisis’. In search for what I really liked I flipped the LV for an IWC Portugieser. That one got flipped for another Portugieser and later that one made room for an IWC Big Pilot. Regretting selling the Sub LV as my first serious watch, a decade later I repurchased the Rolex LV in a Flat Four version.
RP: So we know you are a big Genta collector. When did your passion for these watches begin to emerge?
MrG: Going through this flipping process, recognisable for a lot of collectors, I decided that this was not going to make me happy. From this point on I slowly started finding my focus in collecting. I paused and decided to spend more time researching what pieces really resonated with me. I was grabbed by the history and aesthetics of vintage Rolex sports watches, but I quickly discovered that collecting vintage Rolex is a huge minefield in which a lot of knowledge, experience and caution is required.
This uncomfortable feeling I got while researching the crowded vintage Rolex market, pushed me in the direction of researching other brands with great history. That is when the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak design first got my attention. At first I did not know what to think of it, still having my brain imprinted with vintage Rolex design. But its interesting porthole design grew on me, while reading and talking with other aficionados. In that same time my love for the work of designer Gérald Genta was born. And how cool: this design hero is my namesake who designed his masterpieces in the decade I was born!
Diving deeper into the work that Genta did for AP, Patek and IWC in the seventies, and stimulated by the enthusiasm of watch writers like Robert-Jan Broer from Fratello Watches, the Patek Philippe Nautilus quickly became my favorite time piece.
To be honest, it was definitely not love at first sight. In comparison to the Royal Oak I needed even more time to understand my feelings about the Nautilus’s organic porthole design. Later I learned from fellow collectors that I was not alone in my first-sight-mixed-feelings about Gerald Genta’s seventies designs. Most of them needed quite some time to understand and appreciate these timeless masterpieces that Genta created.
After a period of research and contemplation, my hunt started for a Nautilus 3700 A series. At the time there were quite a few pieces available, but as with all vintage watches, it was hard to find a specimen in the condition that I had my mind set on. After a few months searching I found and bought a 3700 A from its first owner, not far away from where I live across the border in Germany.
RP: Tell us about what you refer to as the ‘Holy Trinity of Gentas’.
MrG: While enjoying the elegance and simplicity of my Nautilus 3700, one evening I came across this short article with a group picture of all famous Genta watches from the seventies. This fueled my dream to add the Royal Oak 5402 A series, the IWC Ingenieur 1832 SL and the Vacheron Constantin 222 to my collection. In the following two years I managed to find beautiful examples of the Royal Oak 5402ST A series and the IWC Ingenieur 1832 SL.
During that time I also learned that there was some confusion about who designed the Vacheron 222, which appeared not to be designed by Gérald Genta but by the young German designer Jörg Hysek. Nonetheless the design of the VC 222 is stunning. As my appreciation for the rare 222 is shared with a lot of fellow collectors, until today I have not been able to add a VC 222 stainless steel jumbo to my watch collection.
Yes, Genta has created way more watch designs in other decades, like the Universal Geneve Polerouter, Bulgari Bulgari and the Omega Constellation; but for me my Genta collection is complete with the trinity of these three important pieces.
RP: I see though that your Rolex collecting wasn’t entirely finished!
MrG: Oh no, not at all! Loving the integrated bracelet designs of the seventies, the Rolex Oysterquartz models got my attention. I did not really want to go down the mainstream Oysterquartz path, but I found out about the rare Rolex Date 1530 with its caliber 1570 movement placed in an Oysterquartz case and bracelet. At the end of my two-year hunt for a nice 1530, fellow collector @donny_bay called me one day with the news he found a pristine condition 1530. I love the champagne dial of this watch and how comfortable and solidly it fits on the wrist.
RP: Do you enjoy wearing all your collection?
MrG: I deeply love the Genta pieces and other steel bracelet sports watches I have collected over the past few years. However, I value keeping them in excellent condition. Even doing my desk work scratches the hell out of the stainless steel bracelets. For that reason, for me these pieces are not suitable for daily wearing and I only wear them on special occasions. For this reason, Patek’s Aquanaut with its rubber strap came on my radar in the past couple of years. It does certainly not have the history and elegance of the original Nautilus, but it is a perfect daily wearer.
As you can tell by now, I adore the simplicity of a classic sports watch without any other complications than a date window. However simplicity in this context does not mean that I prefer to take the ‘simple route’. This also counts for adding a more recent piece like the Aquanaut to my collection. After comparing the different Aquanaut references, the Aquanaut 5165 stood out to me. With its elegant 38 mm – in my opinion – this is just the perfect size Aquanaut. While finding an Aquanaut 5167 40 mm is easy, it was very hard to find the rare Aquanaut 5165 due to that it was only produced in a short period after being discontinued. But hey, the hunt and researching is 50 percent of the fun in watch collecting and I am very lucky to having found a great 5165 after all. (read our recent Aquanaut Spot On here)
RP: Do you have any other collecting foci or ideas about future collecting?
MrG: I feel incredibly fortunate to own these beautiful Genta timepieces, but sadly they spend most of their time in the bank vault. In daily life I prefer wearing the Aquanaut the most because of its practical and comfortable rubber strap. Inspired by the practicality of this strap watch in combination with my growing interest in nostalgic watches from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, currently my focus in watch collecting is set on classic dress watches.
For me the Patek Calatrava ref 96 represents the dress watch in its purest form. While I appreciate small watches, and wearing a small watch can make a big statement, the 31 mm of the ref 96 is a bit too small for my taste. For that reason I am now focussed on the Patek ref 570 and the Patek ref 2526 with the first automatic movement in a Patek, both hard to find. I love the humbleness and history of these classic no-nonsense watches.
On my current path of exploring vintage dress watches, I cannot ignore that my interest for more complicated dress watches of Patek and A. Lange & Söhne is steadily increasing. The craftsmanship that went into these watches is astonishing and inspiring. The only negative for me is that most complicated dress watches wear big with their 40mm cases, but their beauty certainly makes up for that!
RP: Aside from watches, what else interests you?
MrG: Collecting watches represents two simple things for me: enjoying good design and an important physical reminder of being careful about what we spend our time on.
I like to spend my personal time reading, on photography and enjoying simple things in life with my wife and children. Further I am learning to play drums for the past 3 years (which perhaps is another expression of my passion for the subject of ’time’ in a musical context) and occasionally I enjoy interesting cuban cigars and whisky’s in good company of friends and like minded souls!
I always enjoy getting in touch with fellow collectors. In the past year I was not active in posting watch related stuff on social media like Instagram, however I do like to follow interesting collectors on Instagram. I will start posting some nice stuff again in the upcoming weeks.
We hope he does. A gentleman with a real focus on what he loves and an eye for the specific aesthetics of a designer and his influences is what makes MrG the outstanding collector that he is.
Follow MrG on Instagram – @powerofpatek