It is a long-awaited moment in the watch collecting world. Two brands from yesteryear that were much coveted by collectors and watch lovers globally are about to be re-imagined and revived this year thanks to the LVMH high watchmaking atelier, La Fabrique du Temps.
First, LVMH announced the revival in 2023 of the once independent brand Daniel Roth. Then it announced the revival of the Gerald Genta brand — both with guidance from La Fabrique Du Temps Louis Vuitton. Since 2014, La Fabrique Du Temps Louis Vuitton has been creating its own movements and innovations exclusively for famed Louis Vuitton (which was originally founded in 1854).
The work done by La Fabrique Du Temps, and particularly by master watchmakers and co-founders of La Fabrique Du Temps, Michel Naval and Enrico Barbasini, has led to Louis Vuitton’s first Tourbillon with Geneva Seal, a world timer that displays 38 zones, minute repeaters and more. These two exceptional watchmakers will oversee the direction for the revival of the Genta and Roth lines.
Gerald Genta Rejuvenation
I was fortunate enough to have met Gerald Genta time and again in my early days of writing about watchmaking and watches. He had a great spirit and a real zest for creativity. Renowned today as one of the finest watch designers of the late 20th century, Genta is known for designing the distinctive Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Patek Philippe Nautilus and Golden Ellipse, the IWC Ingenieur SL Jumbo and more. Genta’s design ethos can be found in the Bulgari Roma, the Universal Geneve Polerouter and the Omega Constellation launched in 1959.
At the time, though, Genta still wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to do more and so he created his own line. I remember sitting with him every year at Baselworld, in a small booth at the base of the escalators, where he would show me his drawings, his paintings and his Gerald Genta watches. He was particularly fond of the jumping hour complication, as well as other high complications. He was like a kid in a candy store when he showed me his Mickey Mouse watches – the most expensive Mickey Mouse watches ever to be made. He used the jump hour mechanism along with a bi-retrograde indication – using Mickey’s hands to indicate the time before they would jump back and start the process anew.
Genta was a master at geometric lines and angles and wowed me with his Gefica – a safari watch made of bronze (yes, that many years ago) so it didn’t gleam too brightly in the sun when on safari. He went on to create his own Grande Sonnerie in 1994 that took five years of R&D and made repeater and perpetual calendar movements for other brands. His insatiable appetite to learn, to create, to build anew was infectious and I never left an appointment with him without feeling happy and inspired.
In 1996, a majority stake in Gerald Genta was bought by Asian watch retailer The Hour Glass. It was then acquired in 2000 by Bulgari. I remember the shift at the Baselworld Fair, Genta and Roth brands were now across the street from the main building in the annex building – being displayed on the floor just beneath the Bulgari jewels and watches. There were high hopes for the brands, but Bulgari had enough to do with its own brand, and so just small editions of the Gerald Genta watches were created intermittently over the years.
Genta died in 2011 and now, in cooperation with his wife Evelyne Genta, Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton plans to restore the Genta brand to the world of high-complication watchmaking. Evelyne has given the master watchmakers access to her husband’s archives with hundreds of designs for inspiration. It will be an interesting journey to see how Gerald Genta brand evolves in the 21st century.
Daniel Roth Rejuvenation
Similarly, the Daniel Roth brand, another important independent from the 20th century, will enjoy rejuvenation, as well. In fact, the master watchmakers at Fabrique de Temps Louis Vuitton say that within the year we will see mechanical ingenuity from the Roth brand. From 1988 to 1994, Daniel Roth created some remarkable watches, including watches with tourbillons, perpetual calendars and hand-wound chronographs – all hand made. He also developed his own “ellipsocurvex” case that became a signature of the brand.
I remember he was one of the first master watchmakers to leave a great full-time job (employed at the time he started his own brand by Audemars Piguet) to go it alone. Roth was obsessed with creating movements that were incomparable and worked along side some of the best, including Philippe Dufour, to develop top complications.
The Daniel Roth brand was purchased in 1994 by the aforementioned The Hour Glass and was subsequently bought by Bulgari in 2000 when the brand bought both Genta and Roth. Here again, with Bulgari clearly focused on creating its own timepieces, Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton is stepping in. The plan is to produce highly exclusive – no more than a few hundred – pieces annually. The first introduction is planned for the second half of this year and will include a 20-piece “souscripton” series.