Timekeepers Club / March 3, 2022

Gerald Genta's Original Design for Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak Sells for $610,586/CHF 564,500 at Sotheby's

On February 24th 2022, the original design for Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak (lot 1) sold for $610,586 / CHF 564,500 at Sotheby’s in London. The hand-painted design, vied for by 30 bidders, led the first in the series of Gérald Genta: Icon of Time auctions which brings to the market 100 original designs from the personal archive of the legendary watch designer. Each paired with unique NFTs, the designs encompass Genta’s most iconic timepieces, never-before-seen private commissions and a selection of innovative, forward-thinking, and unique watch designs.

Set apart in the pantheon of great horologists, “the Picasso of watchmaking”, Gérald Genta (1931-2011), transformed the future of the watch industry with his visionary designs. The first true “watch designer” and acknowledged as the greatest ever in his field, Genta approached his work above all else through the eyes of an artist, spending more than 50 years at the drawing board, producing designs that later became the biggest bestsellers of watchmaking history.

A modern horological icon, The Royal Oak revolutionized the industry as the first luxury sports watch to be made of steel. Designed overnight by Genta, the watch took inspiration from a childhood memory of seeing a man being sealed into an old-fashioned diving suit near the Mont Blanc bridge in Geneva. The revolutionary octagonal-shaped bezel mirrors the shape of a vintage diving helmet, with the eight hexagonal screws securing it to the watch as a helmet would attach to the diving suit. Fifty years on from its creation, the watch is still in production today and classed among the best-sellers of all time.

The sale was further highlighted by the never-before-seen first draft for the prototype of the Royal Oak (lot 2) which realised $163,544 / CHF 151,200. Emerging from the archive for the first time,  the design though appearing quite different to the design the world is familiar with today, still features the landmark octagonal case, suggesting that Genta already had a clear vision of his creation from the very beginning.

The design for a perpetual calendar desk clock (lot 20) originally created for a King in the Middle East, also sparked collectors’ interests, selling for $29,983 / CHF 27,720. Known to be Genta’s favourite, the design with its intricate pattern took him a week to paint.

Gérald Genta stated on different occasions that this very design for the clock was his favourite one. It took him a week to paint it as it was so intricate. When it was revealed to the original purchaser, a King in the Middle East, this one asked that the enamel, originally blue, was made in a beautiful green enamel.

The ‘Gérald Genta: Icon of Time’ auction series continues with sales in Hong Kong (7 – 16 March), led by Genta’s original design for Patek Philippe’s The Nautilusand New York (14 – 27 April) which will feature original designs for the most impressive and valuable Disney watches ever made. The sequence of sales will culminate with the auction of Gérald Genta’s Unique Royal Oak Watch in May 2022, estimated at $300,000-500,000.


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