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Haute Horlogerie Discussion

Discussion area for watches, clocks and all other timekeepers.
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Re: AP Coin Watch

#91

Post by juderiverman » Tue Apr 30, 2019 2:21 am

sistem_32 wrote:I just stumbled across this and thought it was pretty cool. This is a "coin watch" produced in 1941 by Audemars Piguet for Bulgari. It's made from an 1863 100 Franc piece with the obverse face, bearing the image of Napoleon III, concealing the watch.
[img]https://static1.squarespace.com/static/ ... rmat=1500w[/img]
[img]https://static1.squarespace.com/static/ ... rmat=1500w[/img]
I found the watch here (unfortunately it's sold). Apparently coin watches have only been around for the past 100 years or so, and a few of the other big brands have dabbled in them, re this VC. Corum continues the tradition today, but their style is divisive to say the least--I'm afraid I fall on the less fortunate side of the divide.
and just had a full service that cost more than $8,000.

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F. P. Journe Only Watch 2019

#92

Post by sistem_32 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 2:59 pm

Only Watch, the biennial charitable watch auction, is here once more. F. P. Journe produced their exceptional Monopoussoir Rattrapante Bleu pièce unique for the last auction (see page 5). I loved that one so much that I felt it was only fair I write about their offering this year, which they call the "Astronomic Blue." The overall style is quite similar to the Monopoussoir Rattrapante Bleu, with the same bluish tantalum case and bright orange crocodile strap. The battery of complications, however, has expanded greatly.
Image
It's hard to know where to start, so I'll simply go from bottom to top. At the very bottom is a power reserve indicator, flanked by the unusual seconds indicator and a moonphase disk very cleverly integrated into the design. The dial on the right holds two hour hands, allowing the watch to display two time zones. The minute hand corresponding to both hours is in the middle. The watch is also equipped with a minute repeater. The dial on the left displays 24 hour sidereal time. We also see a day/night indicator at the 12, which is one of my favorite features. The width of the indicator window is adjusted via the panels on the sides to account for the variation in the length of each day. Presumably it is fully open on the summer equinox and most closed on the winter equinox.
Image
On the back we see an equation of time indicator, a rather bizarre calendar, the tourbillon, and a remontoir (I wrote about the remontoir on the first page, if you're not familiar).

I must say I prefer the uncluttered aesthetic of the previous watch, but the Astronomic Blue displays enormous technical knowhow and still manages to display it's huge variety of complications in an aesthetically pleasing style. In my opinion it looks much better than, for example, Patek's offering, a stainless version of their "Grandmaster Chime," although admittedly the Patek is even more complicated than this watch! Well done Mr. Journe!

As I wrote this post it occurred to me that I haven't yet treated on the subjects of solar or sidereal time. I shall see to rectifying that oversight.
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Solar and Sidereal Time

#93

Post by sistem_32 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:59 pm

The F. P. Journe in my last post reminded me that I haven't yet discussed equation of time or sidereal time complications. They appear relatively infrequently, and generally only in high-end collector's pieces. I'll tackle equation of time first.

Solar time, that is, time calculated using the position of the Sun, can be told in two ways, "apparent solar time" and "mean solar time." Apparent solar time is calculated by the actual position of the Sun in the sky. This means that the length of each day varies as the Earth travels around the Sun. It is measured from the Sun's zenith, so each day starts at noon. Clocks and watches tell mean solar time, which is calculated using more complicated techniques, but the end result is that the length of each day is more or less constant. It is also shifted 12 hours so that each day starts at midnight.

Because the length of each day is constant in mean solar time but varies in apparent solar time, they don't always agree. Over the summer and winter, as the days grow longer and shorter respectively, the error of each day is compounded, causing the mean solar time to deviate by up to about 16 minutes from apparent solar time. The "equation of time" describes this difference between apparent and mean solar time. As you can see on the F. P. Journe above or more clearly on this Panerai, it's indicated by a scale showing how far apparent solar time is ahead or behind mean solar time.

Image

Instead of the position of the sun, sidereal time is based on the rotation of the Earth as measured by the fixed positions of distant stars. Each sidereal day is about four minutes shorter than a solar day, which compounded over a year means the addition of one extra sidereal day. This is because sidereal time factors in the movement of Earth around the sun as well as its independent rotation. Astronomers use sidereal time in order to pinpoint the locations of celestial bodies, as a certain star will appear in the same location at the same sidereal time each day. Of course, there can be some movement, but this decreases as the distance of the star from Earth increases. An interesting example of a sidereal watch is the first Daniels "Space Traveller."

Image

Mean solar time is displayed on the right and 24 hour sidereal time on the left. This is accomplished by simply using separate parallel gear trains for each side.

Image

The watch is also equipped with a chronograph, which is capable of using either gear train. Daniels claims that this is to allow a space traveler to time his long distance phone calls made from either solar or sidereal telephones.
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Re: Solar and Sidereal Time

#94

Post by Dub Rubb » Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:47 pm


sistem_32 wrote:The F. P. Journe in my last post reminded me that I haven't yet discussed equation of time or sidereal time complications. They appear relatively infrequently, and generally only in high-end collector's pieces. I'll tackle equation of time first.

Solar time, that is, time calculated using the position of the Sun, can be told in two ways, "apparent solar time" and "mean solar time." Apparent solar time is calculated by the actual position of the Sun in the sky. This means that the length of each day varies as the Earth travels around the Sun. It is measured from the Sun's zenith, so each day starts at noon. Clocks and watches tell mean solar time, which is calculated using more complicated techniques, but the end result is that the length of each day is more or less constant. It is also shifted 12 hours so that each day starts at midnight.

Because the length of each day is constant in mean solar time but varies in apparent solar time, they don't always agree. Over the summer and winter, as the days grow longer and shorter respectively, the error of each day is compounded, causing the mean solar time to deviate by up to about 16 minutes from apparent solar time. The "equation of time" describes this difference between apparent and mean solar time. As you can see on the F. P. Journe above or more clearly on this Panerai, it's indicated by a scale showing how far apparent solar time is ahead or behind mean solar time.

Image

Instead of the position of the sun, sidereal time is based on the rotation of the Earth as measured by the fixed positions of distant stars. Each sidereal day is about four minutes shorter than a solar day, which compounded over a year means the addition of one extra sidereal day. This is because sidereal time factors in the movement of Earth around the sun as well as its independent rotation. Astronomers use sidereal time in order to pinpoint the locations of celestial bodies, as a certain star will appear in the same location at the same sidereal time each day. Of course, there can be some movement, but this decreases as the distance of the star from Earth increases. An interesting example of a sidereal watch is the first Daniels "Space Traveller."

Image

Mean solar time is displayed on the right and 24 hour sidereal time on the left. This is accomplished by simply using separate parallel gear trains for each side.

Image

The watch is also equipped with a chronograph, which is capable of using either gear train. Daniels claims that this is to allow a space traveler to time his long distance phone calls made from either solar or sidereal telephones.
Man, I REALLY missed these posts. So fascinating and the movement in that Daniels space traveler is gorgeous! In my free time, I never delve into the depths of horology, so thanks for making it easy for me to find out about all this awesomeness. While almost all are watches I won't be able to afford, I sure do appreciate learning about them!

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Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime

#95

Post by sistem_32 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:23 pm

In the F. P. Journe post above I criticized the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime in comparison to Journe's new Astronomic Blue. I feel, however, that that's slightly unfair without giving the Patek its own write-up, so here it is. Patek released the Grandmaster Chime back in 2014 as their flagship grand complication. In total, the movement has 1366 components and 20 complications. Here's a fascinating video showing some of the production methods and the construction of the watch.
Image
As you can see, the movement is reversible in the case in order for easy viewing of the many displays. It seems to lay a focus on auditory complications, of which there are five ("Grande Sonnerie, Petite Sonnerie, minute repeater....Alarm with time strike. Date repeater.") Those alone are a similar host of complications to the F. P. Journe I wrote about on page four, Journe's most complicated watch. And it still has 15 more complications than that! The movement is truly a sight to behold.
Image
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The drawback to having so many complications, however, is that it makes it nearly impossible to have a symmetrical uncluttered design.
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Look at the chopped 12 and all the silly little indicator windows and the seven pushers and slider and crowns. It's also extremely large, with a diameter of 47.7mm. It just doesn't do anything for me, though I'm sure the designer did the best he possibly could with the limitations.

Patek has produced a pièce unique stainless steel version (salmon dial above) for this year's Only Watch auction. It's estimate to sell for between $2,000,000 and $2,500,000, which I think is strangely high. For example, the estimate for the totally unique "prototype" F. P. Journe above (which I think looks better than the Patek anyway) is a measly $300,000 to $600,000. I can't help but wonder if Patek's pedigree has something to do with the evidently greater excitement toward it. We'll just have to wait and see what they actually go for--the auction takes place in November.
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Moritz Grossmann Hamatic

#96

Post by sistem_32 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:35 pm

Moritz Grossmann has recently released their new "Hamatic" watch, their first automatic, which uses a hammer system instead of the traditional rotor. It's slightly hard to see how it works at first glance--here's an interesting video report with some footage of it swinging.
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The idea of a hammer system hearkens back to the very first automatic winding system, designed by Abraham-Louis Breguet around 1780. The general idea looks quite similar, although MG have opted to move the mass of the hammer to the very bottom of the movement, trading space for an overall thinner design.
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I like the idea of paying tribute to past technology, but I doubt whether the hammer system offers any practical benefit over a rotor. MG seem to think it'll be popular though, as they haven't Hamatic isn't a strictly limited edition. Another interesting feature is its extremely thin hands. Apparently they measure only 0.1mm across.
Image
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Re: Moritz Grossmann Hamatic

#97

Post by TheJohnP » Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:46 pm

sistem_32 wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:35 pm
Another interesting feature is its extremely thin hands. Apparently they measure only 0.1mm across.
Image

But do them hands got lume?!?!

I kid.
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Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication

#98

Post by sistem_32 » Fri Jul 12, 2019 5:21 pm

In 1933 banker Henry Graves Jr. went to Patek Philippe and commissioned the most complicated watch ever built. The previous record holder, also a Patek, was owned by James Packard. Apparently Graves was quite determined to outdo him, as he spent the equivalent of about $200,000 in modern currency on the custom designed Supercomplication. It took Patek about eight years in total to complete the piece, which has a total of 24 complications.
Image
All those complications take up a good deal of space; the watch measures 74mm in diameter and 36mm thick. Here it is next to a regular wristwatch:
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Despite being about the least practical watch I've ever seen, I like the fact that Patek took all the space they needed to create a pleasing design. In my opinion the Supercomplication looks a lot better than, for example, the Grandmaster Chime I wrote about above. The good looks extend to the movement, although unfortunately there aren't many pictures of it. This is the under-dial view on the star chart side.
Image
Since 1933 the title of "most complicated watch" has been passed around to various watches, but it currently rests with the Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260, which has 57 complications. Here's a video report on it if you're interested. The Henry Graves Supercomplication retains one title though: having sold at Sotheby's for close to $24,000,000 it is the most valuable watch to have ever sold.

For the morbidly curious, here's a complete list of its complications (from Wikipedia):

Hours, minutes and seconds of sidereal time (3 functions)
Time of sunset and sunrise (2 functions)
Equation of time
Perpetual calendar
Days of the month
Days of the week
Months
Star chart
Age and phases of the moon
Chronograph
Split seconds
30-minute recorder
12-hour recorder
"Grande sonnerie" (Westminster chimes)
"Petite sonnerie"
Minute repeater
Alarm
Going train up/down indication
Striking train up/down indication
Twin barrel differential winding
Three-way setting system (whatever that means)
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Daniels Grand Complication

#99

Post by sistem_32 » Sat Jul 13, 2019 3:31 pm

As we're on the subject of grand complications, I figured I should discuss perhaps the greatest one of the past few centuries, the Daniels Grand Complication. Completed in 1987 it was the second to last pocket watch Daniels made, and served as his personal watch until his death in 2011.
Image
On the front dial the watch displays hours minutes and seconds; day, date, month, and leap year, all of which change instantaneously at midnight; moonphase; and, unusually, a thermometer. This works in the style of Breguet thermometers, with a bimetallic spiral which expands and contracts to move the hand.
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On the back the watch displays equation of time, power reserve, and an annual calendar. You can also see the gongs and hammers of the minute repeater and the 60 second tourbillon. The watch is fitted with a Daniels slim co-axial escapement.
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Every component, of course, is manufactured by hand in Daniels's Isle of Man workshop. Here's a closer view of the engine-turned dial:
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Truly a masterpiece of engineering, workmanship, and design. I highly (highly!) recommend you watch this lecture given at the Horological Society of New York in which Daniels discusses the evolution of the coaxial escapement. He discusses the Grand Complication specifically at about 1:14:00.
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Re: Daniels Grand Complication

#100

Post by Dub Rubb » Sat Jul 13, 2019 4:48 pm

sistem_32 wrote:As we're on the subject of grand complications, I figured I should discuss perhaps the greatest one of the past few centuries, the Daniels Grand Complication. Completed in 1987 it was the second to last pocket watch Daniels made, and served as his personal watch until his death in 2011.
Image
On the front dial the watch displays hours minutes and seconds; day, date, month, and leap year, all of which change instantaneously at midnight; moonphase; and, unusually, a thermometer. This works in the style of Breguet thermometers, with a bimetallic spiral which expands and contracts to move the hand.
Image
On the back the watch displays equation of time, power reserve, and an annual calendar. You can also see the gongs and hammers of the minute repeater and the 60 second tourbillon. The watch is fitted with a Daniels slim co-axial escapement.
Image
Every component, of course, is manufactured by hand in Daniels's Isle of Man workshop. Here's a closer view of the engine-turned dial:
Image
Truly a masterpiece of engineering, workmanship, and design. I highly (highly!) recommend you watch this lecture given at the Horological Society of New York in which Daniels discusses the evolution of the coaxial escapement. He discusses the Grand Complication specifically at about 1:14:00.
That is truly amazing! Such a work of art, thanks for sharing. I would have never known about this otherwise.

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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#101

Post by Split-Time » Sat Jul 13, 2019 10:15 pm

I second what Dub said. The Daniel's is a masterpiece of art and engineering.
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Bovet Récital 18 "The Shooting Star"

#102

Post by sistem_32 » Sat Jul 13, 2019 11:45 pm

Bovet is a rather strange brand. Its history goes back to the very beginning of the nineteenth century with the Bovet family of Fleurier. In 1835, after several successful decades of watchmaking, Henri-François Dubois-Bovet acquired the Château de Môtiers, a veritable castle situated on a hill above Val-de-Travers. After passing to the canton of Neuchâtel in 1957, it was acquired by Pascal Raffy in 2006, who in 2001 had become owner of Bovet. This marked the beginning of the reinvention of the brand, complete with a partnership with Pininfarina. In 2016 Bovet launched their Récital 18, "The Shooting Star."

Image

As you can see, it is an utterly unique watch. It displays jumping hours and retrograde minutes, a second time zone, phase of the moon, and power reserve (which lasts for five days on a fully charge). At the six is a tourbillon, carrying a lever escapement, which (supposedly) tells seconds. This is a good place to point out that Bovet is one of very few brands capable of making their own hairsprings. This is an incredibly impressive technical achievement. Here's a very interesting video report if you're interested. All of the watch's complications are presented in a strangely sloped case. Mr. Raffy compares its shape to that of an antique writing desk.

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The back of the movement is perhaps just as spectacular: it's graced with a beautifully hand-engraved depiction of the night sky.

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The design of the Récital 18 is a bit brash for my taste, but it's certainly much better than the likes of Jacob & Co. (see page three). Here is Mr. Raffy's very eloquent description of the design ideology, along with a lot of great footage of the watch. Since 2016 Récital 18 has been succeeded by several other Récital models, most notably the Récital 20 "Astérium" and the Récital 22 "Grande Récital," which won the Aiguille d’Or at the 2018 Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève.
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Daniels Space Traveller's Watches

#103

Post by sistem_32 » Mon Jul 15, 2019 11:45 pm

I touched on one of the Daniels Space Traveller in a post above, but I'd like to give them a more detailed look. I'm a great admirer of Dr. Daniels. He was beyond a doubt the most important watchmaker of the twentieth century, principally for the invention of the co-axial escapement, but also for his exceptional mastery of all the skills necessary to make a watch by hand. It's very worthwhile when judging a watch to keep in mind his famous mantra: "A watch should have historic, intellectual, technical, aesthetic, amusing and useful qualities." The Space Traveller's watches display many if not all of those qualities.

There are two Space Traveller's watches. They follow the same overall design, although the second is equipped with a chronograph (I'll address that when we get there). The first was completed in 1982.
George-Daniels-Space-Traveller-I-c-Sothebys.jpg
The watch is composed of two parallel gear trains, the one on the right telling mean solar time and the one on the left telling sidereal time (see this post). The watch is regulated by an early Daniels low-friction escapement based roughly on the idea of the detent escapement.

Image

The advantage to the detent escapement is that it operates with very little friction, making it very accurate. Its disadvantage is that it only imparts an impulse to the escape wheel on every other vibration--it "ticks" but doesn't "tock." If the watch is moved abruptly during the dead vibration it might stop and be unable to self-start. The Daniels low-friction escapement circumvents this problem by effectively putting two detent escapements side by side, so that in the dead vibration of one the balance wheel still receives an impulse from the other. It's an extremely accurate escapement, possible of achieving a variation of less than a second per month. It's particularly elegant in the Space Traveller as there is one escape wheel for each gear train.

Image

The movement as a whole produces a very pleasing symmetry. Aside from mean solar and sidereal time the watch also displays equation of time, phase of the moon, day of the month, and an annual calendar. As you can see, all the complications are adjusted by key, as at the time Daniels considered that arrangement more elegant. He later adopted the conventional keyless works.

One of my favorite features of the Space Traveller watches, and as far as I know a feature unique to them, is the very clever integration of the date and annual calendar wheels into the dial's chapter rings.

Image

The second Space Traveller's watch is equipped with a chronograph which can be engaged on either the solar or the sidereal train. Daniels's explanation for this feature is that it allows a hypothetical space traveler to time his expensive long-distance phone calls made from both solar and sidereal telephones. Very economical. Aside from that it shares all the features from the first watch.

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I believe that the Space Traveller's watches rank with the most historically important watches of the past. They have already soared in value, with the first watch selling recently for $4.6 million. I expect not long from now one or both of them will wind up enshrined in horological museums.
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The co-axial escapement

#104

Post by sistem_32 » Tue Jul 16, 2019 5:14 pm

As we're on the subject of George Daniels I feel I must discuss his greatest contribution to horology, the co-axial escapement. Before we can discuss any sort of escapement we must define the essential requirements for a good escapement. Daniels has done so himself, so I'll simply quote him:
1: Impulse to the oscillator at both vibrations of each oscillation.
2: Impulse delivered tangentially with minimum friction.
3: After impulse the oscillator to be free to complete the vibration without further contact with the escapement.
4: The oscillator to be self-starting while winding the mainspring from the run-down condition.
5: The oscillator to restart after being accidentally stopped.
With that out of the way, we are free to discuss what the co-axial had to beat, the lever escapement. The lever escapement was invented by the Englishman Thomas Mudge in 1755 and has been the standard since about 1900. It's a very good escapement, satisfying requirements 1, 3, 4, and 5. It does not, however, satisfy requirement 2. It impulses the balance wheel through a sliding action between the pallets of the lever and the teeth of the escape wheel, introducing a relatively large amount of friction. Here's a good illustration of the mechanism (with the lever labeled as the "fork").

Image

The upshot of this friction is that the lever escapement requires lubrication, and lubricant is the enemy of precision timekeeping. This is because, over time, lubricants break down, changing their properties. Much time and many resources have been expended trying to find a lubricant that doesn't suffer from this problem, but so far with no significant success.

Daniels, therefore, set out to devise an escapement that doesn't require lubrication of any kind. This means eliminating friction. His first attempt at such an escapement was the low-friction escapement used in the Space Traveller's watches above. As I mentioned in that post, this proved to be an extremely accurate escapement. After a month of daily use one of the watches proved to be less than a second slow. That's more accurate than a quartz watch!

This first low-friction escapement, however, was too fiddly for any large-scale production, so Daniels went back to the drawing board and in 1976 invented the co-axial escapement.

Image

I'll quote Daniels's description of its action: "For each oscillation, one impulse is delivered directly to a pallet on the balance roller while the other is delivered to the balance via the lever fork and unlocking pin of the balance roller." The balance roller is the cylindrical piece to the right of the image, and is connected directly to the balance wheel.

The impulses are delivered with very little friction, and so don't require lubrication. The escapement can also be made to fit in the same space as the lever escapement, allowing almost any modern watch to be fitted with one without any redesign of the movement. Daniels's goal was to get a brand to adopt the co-axial for commercial production, and after being rejected by Patek Philippe and Rolex in strong cases of not-invented-here-syndrome, Omega adopted it and released it commercially at the 1999 Baselworld fair in the form of this watch.

Image
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Gérald Genta

#105

Post by sistem_32 » Wed Jul 24, 2019 9:36 pm

One isn't worthy of the title of WIS without being familiar with Gérald Genta. Born in 1931, he was one of the most important watch designers of the twentieth century. His first big hit was the Universal Genève Polerouter, produced in commemoration of Scandinavian Airline Systems's direct flights from America to Europe, which passed over the pole.

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The Polerouter is undoubtedly UG's most important watch, but overall I think UG is a very underrated brand. Take, for instance, the Tri-Compax, an exceptional piece of design. More important to the context of this write-up, however, is the fact that UG gave Genta his first leg up. He went on to work with many of the more prestigious brands, most significantly producing the Patek Phillipe Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.

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In addition to these particularly iconic pieces he also designed for the likes of Omega and IWC. In 1969, however, he founded his own brand and began to produce much more exotic pieces. Unfortunately, there aren't many good pictures of these later pieces, but I found the best I could. He seems to have particularly enjoyed the use of retrograde features and digital hours.

Image

I particularly like this "Arena Dual Time Perpetual Calendar." It might be a bit busy, but I think it displays very cohesive and intelligent design.
Genta.PNG
Eventually Genta's brand was acquired by Bulgari, for whom he had previously designed the expressively named "Bvlgari-Bvlgari." The design for Bulgari's Octo Finissimo line of watches, which I wrote about here, was taken from Genta's brand.

Interestingly, despite his many important contributions to the world of horology, Genta didn't completely enjoy designing for watches, complaining that it imposed too many restraints. In his later life he turned to painting.

Image
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