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GEFICA 2007 revealed, and spoken for...

Mar 08, 2007,08:43 AM - (view entire thread)

In the months that followed my accepting the moderatorship of this forum, for Genta ( and especially for Gerald Roden, no less), I grew to appreciate the often generous definitions of what was beautiful or significant…written by the press and other experts alike.

I wrestled with questions about design and beauty and aesthetics…not the least, significance and most of all..relevance!

When I first saw the Gefica, in the real metal, with the talented design team (who I shall not name because I don’t wish to leave out anyone), I grew to see the watch as a combination of things.

The influences of Giger were very obvious to me. The African touch that was used to reflect nature. All the other “mysteries” that went into making the case and the dial reflect an object that with marketing, was intended to be a descendant of the original Gefica.

Though One can NEVER put the finger on such intangibles, one nevertheless knows they are real! Definitely a part of the mix.

I am a person who has never lost sight of the perspective that watch making is FIRST and ABOVE all an art, at least to my mind.

In fact, at anything above the ability to tell the time, the watch is essentially a redundant tool. However, when looked upon as OTHER THAN a tool, the watch must communicate to me, an essence of human life.

Many people ask me, either on meeting me at events, dinners, over email, ..what are my favorite watches. I must admit it gets to my head, that I do own and have chased down some of the most incredibly human and significant works, such as it is, to my mind.

I have NEVER used residual value, resale value, of which market acceptance being to me the WORST compromise one can make in choosing a watch, vis a vis, a work of art.

I never looked at many designs from certain conservative houses, for which I judged these as irrelevant works, made for the consumer, exploiting the consumer’s need for security in residual values.

This sobering reality, this rediscovery of why I pursued certain watches with a the tenacity of an “Indiana Jones”, lead me to the acquisition of the Freak, the Antiqua, the Urwerk Opus 5, the Max Busser MBF1, and the Volker Vsycocil and many such of their contemporaries…they are rare.

The one thing they have in common is…a lack of general market recognition.

No dealer, no trader, no auction house will give me any quality time or offer for these pieces..they want Pateks!!!

That’s NOT life, that’s commercial force.

Having been a principal player in the customer/opinion sector of the AHCI and the rarer more edgy designs for the last 10 years or so…mine would be considered a successful collection. It certainly has provided me with publicity and an audience..with the industry no less.

Many would feel, if they didn’t know me, that I simply “buy anything wild and wacky”.

Actually, I still watch money, having learned the hard way, and I spend it with a certain care, and a great mindfulness! In fact, I am always worried that I may be judged “unworthy” of what I do, what choices I have made.

Bathed with all that preambling, I have not lost touch with the REASON why I feel that the GEFICA watch is so important.

Looking at a watch, especially at this crucial time of the year, before Basel…I look for different kinds of strength. It has been a critical point of contention with me, as I have said that I am careful with money…and I say this from a point of being the owner of several very expensive pieces, not that I cannot afford them, but that the COST must in some way be justified by the VALUE.

For the GEFICA, it is a tremendous effort to design even in the mind, a watch that is affordable, well “just”…it is not cheap, but certainly well worth the cost.

To make an incredible design with a huge mega budget, that is much less of a challenge than making one that can become a watershed, a landmark, with a small budget.

I note that Genta is NOT coming out with a whole series of new watches, not even a few new watches..BUT just the GEFICA.

Well…a face lift or two , those are not “new”.

The GEFICA brought a new awareness for me. A new perception of my focus, of my collection, of my writings, such as they are.

In the light of my growing understanding, I took aggressive steps to try to dissect the design into more palatable bits of which I could understand.

Here was a WATCH that could age with an owner, adopt and adapt itself physically to reflect the owner’s life. There is a special color to the bronze and titanium mix. One being very unstable to the contact with skin, air, any liquid. The other being totally inert.

Bronze is such that it may turn BLACK on exposure to certain elements, the possibility of the watch gaining a natural PVD look all due to the owner’s life, and his/her experiences made me think very hard about what this meant in watch design.

Bronze may also turn simply green and gold in very uneven patches. The lugs have been shaped with a great focus on creating a very uneven patina, intentionally! This goes beyond the desire to make an ornate lug with a curve. It simply translates the watch into a canvass for painting on the events of a lifetime.

The Giger and African elements were first seen in “Alien” and “Predator”, two ground breaking, and rather introspective movies, although extremely overshadowed with action and violence, were nevertheless a platform for the demonstration that “worn” and “torn” sets with dark accents were more emotionally arousing than the clean and futuristic designs of Star Trek.

In fact, Giger went to the PAST to paint the future. In the GEFICA, the future is only once reflected in the straight cut lines across the dial. That is the ONLY reference to the fact that this watch “could” be modern.

Otherwise, the ornate lugs, the spear shaped seconds hand that is curved to fit the deep dish, the dark bronze colors, the minutes chapter ring, the beads that sprout from the titanium rings on both “bezels”…all hark to an age of the gladiators and of African tribesmen.

But making a jump back into the forest of retro design would have been suicide for a product if it had no immediate relevance to the “audience”, otherwise known as the “customer”.

The draw had to be that the entire watch, had to have an instant touch to the human sense of “living”…I choose to look at my own perspective of that, again in my own analysis..simplified as it were.

The diagram I have included, above, preceding these paragraphs.

The GEFICA touches the rawness of the nerves, of experience, both intellectual and physical. Sensual, sexual, and yet mathematical and biological.

The watch is able to stand up to the owner each morning, assuming one even bothers to take it off, and to say, “this is my watch”.

I know, from my own experience with watches, that one can grow bored and even loathe a watch that one previously loved.

The potential success, and one can never know for sure, of the GEFICA is that it dwells not on the attractiveness of its looks. But that it has an immediate appeal to the physical sense of belonging ON THE BODY.

It was very painful for me to choose THE WATCH that I admire most for 2007 from Gerald Genta. I did not want to appear “biased” as I was taking this role of being a moderator here..it is almost a conflict of interest. That having been said, it is known that I chose the IWC caliber 5000 for the MOST relevant wristwatch in our generation, THAT may just balance out things as they are.

If you’re a passionate collector, and passion is what drives any art, you will be irritated by dissension that threatens to interrupt your passionate belief that the Richard Mille, or Patek, is THE watch. I don’t expect you to be sympathetic to my concerns.

However, even with sympathies completely against me, one should see the weight of the design that the GEFICA has brought into the playing field.

The company has not done “technical” as in high tech ceramics and light weight alloys. And it makes me laugh, most times, when Royalty , blue blooded individuals with incredible social standing say that.. “well, I can wear this light weight watch to a dinner party with a tuxedo, and also go sailing with it in my boating wear”…what the hell, he is a Prince. He can walk into a restaurant without making a reservation, or even with borderline clothing restrictions!

The company has not done “retrospective” as in looking back at “our heritage” and bringing back a fossil for another generation to look after!

To make matters even worse, to add a plastic alloy with an intention to use magnetic field applications to that same fossil, in an attempt to jump into making “some radical” advance. This year, that move, if ever made..almost reverts the watch from art back to a tool, and a very inferior and unreliable tool as well. The absolute lack of relevance in that, simply because a good quartz or electrical device at low cost will define time much more accurately!

With much consideration, I gave Genta’s group design a thumbs up for exploring the totally unknown frontier that sculptured art on a very minute scale, used for wearing on the body, the wrist, should be thoroughly done, and done well.

It will be the first time that a watch design begins with AGING and PATINA as a presentation to the customer.

Looking also at all the details…the very small circular snail patterns on the GP based movement, and THIS is NEW to Genta for a NON chronograph or upper end complication…using a GP base instead of the previous eta.

The small snailling is exceptional, and I do not say this lightly to praise the watch, but that GREAT consideration was taken before doing it this way, to bring out the DENSITY of the movement behind an EXTREMELY DEEP sunken well of the caseback!

Look closely, and you will see that the caseback is almost several mm thick!! There is enough material to carve the words “GEFICA” on the lateral wall!!!

The case back is has also been designed with a HUGE thick and massive bezel of titanium. This is most defining and the actual circumference here is smaller than the frontal bezel!

This allows the watch to adapt itself to BOTH larger and petite wrists at the same time.

The DEEP bowl combined with an extreme curved sapphire crystal lends the magnifying effect to the full.

These pictures are THE ONLY ones you will see, with only one exception on arguably the most influencial magazine, NOT a watch publication, that are of the actual watch itself. Not a computer generated image.

The dial, cannot be seen too well. My regrets in that I had to take these pictures with a very simple Canon G7.

The dial is multi part, and multi segmented. Complex, and exceedingly costly.

Relevance being the KEYNOTE, the dial and the detailed beading designs were done NOT for ornamentation, or for cosmetic reasons, but to overlay the emphasis on the DRUM, the instrument of percussion and of TIMEKEEPING.

This subtle imagery, the tribal drum, hidden as a design parameter within the watch, and linking it with timekeeping is an intellectual gem, to be savored and enjoyed.

Well, I lay my choice, my vote, for the GEFICA as the most relevant and complex watch, complex not in terms of complicated multiple tourbillons…etc. There is a place for that. They have served a purpose over the last 5 years at Basel, to bring watch making upwards…but we have to MOVE ON, and maybe make complex intellectual machines…I have to say that I have great respect for the makers of many other intricate complications…and it is not just lip service…I have placed my orders for them.

The GEFICA is simply a great piece of work. Honest. Intense. Focused. Loud and yet very subtle in hidden design elements. Almost every angle has some “intent”, nothing was done to “fill in” a gap or “bridge” an empty space.

Well..that’s my 2000 words!!!

In the spirit of the Genta world..provocative and opinionated!

In this world of ultra fast communication, I have grown to believe that information has become less exclusive, less valuable…and opinion, certainly opinions where there is no anonymity is becoming much more valuable.

Thanks for reading this, and I hope that I have made your journey of understanding watches, more colorful, and broadened the envelope of what can be expected in a “watch review”.


Dr Bernard Cheong MD. 8th March 2007.