Whoa there Gerald Genta (and I speak to the company, not the man – as he isn’t part of the brand any more). What is going on here? Where did this come from? Last thing I expected from you was a highly sophisticated sonnerie watch. You say that you have been doing this for a while (making sonnerie watches), but the last one that you released was in the mid 1990s? I am confused. Well forget all that, the watch is really cool. Looking at it, I can tell that the watch is Gerald Genta in form, but really dark in feel. Looks like something that H.R. Giger would wear. He is the artist that designed the aliens, from the Alien movie series. This is because the watch combines a sense of machinery with the biometric forms that the artist is know for. I suppose Gerald Genta is also known for that. Did you know that H.R. Giger is also Swiss?
Anyhow, the watch is meant to be the most complex Grande Sonnerie watch in the world. This is not to be confused with the most complex watch in the world – the Jaeger LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica Grande Sonnerie – which itself has many sonnerie functions. Ideally, if you want to feel really cool, you could drop almost $3.5 million bucks and get both of them. Looking at both of the masterful watches, I get the feeling that they share a lot in common. Both have off-centered watch faces, both attempt to delight you in their mechanical splendor by giving you large open dials with lots of almost pornographic views into the movement (front and rear!), and both just want to be loved and find a good home with you! While 30 Hybris Mechanica Grande Sonnerie watches will be around, the Gerald Genta Arena Metasonic limited edition will only have 10 pieces – each taking about a year to make.
The case is 46mm wide in titanium – but the watch hosts a bunch of metals. You see, Gerald Genta wanted the audio qualities of the watch to be perfect. So it studied metals, made a new one (Magsonic), and even created special software to test all of this out. The idea was to fully enhance the sound of the sonnerie functions, without altering what they sound like. The final result has the watch in (the said titanium), steel, a bronze alloy, a white gold allow, and Magsonic. One thing of interest is that this watch may be the first Grande Sonnerie watch that is water resistant. See if any of your beloved Patek Philippe minute repeaters can boast that!
In addition to that, the sound from the Arena Metasonic is supposed to be amazing. Using that software they made, they really did their homework in trying to make the watch perfect. I love the effort they put into this stuff. It is like collective knowledge to perfect the industry we love, an industry that theoretically doesn’t need to exist, but I love that it does. It is a few steps above the concept of someone having a PhD in the Klingon language, only here is it expertise in what metals to use when trying to make a watch sing its best! I just love it.
Maybe it is a coincidence that titanium was mostly used for the watch exterior, as the material is so popular these days. Gerald Genta seems to suggest the metal absorbs less sound than steel. If you notice that on the case, the screws are mostly on the outside, I think this is also part of that effort to not have sound be absorbed by the case. When I was in Japan I heard the Seiko Credor Spring Drive Sonnerie watch in action. It was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Unlike the bar style gongs that most European sonnerie watches use, the Credor uses a bell inside the case for a really remarkable and deep sound. It was a lesson in what it takes to make a good sounding sonnerie watch – so I can appreciate why all this effort was dedicated to the project by Gerald Genta. I look forward to “hearing” the result.
So what about the functions? Well, the watch does a lot, but Gerald Genta has thus far been remarkably coy about listing out the functions clearly. Let’s me suggest what I think it does. First there are the minute repeater functions. You can active the watch to automatically tell you the time at certain intervals, or do so on command. This is interesting, because it can act like a grandfather clock does. Meaning that without your intervention, the watch will just tell you the time. Further, it has various striking functions. Meaning that the watch will strike each hour, or each quarter hour. And for each quarter hour, the sonnerie has a different tone. So the watch isn’t just about making noises, but making noises that actually mean something. It also has a silence mode so you aren’t annoying during meetings. Then again, if you are wearing this watch in a meeting, you most likely are heading the meeting. So let’s get rid of that last point. The silence mode is there to prevent the watch waking you up at night. That makes more sense. Probably because you are going be sleeping with the Arena Metasonic under your pillow. Lastly, there is petite and grande sonnerie. This is like setting the volume. The petite sonnerie is a shorter sound, while the grande sonnerie is longer and tells you the time down to the minute.
Aside from that, the watch has the time, two power reserve indicators (one for the watch, and another for the sonnerie). The watch movement is extremely complex with about 850 parts, and manually wound. Of course the movement has a tourbillon – like you had to ask! Apparently Gerald Genta has the expertize to make an automatic version of the movement. But I haven’t seen one yet. That ups the parts in the movement to about 950 pieces.
The view of the movement is beautiful – really. I mean look at all those parts. Almost gives me my faith back in humanity. We can accomplish amazing things! Just look at this watch. Some people will undoubtedly refer to the Arena Metasonic watch as ugly and so excessive that a buyer should be stoned. It is most certainly an unorthodox watch, but from an unorthodox brand. Not everyone is going to be taken by the style or design, but it is a watch that does not make any real mistakes, and is amazing for what it is (in my humble opinion). Even the strap material is strange – which is ostrich by the way. By the way, I should mention something about the watch case. It is quite a gizmo. The case is electronic and lots of moving parts. It starts with a fingerprint scanner. Place your finger on it, hope for the best, and then see the top opening to the sound of gears while a pedestal rises out of the case with lights around it (fog machine optional), having the watch sitting on the top there to greet you. Horus watches (another brand) also has a case like this (not sure if it has a fingerprint reader though).
For me the watch is an impressive tour de force of the magic that gets so many of us interesting in mechanical watches – the type of item with a spirit that would inspire us to put up a poster of it up, the same way a child too young to drive hastily tapes a Ferrari poster to his wall. A item that remains most likely an unattainable dream, showing the world that we too, can appreciate those things in life which are finely engineered. And with the Gerald Genta Arena Metasonic watch that too is a reality. For it is part of a limited edition, of only 10 pieces which are painfully hand made and assembled. Coming with a lofty, fantasy-like price of $900,000. Even though that is less money that the $2.5 million Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica watch set, it feels less tangible and more of a story book relic.
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