December 1, 2022
by David Bredan
Bulgari, who’s owned the Gerald Genta label since 2000, has awakened this fan-favorite brand from dormancy in 2020 with a Bi-Retro Sport (reviewed here), and the Mickey Mouse collab the following year. Just in time for the FIFA World Cup, 2022 sees the launch of the Gerald Genta Arena Bi-Retrograde Mickey Mouse Playing Football watch, a fun but compromised addition to the slowly expanding selection of currently available Gerald Genta watches.
A quick search for Gerald Genta on eBay, Chrono24, and the like, will reveal a vibrant selection of fascinating Gerald Genta watches — many made a decade or so ago, already under Bulgari management, albeit, for the time, produced without a co-branded dial. While Bulgari has spent the last eight or nine years in its absolute prime as far as consistency, creativity, and style in watch design is concerned, the Swiss-Italian brand has been rather careful with its Gerald Genta label — perhaps overly so.
The Gerald Genta sub-brand currently offers just four watches, the two mentioned in the opening paragraph, another blue-dial version, and now this, the Mickey Football piece. All four are built around the same retrograde and bi-retrograde movements, which is understandable from an economic viewpoint. However, even with that in mind, the Gerald Genta brand seems to remain a side-project for Bulgari, although it’s easy to see how much its recent and not-so-recent archives still have to offer.
Given the recent scarcity of retrograde watches — and non-octagonal Genta designs — we’ll happily take what we can get. At 41mm-wide, with a wide and heavily domed bezel framing a flat and extensive dial, and a proper crown-like crown with long crown guards, the Gerald Genta Arena case remains a stunning piece of case design that would be instantly recognizable even with a rather more ordinary dial. The middle case, i.e., the profile of the case is often referred to as “coin edge,” but it well and truly is more robust and architectural than that terminology would do justice for. It appears to have been inspired by the rows of massive sandstone pillars around an ancient Roman arena.
Just as Genta’s original idea to combine Disney characters with luxury watches was outrageous and entertaining, a similar, albeit more subtle contrast stands between a two-dimensional character acting foolishly inside such a serious and architectural case. The mother-of-pearl dial is painted with 14 clichés (plates) to apply the colorful patterns of the design, and some areas of the motif are then coated with a transparent lacquer to add brightness and volume. Bulgari claims over 20 manual operations are required to bring Mickey Mouse to life — all 200 dials being therefore slightly different.
As is traditional for Genta’s Mickey Mouse watches, his arm acts as the minute hand. On the half-hour, a football flies over his nose — which is a little odd, as the round jumping hour display is positioned exactly in a way that probably could have served as the ball in design, maybe even in some sort of potential interaction with the quick retrograde action of the minutes hand.
The retrograde minutes and date display, as well as the jumping hours, are powered by a module on top of the in-house BVL300 self-winding caliber. Operating at 4Hz, its power reserve is rather short with 42 hours — the wide caseback and the narrow-looking movement in a medium-sized case serve as reminders that this movement is not on par with Bulgari’s more modern movement design achievements.
The 200-piece limited-edition Gerald Genta Arena Bi-Retrograde Mickey Mouse Playing Football watch is priced at $23,200 USD — almost $9,000 more than 2020’s titanium-cased Arena Sport that offers the same movement and feature set. Although arguably cute and fun, the potentially out-of-this-world combination of Bulgari and Gerald Genta certainly has more to give than we have been seeing since the brand’s recent relaunch. Until that comes, the stunning architecture of the Arena case and Bulgari’s in-house dial-making expertise are here to put a smile not just on Mickey’s face, but also on ours. You can learn more at the brand’s website.