April 22, 2023
One of the surprise standouts from the countless grail-worthy watches I saw during the off-site meetings I attended throughout the week of Watches & Wonders Geneva 2023 was the Gerald Charles Maestro 8.0 Squelette. If I’m being completely honest, when I was first sent photos of Gerald Charles watches, I was a bit on the fence about the brand as a whole, largely due to the rather unusual case shape that serves as the uniting theme throughout the current lineup. The actual design of the Maestro series was created by Gerald Genta himself in 2006, and the whole company was originally founded in 2000 to be his creative outlet (his full name is Gerald Charles Genta). That said, I’m not always a fan of every Genta design, and when I first saw photos of the modern Gerald Charles watches, I initially felt that they were a bit too “out there” for my personal preferences. However, after more than a couple years of looking at photos and finally getting a chance to see the watches in the metal, I’m ultimately a fan of this rather weird case design, and among the current lineup, it is easily the skeletonized Gerald Charles Maestro 8.0 Squelette (ref. GC8.0-SQ-A-00) that is my personal favorite model.
Warming up to the design language of Gerald Charles watches has been an enjoyable yet unexpected experience. Rather than calling it the horological equivalent of Stockholm syndrome, I’d argue that bold and unconventional designs can often be inherently rather polarizing, and in order for a watch to elicit a strong positive reaction from some people, it must also be capable of producing a strong negative reaction in others who have different aesthetic preferences. When the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (another Genta creation) was originally introduced in 1972, there were some people who also felt that its design was a bit too bold and “out there,” yet half a century after the Royal Oak first made an appearance, it is widely considered to be one of the most iconic and important watch designs of all time. Many of Gerald Genta’s creations are fundamentally somewhat polarIzing, although another common theme throughout his vast body of works is that some just need to exist for long enough to really be understood and accepted by the general public.
As for the Gerald Charles Maestro 8.0 Squelette, the case offers the collection’s signature Genta-designed profile, which is inspired by the ornate works of Rome’s famous Baroque architect, Francesco Borromini. However, while the case shape is very much in-line with Genta’s original design from 2006, the Maestro 8.0 Squelette itself (which was originally announced late last year in 2022) represents a far more modern take on this same core aesthetic, as it was produced under the creative direction of Octavio Garcia, who previously headed up the design departments at both Audemars Piguet and Gorilla watches. Based upon the brand’s Maestro 2.0 Ultra-Thin model, the stainless steel case consists of 18 separate components, and it measures 39mm in diameter by just 8.35mm thick, with 22mm lugs and an overall lug-to-lug distance of 46mm. Flat anti-reflective sapphire crystals are fitted to both the dial side of the watch and it’s caseback, and while the crystal on the movement side is a standard circular shape, the front crystal is cut to the exact same asymmetric polygon form as the case itself for a refined yet unusual overall appearance.
While the Gerald Charles Maestro 8.0 Squelette isn’t the brand’s most performance-oriented model (that would be the GS Sport series, which is worn by several professional tennis players during their ATP tour matches), it is still more than capable of playing the part of a true luxury sports watch, and despite its thin profile and elegant overall design, the winding crown at the 3 o’clock location screws down to create a fairly generous 100 meters of water resistance. Similarly, rather than being fitted with a dressy leather strap, Gerald Charles chooses to fit all of its current-production watches with rubber alternatives, and attached to the 22mm lugs of the Maestro 8.0 Squelette is a two-piece rubber strap that features a clous de Paris pattern on its outer surface with a signed stainless steel pin buckle. The overall appearance of the Gerald Charles rubber strap is somewhat reminiscent of the “waffle” style bands frequently found on vintage Seiko divers, and while classic black is the default option, I think both colors that are pictured here look equally good on the open-worked Maestro 8.0 Squelette and highlight different aspects of its modern and sporty design.
Skeletonized watches are all about showcasing their internal movements and creating an aesthetic harmony between the internal workings of the watch and the outer case that houses them. Consequently, it is here where the Gerald Charles Maestro 8.0 Squelette really stands out, and the asymmetric polygon shape of its case lends itself particularly well to a highly open-worked display. Like most skeletonized watches, the Maestro 8.0 Squelette ref. GC8.0-SQ-A-00 foregoes a traditional dial and instead features a pair of centrally mounted baton-shaped hands paired with a simple minute track that traces the asymmetric shape of its case as it runs along the inner perimeter of the crystal. The rest of the face remains entirely open-worked to display the skeletonized Caliber GCA 5482, and since the internal movement is responsible for a significant portion of the Maestro 8.0 Squelette’s appearance, the Cal. GCA 5482 was developed by Octavio Garcia working in collaboration with Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier to ensure a cohesive overall vision for the watch.
The skeletonized plates and bridges of the Gerald Charles Caliber GCA 5482 are rhodium-plated and satin-finished, with hand-finished angles and diamond-polished bevels. In addition to offering a highly geometric appearance with an underlying architecture based upon the outlines of hexagons and stars, the structural components of the Cal. GCA 5482 are finished with an anthracite NAC treatment, which further highlights the contemporary overall appearance of the watch. Running at a frequency of 21,600vph (3 Hz) with a power reserve of approximately 50 hours, the 160-component Cal. GCA 5482 features a variable inertia balance and it comes in at just 2.6mm thick, despite being a self-winding movement, thanks to its solid 22k gold micro-rotor that is adorned with a hexagon motif and spins within a hexagon-shaped aperture. As this is certainly a movement that you will want to admire from as many angles as possible, the reverse side of the Gerald Charles Maestro 8.0 Squelette is fitted with a caseback that is secured by eight small screws and features a large circular sapphire display window that offers an unobstructed view of the manufacture Caliber GCA 5482 that powers the watch.
In my opinion, skeletonized watches are often best when the movements used to power them are manually wound, as a centrally mounted rotor and automatic module can often significantly detract from the intended appearance of an open-worked design. However, the micro-rotor setup of the Gerald Charles Caliber GCA 5482 allows it to benefit from a highly skeletonized display, and the solid gold micro-rotor itself actually serves as an aesthetic focal point for the movement, while simultaneously providing the Maestro 8.0 Squelette with the conveniences of being a self-winding watch. Visible through both the dial side and the caseback, the natural motion of the micro-rotor adds to the dynamic appearance of the watch’s display, and the warm tones of its solid gold construction offer a sharp contrast against the dark anthracite NAC treatment of the bridges that surround it. While the case shape is inherently rather dressy and classic, the movement is modern and highly technical in its appearance, and this contrast creates a unique tension in the design of the Gerald Charles Maestro 8.0 Squelette, which is something that I find to be rather visually captivating.
The open-worked Maestro 8.0 Squelette is one of the true standout pieces from Gerald Charles’ contemporary catalog, and just as you might expect, it is certainly priced accordingly. With an official retail price of $63,800 USD and production limited to 100 pieces per year, the Gerald Charles Maestro 8.0 Squelette reference GC8.0-SQ-A-00 is one of the absolute most expensive models from the brand’s current lineup, and it is even priced above the solid gold chronographs, coming in second only to the Maestro 9.0 Tourbillon series. As a point of reference, this makes the skeletonized Maestro 8.0 Squelette more than three times the price of the brand’s shock-resistant GC Sport series, meaning that you could buy all three colors from the titanium GC Sport lineup, and still have more than $5k left in your bank account. That said, while I enjoyed all of the Gerald Charles’ watches in person far more than I initially expected from just looking at photos of them, none made quite the same impact as the Maestro 8.0 Squelette, and this watch ultimately turned out to be one of the surprise standouts from a week’s worth of grail-worthy pieces. For more information on the Gerald Charles Maestro 8.0 Squelette, please visit the brand’s website.