For 2024, Gerald Charles introduces what will likely be one of the most eye-catching integrated bracelet watches of the year. The new watch is known as the Gerald Charles Masterlink, and it has an interesting genesis story. The famed Gerald Genta originally founded the Gerald Charles brand and worked there until his passing in 2011. Gerald Genta is famous for coming watches with integrated bracelets that resulted in classics such as the Royal Oak and Nautilus. As far as I know, the Gerald Charles brand never had an integrated bracelet design created by Mr. Genta himself. Given the popularity of bracelet-style men’s watches and the strong enduring legacy of Mr. Genta, Gerald Charles today decided to invent a new integrated bracelet design evoking the values and themes of Mr. Genta while incorporating today’s expectations and tastes when it comes to a daily-wear luxury watch in steel with an integrated bracelet design.

The person primarily responsible for the design of the Gerald Charles Masterlink is their creative director Mr. Octavio Garcia. To remind folks, Mr. Garcia worked with Gerald Genta designs when he was the in-house design leader at Audemars Piguet. This allowed him to both understand Gerald Genta and know how to extend his design principles while offering something new. That is, in essence, what he has been doing at Gerald Charles and the new Masterlink version of the Maestro case design is a shining example of what is possible.

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Clearly, not everyone is going to like this watch, but, in a sense, that is the point. The vertically asymmetric Maestro case here flows into bracelet connections on either end. Gerald Charles further wanted not only a bracelet that would visually match the case (and be somewhat distinctive), but that would also be an object of beauty unto itself. For example, Gerald Charles points to the case that from the top and side of the bracelet, you can see no pins or screws. The bracelet has been carefully engineered to have flush and attractive surfaces. The deployant clasp was also designed to be as minimal and discreet as possible. All of this is related to refinement and aesthetics, not just having a “we also have an integrated bracelet watch to sell you” mentality.

I am particularly interested to see the bracelet design for a few reasons. One is because it is a step in a very different direction than, say, a modern-day Cartier bracelet which is all about being able to size it at home on your own without tools. Those types of user-friendly bracelets can be great but often times they have design or refinement drawbacks. Gerald Charles here seems to have gone in a more traditional direction with a complicated bracelet that users can’t really size themselves, in exchange for a more interesting look and wearing experience. Gerald Charles, in fact, produces three different overall sizes of the bracelet – even though each is technically able to be resized with links being taken out. I will discuss more about the Maestro Masterlink bracelet once I get to play with it. Suffice it to say that the intention was for it to look good and work well with the case design – I am keeping an optimistic open mind.

Then there is the matter of thinness. Devotees of Gerald Genta’s 1970s integrated bracelet watch designs also know how thin models like the Royal Oak and Nautilus were. Today many steel watches on bracelets are very thick – which isn’t entirely bad but it sort of defeats the entire goal of what models like 1970s-era luxury steel watches on bracelets were going for. Accordingly Octavio Garcia and the Gerald Charles team through their production partner Vaucher put a lot of effort it making the Masterlink a very slim and comfortable-to-wear product.

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The steel case (which for Watches & Wonders 2024 arrives with either a silver or blue dial option) is 38mm wide, 38mm long, and just 8mm thick. That is going to wear very slim on the wrist, and I feel that the design is interesting and works well. The dial is also highly legible, featuring just the time with hour and minute hand — just like Genta intended with the original Royal Oak and Nautilus designs. How well do you feel Garcia channeled the spirit of Gerald Genta in the Maestero Masterlink watch design?

Inside the watch is an exclusive-for-Gerald Charles version of Vacher’s micro-rotor-based automatic movement. The movement is known as the caliber GCA 5401 automatic and it operates at 3Hz with 50 hours of power reserve. The movement is visible through the rear of the watch and has an anthracite gray coating on most of the bridges that contrasts with the gold micro-rotor. The movement has some other special decoration just for Gerald Charles, as well as their proprietary screws with star-shaped heads.

Intentionally somewhat polarizing and highly detailed, the Gerald Charles Masterlink is a logical extension of the Maestro case collection and the direction of the Gerald Charles brand. The Masterlink will not be the end of the brand’s creativity. Instead, it is just one important part of a larger catalog the brand plans on delivering. One hiccup for Gerald Charles, the outcome of which is yet to be determined, is its manufacturing partner Vaucher’s impending sale. The parent company has publicly made it clear it wants to sell Vaucher. This business situation might have little effect on Gerald Charles’ operation, or it might force the brand to find a different manufacturing partner in the years to come. At the least, it will keep things interesting at the company.

Not inexpensive but hardly class-topping in price, the Gerald Charles Masterlink watch debuts as the reference ML1.0-A-01 (blue dial), and the reference ML1.0-A-18 (silver dial) in steel. Price for each is $23,000 USD (without taxes). Learn more at the Gerald Charles website.

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