The Gerald Charles brand was founded by the late Gerald Genta in the year 2000. The famous watch designer founded Gerald Charles (a combination of his first and middle name) a year after selling his eponymously named Gerald Genta brand in 1999. In 2003, Gerald Charles was sold but Mr. Genta stayed on as the chief designer until his death in the year 2011. For a while, the Gerald Charles brand existed in relative obscurity. The company mainly produced special models exclusively for collectors according to the brand’s current manager Federico Ziviani. In 2019, the brand relaunched in a sense, with a focus on the “Maestro,” which you see here in this review. The brand’s relaunch focused on the debut of a series of new models along with a bold new marketing campaign. This was a particular challenge given the timing of the brand’s eagerness for attention around the start of the pandemic. Nevertheless, in 2023, Gerald Charles has thoroughly announced itself to the luxury timepiece community. Who from the watch enthusiast community should take notice?
I ask this question because, despite the fame and renown of the Gerald Charles founder Gerald Genta, there are a lot of up-and-coming brands with big promises and big prices. What I wanted to know when I first learned about the modern Gerald Charles was if it was just an attempt to leverage the famous Gerald Genta name, or if it was, indeed, a brand with substance, merit, and lasting power. What I can say with certainty is that Gerald Charles is not a hype brand. In fact, I encourage you to listen to our aBlogtoWatch SUPERLATIVE podcast interview with Ziviani for a bit more about his background and who operates and produces the products for Gerald Charles.
Gerald Genta was a prolific artist and designer who spent a lot of time illustrating watch designs prior to anything being produced. Today, the Gerald Charles brand includes a large volume of artwork from Gerald Genta of possible watch designs, only a handful of which have been produced. Many of the concepts feature this Maestro case, but not all of them, of course. While Gerald Charles isn’t limited by what Gerald Genta did in the past, it doesn’t have to stray too far to remain successful. This leads me to another interesting aspect of the Gerald Charles brand: its current designer, Octavio Garcia. Many of you know Garcia from his Gorilla watch brand, but prior to that, he was the lead designer at Audemars Piguet. What did he do at AP? He mainly worked with the Royal Oak, which was originally a Gerald Genta design, of course. The watch you see in this review is a perfect example of Garcia’s work. The Gerald Charles Maestro 8.0 Squelette began as an illustration by Gerald Genta. To turn the watch into a manufacturable item requires a lot more work. That is where someone like Garcia comes in because he understands how to respect the work of the designer who came before him and is able to extend the original designer’s work into new or adapted directions.
Many people will probably agree that while a lot of the current Gerald Charles watches are cool, the Maestro 8.0 Squelette is perhaps the best of them. This is really a watch that does a lot of things well at the same time, offering a rich personality along with authentic horological intrigue. Gerald Charles isn’t trying to make a watch for everyone, and there will certainly be those eyeballs that simply can’t wrap their minds around the strange case shape of the Maestro. On the plus side, the watch is very well-made, legible for a skeletonized watch, extremely comfortable and thin on the wrist, highly eye-catching, fashionably styled, and most importantly, original.
Ziviani and I had a fun chat trying to describe the unique allure of the Maestro case. First, we need to understand what Gerald Genta was even going for in the first place. He loved playing with people’s expectations as well as pushing the boundaries of what visually worked. The entire point of the Maestro case is to not look like any one particular shape, but rather to trick and confuse your eyes so that your brain keeps trying to work out what shape you are actually looking at. It is both an artistic expression of shape and a mind trick that attracts the attention of onlookers more so than a more standard case shape might.
While he might not have been thinking about it at the time, what Genta ended up doing when he played his visual games with watch shapes was to create iconic designs that allowed companies to build entire brands around. While Audemars Piguet will likely argue that its brand is so much more than just the Royal Oak, the popularity of that look and shape for the brand has been most directly associated with its product success over the last couple of decades. What is further interesting about the Maestro case is that it can be made into different proportions and variations and still maintain the same look. Thus, Gerald Charles can significantly change the sizes of the case and it will still have a clear “Gerald Charles” look about it. This bodes well for a brand that is so tied to a particular case design because, if the case design isn’t good, then it will harm the long-term consumer appeal of that look.
The particular Gerald Charles Maestro case is steel and is sized at 39mm wide with a modest 47mm long lug-to-lug distance. The case is very thin at only 8.35mm thick. The steel case has an interesting double-stepped bezel (Genta loved design elements like that), a screw-down crown, and is water-resistant to 100 meters. Over the dial is a flat AR-coated sapphire crystal. The case is designed with ergonomics in mind and is remarkably comfortable on the wrist given the unique shape.
The movement was designed exclusively for Gerald Charles by Octavio Garcia and also produced exclusively for Gerald Charles by its manufacturing partner Vaucher (who builds the movements as well as other parts of the Gerald Charles cases). The movement is known as the caliber GCA 5482, and it is a 4Hz operating automatic with 50 hours of power reserve. It features only the time with no running seconds and has a solid gold micro-rotor-based automatic winding system mounted on ceramic ball bearings. The design is remarkably faithful to Gerald Genta’s own ideas including the spoke shapes of the bridges. The movement is given traditional hand-finishing, but the style is more modern and industrial versus overly traditional or decorative. Around the otherwise skeletonized open-worked dial is a scale for the time as well as easy-to-read Super-LumiNova-painted hour and minute hands. The Gerald Charles brand name is discreetly printed on the upper left-hand portion of the dial.
Gerald Charles offers straps in many colors and you can see just how fun they can be in this light blue. The strap design is quite fun actually with its clous de Paris pyramids and comfortable thick high-brand rubber strap. Not only are these straps custom-made for the Gerald Charles brand but they are made of a special material that is both extremely pliable on your wrist but also smooth and not sticky or overly grippy. I think the personality of the strap is actually a great addition to the case because it calls for attention as much as it is trying to be classy and refined.
Gerald Charles claims that only 100 pieces of the Maestro 8.0 Squelette watches will be made per year and that this reference GC8.0-SQ-A-00 is not a limited edition. Gerald Charles does have more expensive products such as its Maestro models with tourbillons or decorated with precious stones, but the Maestro 8.0 Squelette (first covered on aBlogtoWatch here) is nevertheless a decidedly high-end watch. It does however come with an excellent experience, original design, a renowned cast of designers and producers, high-end construction, and a surprising fashionability. I’m certainly a fan, even though I think I need to focus on other more affordable Gerald Genta models to pine after. Price for the reference GC8.0-SQ-A-00 Gerald Charles Maestro 8.0 Squelette watch is $63,800 USD. Learn more at the Gerald Charles website here.
>Brand: Gerald Charles
>Model: Reference GC8.0-SQ-A-00 Gerald Charles Maestro 8.0 Squelette
>Price: $63,800 USD
>Size: 39mm-wide, 8.35mm thick, 47mm long
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a stealthily showy yet mysterious luxury watch for social settings. This timepiece gets a lot of “nice watch compliments,” so it is best worn when you want attention.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: High-end watch buyers who first and foremost like thin, skeletonized watches, and who second, also like intellectual case shape designs.
>Best characteristic of watch: Maestro case shape is fun and comfortable. The movement looks great and offers enough practical performance. Strap is anything but an afterthought.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Expensive price. A subsidiary seconds hand would have been nice.