There are understated watches, and then there are statement watches, timepieces with abundant character that tower above your conventional round cases. Gerald Charles’s Maestro Chronograph is certainly a contender in this category. Gerald Charles was founded in 2000 by Gérald Genta, one of the most acclaimed and prolific watch designers of our time. His iconic Maestro timepiece of 2006 was revisited this year in the Maestro Premier 2021 launch, two high-end gold models that caught the eye of many aficionados. Following the success of the Maestro Premier 2021, Gerald Charles follows up with steel time-and-date and chronograph models with a choice of emerald green or black dials. A marriage of Gérald Genta’s flamboyant case design with sporty chronograph and water-resistance credentials, today we’re going to take a closer look at the Maestro Chronograph with a black dial.
Gérald Charles Genta (1931-2011) is the name behind some of the most iconic watches of the 20th century: the AP Royal Oak, the Patek Philippe Nautilus, the Cartier Pasha, the Universal Genève Polerouter, the IWC Ingénieur – to mention but a few. After Bvlgari bought his brand in 2000, Gérald Genta decided to create his own watch brand, which he named Gerald Charles to separate its identity from Bvlgari’s. In 2003 he sold it to investors from the Italian Ziviani family but stayed on as the head designer.
Following Gérald Genta’s death in 2011, the brand went dormant but was revived in 2020 and entrusted to Federico Ziviani. Relaunching in grand style, the Maestro Anniversary was presented in 2020, an idiosyncratic stainless steel timepiece based on a Gérald Genta model of 2006. The name of the watch, Maestro, is how many people addressed Gérald Genta during his lifetime.
This year, Gerald Charles came out with two further iterations of the Maestro in time-and-date, and chronograph versions presented in luxurious 18k rose gold cases with striking green and black sunburst dials (Maestro Premier 2021). Following the hugely popular Premier 2021 Editions that sold out faster than expected, Gerald Charles proposes the Maestro in steel cases. Although they are not limited editions, they will be limited in production. And before raising anybody’s hopes, the last time I checked the website, the Maestro 3.0 Chronograph was temporarily out of stock, but there is a waiting list.
The Maestro GC3.0-A Chronograph
Describing the dynamic, almost playful architecture of the case is like describing a piece of Baroque architecture. The more dramatic and sensory appeal of Baroque architecture was the Catholic Church’s answer to the unornamented Protestant churches. With its deceptive trompe-l’oeil illusory effects, the predominance of oval shapes and curvaceous architecture to suggest motion, Baroque architecture was designed to elicit awe and admiration. And not surprisingly, the complex case design of the Maestro is said to have been inspired by the architecture of Rome’s Baroque architect Francesco Borromini.
Rippling with curves and a monumental, stepped bezel, you would expect the case height to be massive. It’s not: the thickness of the case is 11.50mm, and if you factor in the chronograph complication, it is on the slim side. The enigmatic ‘smile’ (between 5 and 7 o’clock) is a true Gérald Genta touch inspired by Borromini’s flamboyant architecture. The case has a diameter of 39mm and a length of 41.50mm, and its stainless steel surfaces are brightly polished to catch the light. Even the chronograph pushers are irregularly shaped to follow the contours of the case flank and echo the shape of the rounded lugs.
Another surprising aspect of this elaborately designed chronograph is its impressive 100m water-resistance. The original 2006 model was only water-resistant to 30 metres. To manufacture a thin shaped case with an irregular-shaped crystal and make it water-resistant required years of R&D. Furthermore, the Maestro was put to the test in real-life underwater conditions. Italian Olympic swimming champion Luca Dotto took the Maestro for an apnea plunge into a 42.15m deep pool in Padua (the world’s deepest indoor pool). Dotto’s dive demonstrated that the Maestro is perfectly able to accompany you swimming or freediving at an amateur level. In addition to the screw-down crown and calibrated sapphire crystal, the chronograph shares the bespoke gasket design first seen on the Master Premier Edition 2021 watches. This gasket seals the irregular-shaped case and crystal, ensuring the watch’s safety underwater.
Sleek Black dial
Available in black or emerald green, the dial of the Maestro Chronograph has a sunburst finish that plays with the light, producing ever-changing reflections, another theme that Baroque architects and painters utilised to great effect. Faithful to the curvy architecture of the case, there are no right angles or square shapes on the dial, and the peripheral minutes/seconds track adapts to the wavy architecture of the case. The indices are oval, and even the hour, minute and chronograph hands are rounded; all the hands, except the central seconds hand, are treated with luminescent material. The three sub-dials at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock have a round frame, a snailed outer track and distinguishable white markings. The sharp contrast of a black dial and white markings is particularly effective and in line with the sporty attributes of the watch. The black strap is a technical vulcanised form of rubber chosen for its superior water-resistance, durability and comfort and is embossed with Clou de Paris pyramids.
Automatic Vaucher Chronograph
The base movement is made by Vaucher, the prestigious Swiss manufacture of high-end mechanical movements based in Fleurier and is customised exclusively for Gerald Charles. The openworked bi-directional oscillating weight delivers 50 hours of power to the twin barrels. Just 6.07mm thick, the thin movement relies on twin barrels to deliver a more consistent energy supply to the regulating organ. The bi-directional rotor runs on ceramic ball bearings, and the balance is of the variable inertia kind, meaning that it can be adjusted with the weights located on the spokes of the balance wheel. The brushed steel caseback has an anti-glare sapphire crystal to admire the mechanics and handmade Fleurier-standard finishings like the Côtes de Genève decoration on the bridges.
Availability & Price
The Maestro 3.0 Chronograph (ref. GC3.0-A-00) is now part of Gerald Charles’ continuous collection. Although they are not limited pieces, they will be limited in annual production – the company has not clarified the exact number. The chronograph is available now on the brand’s website. As I mentioned, it is temporarily out of stock, but you can leave a 10% deposit and join the waiting list. The retail price is EUR 18,900.
For more information, please visit geraldcharles.com.