Gérald Genta’s work in the watch world is nothing short of prolific. He’s the man behind the design of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus, of course, but that’s just half the story. Genta created his own eponymous label in 1969, and through it, he explored a bevy of designs, one of them being the “Biretro” layout that’s been revived in 2020 through the new Gérald Genta Arena Bi-Retrograde Sport. The watch is a follow up to the 2019 release of the Gérald Genta 50th Anniversary Arena Bi-Retro. Both watches use the arena case, named for its resemblance to an actual arena, and both feature a jumping hour window at 12 o’clock with a minute track along the top half of the dial. On the bottom half, you’ll find a date track. Every 60 minutes, the minute hand will snap back to zero as the hour counter rolls over, and the date will snap back every 31 days, all thanks to the BVL 300 caliber inside.
It was in 1996 that Genta first combined the retrograde minutes and a jumping hour counter in a watch. Prior to that, he had designed a number of models released under his own label that featured each complication individually, but never together. These days, the engineering and technical manufacturing required to produce a movement with both jumping hours and retrograde minutes is carried out in Bulgari’s facilities in Le Sentier in the Vallée de Joux. Bulgari acquired the original Gérald Genta firm and all its associated designs, patents, and trademarks in 2000. The brand has certainly taken great care to respect Genta’s vision, and much restraint has been exercised when it comes to preserving the very specific aesthetic of Biretro watches produced under the original Genta label. The logo has been updated with a font that’s modern, but other than that, the design elements remain true to the original watches developed in the ’90s.
As the name implies, this Biretro takes a turn towards the sporty with a titanium case and stylized dial design reminiscent of the speedometer on a modern sports car. In the mid-’80s, the Porsche 944 was equipped with gauges that featured a brilliant yellow track against a matte black background for maximum legibility. The Arena Bi-Retrograde Sport also takes advantage of this color combination, but where the Porsche gauge looks relatively mundane, the Genta watch adds an element of stylishness through the use of skeleton hands and a mix of modern sans serif fonts. The watch features a display back, allowing appreciation of the BVL 300. While display backs are certainly common, given the thematic design elements of the Bi-Retrograde Sport, the display back can be likened to automotive manufacturers showcasing the engine of a sports car under a glass panel, typical of many Ferraris, as well as the 2020 Corvette.
There’s much to appreciate about the arena case as well. Despite its svelte appearance, it was originally used in the playful Mickey Mouse watches that Genta was famous for. The shape is inspired by the structures in ancient times used to host gladiator shows, called Ludi, where showmen would face off against dangerous animals from faraway lands. The crown design is a signature of Genta’s, and even with this sporty treatment, the arena case and biretro dial layout are easily recognizable as a Genta design.
The release of the Arena Bi-Retrograde Sport is particularly exciting because it demonstrates that Bulgari is willing to explore new territory with old Genta designs. It’s important to note that while Bulgari bought the Genta firm, it wasn’t simply to capitalize on the name of one of the best-known watch designers. With the acquisition in 2000 came the staff and their collective experience, the intellectual property behind the Genta label, and all of the expertise associated with the company. The much-lauded Bulgari Octo Finissimo family couldn’t have happened without it.
This particular watch takes the biretro design in a sleek and sporty direction that it feels like it could have taken right from the start. Apart from Genta pieces, retrograde, and more specifically biretro complications, are usually found in watches that appear more austere in design, but in this instance, Bulgari isn’t afraid to be adventurous with Mr. Genta’s designs, and I think that’s exactly how he would have wanted it.
Brand: Gérald Genta
Model: Arena Bi-Retrograde Sport.
Reference Number: 103448
Case Material: Titanium
Dial Color: Black and anthracite with yellow accents
Indexes: Minutes track (jumping hour counter at 12 o’clock)
Lume: Not present.
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap/Bracelet: Strap, black crocodile
Caliber: BVL 300
Functions: Jumping hours, retrograde minutes, date
Power Reserve: 42 hours
Winding: Automatic, bi-directional winding rotor
Frequency: 28,800 vph
Pricing & Availability
Availability: December, through e-commerce and select boutiques.
For more, click here.