A few months ago, Sotheby’s announced the Gérald Genta: Icon of Time sale series that includes 100 of Genta’s original drawings, including the designer’s work for The Royal Oak and The Nautilus. Additionally, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Royal Oak and the 10th anniversary of Gérald Genta’s passing, the auction of Gérald Genta’s unique Royal Oak watch and four original paintings was scheduled for May 2022.

During the live auction (which you can watch here), one of the most important wristwatches in the world — Gérald Genta’s personal Royal Oak — sold for a record CHF 2.1 million at Sotheby’s Geneva. This marks a new world record for a vintage Royal Oak at an auction. 

“In a year that celebrates the 50th anniversary of this revolutionary and iconic design by Gérald Genta, the magnitude of this record-breaking sale is a tribute to the continued influence of, and respect for, Genta’s far-reaching and historic contribution to the watchmaking industry. One could not dream of a more exciting and important provenance for a Royal Oak, an Audemars Piguet or even any wristwatch, added to which, it carries a unique handmade feature by Genta himself. All of these elements set this very watch apart from any other, making it a true grail piece. Over the course of my career, rarely have I seen such an emotional response to any horological object, both by connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike, making today’s result all the more rewarding,” says Mikael Wallhagen, Head of Sotheby’s Watches in Geneva. 

The sale saw eight bidders lock horns in a nearly six-minute-long bidding battle. The quest to own the only watch owned by “The Picasso of Watchmaking” ever to appear on the market was close and intense. What adds more value is that this was the watch he preferred the most. It is also not just the only Genta owned watch that has ever come to auction but this particular watch also features a unique specification of an 18K yellow gold bezel that Genta produced and added himself.  

 Sotheby's Sells Gérald Genta's Personal Royal Oak for Record CHF 2.1 Million

The Royal Oak as we know is a horological icon featuring an octagonal bezel with eight screws. The watch was first launched by Audemars Piguet in 1972 and became an instant success. It revolutionised the industry as the first luxury sports watch to be made of steel. The Royal Oak was designed and conceptualised by Genta who was inspired by a childhood memory of seeing a man being sealed into an old-fashioned diving suit near the Mont Blanc bridge in Geneva.

Sotheby's Sells Gérald Genta's Personal Royal Oak for Record CHF 2.1 Million

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Gérald Genta’s Personal Royal Oak will also benefit the Gérald Genta Heritage Association, and their mission to encourage and reward the next generation in the watch industry, notably with the launch of the first edition of the Gérald Genta Prize for Young Talent.

Image Courtesy: Sotheby’s