While Gerald Genta is well known as the designer behind two of the world’s most popular watches, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus, one of his other creations hasn’t had such a prominent public profile.
But the owners of Gerald Charles, the brand that Mr. Genta founded in 2000 and bears his given names, said that had begun to change: This year it is on pace to produce 2,000 timepieces — the most it has ever made — and in May closed its online preorders because it could not accept any more requests.
Success seems to have begun with the May 2021 introduction of the Maestro 2.0 Automatic in Stainless Steel, retailing for $16,100. “I wanted to open up the story of Gerald Charles to a much wider audience,” said Federico Ziviani, 27, the brand’s general manager.
Mr. Genta sold the brand to the Ziviani family in 2003, although he continued as its creative director until his death in 2011. Under the direction of Mr. Ziviani’s uncle, Giampaolo, the brand created a few hundred pieces a year, powered with Swiss movements by Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier and each priced at $50,000 or more.
In 2019, when Mr. Ziviani took over the company, he decided to continue the brand’s use of the Maestro case, an octagonal design created by Mr. Genta in 2004, but with some design changes and a lower price.
The variations of the Maestro case were designed by the brand’s current creative director, Octavio Garcia, who worked alongside Mr. Genta at Audemars Piguet. Mr. Garcia has reimagined the timepiece with a variety of dials, in a skeletonized style and with rubber straps in colors including steel blue and pine green.
Italy is Gerald Charles’s largest market by both volume and sales sites (14 locations), followed by France, Switzerland and Spain. Mr. Ziviani’s strategy of building what he called “small communities to establish a strong brand awareness” has attracted new, young customers, including the Polish tennis player Hubert Hurkacz, a customer and a brand ambassador. Also, Mr. Ziviani said, the company is in talks with retailers in Europe, Asia and the United States to increase its sales sites.
The brand also has been expanding online, appearing on mrporter.com in April. “We were very pleased with the reaction from our global customers and E.I.P.s (extremely important persons), with the majority of our pieces selling out within the first week,” said Maxim de Turckheim, the website’s senior buyer of fine watches and jewelry.
While the brand certainly has a strong link to its famous founder, Mr. Ziviani said it was not the first thing he would mention. “It’s an important part of our identity and where we come from,” he said, “but I want customers to focus on the craftsmanship and design.”