Swiss watch designer Gérald Genta was ahead of his time. The man who designed the Royal Oak and the Nautilus, singlehandedly kickstarting the extraordinarily coveted luxury sports watch genre, also anticipated another niche for watches inspired by characters borrowed from pop culture. When Genta decided to produce watches under his own name, he unleashed his more playful side and produced a series of ‘serious’ mechanical watches with Disney characters on the dial, including Mickey Mouse. Following the sold-out performance of the Gérald Genta Arena Retrograde Smiling Mickey released by Bulgari in 2021, Mickey Mouse is back for round two, this time kicking a football. A rare triple complication model with retrograde minutes, retrograde date and jumping hours, the Arena Bi-Retrograde Mickey Mouse is a treat reserved for just 200 fans of Genta, Mickey Mouse and football!
When Gérald Met Mickey
Gérald Genta might not have been the first watchmaker to feature a Disney character, but he was certainly the owner of the most luxurious watch brand to feature a Disney character on the dial of his watch. Mickey Mouse, the friendly Disney mascot who wears red shorts, big yellow shoes, white gloves and has a falsetto voice, was dreamed up in 1928 by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. According to vintageradar.com, the first brand to feature the famous mouse on its dial was Ingersoll in 1933, in both pocket watch and wristwatch format. Having signed a deal with Walt Disney Company in 1980, Genta’s first character watches materialised in his Fantasy series, housed in Arena cases inspired by the architecture of ancient Roman arenas.
Vintage Gérald Genta Fantasy watches from Bvlgari’s own collection.
As our readers know, Gérald Genta was acquired by Bulgari in 2000. The acquisition of this high-end Swiss name contributed to Bulgari’s burgeoning watchmaking ambitions as complications, small and large, entered the iconic Roman brand’s watchmaking vocabulary. Genta’s Retrograde 1996 complication, which marked the first time in watchmaking history that jumping hours and retrograde minutes were featured in the same movement and on the same dial, was revisited by Bulgari in 2019 with the platinum Arena Bi-Retro with jumping hours and bi-retrograde minutes, and in more contemporary attire in 2020.
Mickey Mouse Playing Football
The 41mm stainless steel Arena case has a smooth, rounded bezel, straight lugs, a fluted caseband and crown guards to ensure the 100m water-resistance. The novelty for 2022 – timed to coincide with the World Cup, no doubt – is that the friendly mouse is playing football. As Bulgari points out, Genta’s Mickey Mouse is no newcomer to sports and was an active golf player and motor-racing driver in former incarnations.
Depicted in the centre of the dial, Mickey Mouse’s left leg is raised and seems poised to perform a bicycle kick to send the football mid-air as his right, white-gloved hand tracks the retrograde minutes arc above his head. The circular jumping hour window at 10 o’clock is aligned with his black nose, while his yellow boot invades the lower retrograde arc for the date.
Unlike last year’s edition, the dial is crafted from natural iridescent mother-of-pearl. The mouse and the football are composed of 14 clichés (plates) using a pad printing technique. To add brilliance and volume, some areas of the Disney character are coated with transparent lacquer, resulting in more than 20 manual operations to bring Mickey Mouse to life.
Matching the colour of Mickey’s shorts, the 210-degree retrograde minutes track arcing above his head, and the 180-degree retrograde date below are red and plumped with ink to stand out against the white mother-of-pearl background. In the name of legibility, you’ll notice that the area of the date track that coincides with Mickey’s red shorts is white, and the hand is openworked. The watch comes with a red textured rubber strap and a polished stainless steel folding clasp.
Automatic with bi-retrograde and jumping hours module
Turning the watch over, the exhibition caseback is secured by six pentagonal screws and reveals features of the movement decorated with Geneva stripes and a rotor engraved with the GG monogram. The movement is based on the in-house automatic Bulgari BVL 300 mounted with an in-house module for the jumping and bi-retrograde indications. Running at 4Hz, it can store 42 hours of power reserve when fully wound. This might not seem like a vast amount of power, but given the immense amount of energy that needs to be accumulated to get the hours to jump and the minutes and date to snap back, it’s impressive. A corrector located in the case band at 9 o’clock allows for fast time adjustment.
Availability & Price
The Gérald Genta Arena Bi-Retrograde Mickey Mouse Playing Football is a limited edition of 200 watches and comes in an exclusive presentation box. The retail price is EUR 24,000.
For more information, Bulgari’s website now has a dedicated Gerald Genta page.