Gérald Genta, the now Bvlgari-owned watch brand of the late designer, is back at it with Disney’s most famous character. The legendary creator’s Mickey Mouse designs have been such iconic offerings that they are instantly recognizable and sought-after collectibles today. The latest Arena Bi-Retrograde model depicts a football-kicking Mickey and comes in a limited edition of 200 pieces.

Arena Bi-Retrograde Mickey Mouse

GG Retrogrades

Retrograde models have been in the Gérald Genta collection since 1996. The Bvlgari Group purchased the brand in 2000 and introduced the Gérald Genta 50th Anniversary Arena Bi-Retro watch in 2019. A new Arena Bi-Retrograde Sport watch then came in 2020, which RJ reviewed here. Last year, Bvlgari made it its mission to rebuild the Gérald Genta brand. First launching a dedicated website, it then revived a Mickey Mouse design in an Arena case. The “Smiling Mickey” Arena Retrograde, which RJ also reviewed here, brought Disney’s character to the forefront of the high-watchmaking scene. Furthermore, each example of the 150-piece limited edition carried a five-figure price tag.

Gérald Genta Retro Fantasy, circa 1998 — Image source: Christie’s

Fantasy watches

You may think that sounds controversial now, but imagine how it would have gone down four decades ago. In fact, the move was so provocative back in the day that Gérald Genta stunned the watch world. In 1984, the maverick designer unveiled a line of fine watches styled with Mickey Mouse, the Pink Panther, and Popeye at a watch fair (the predecessor of SIHH). The Fantasy collection caused a veritable furor, as pop culture and Haute Horlogerie had never been crossbred before. Major brands such as Rolex and Vacheron Constantin called it a disgrace and took it as an affront to traditional watchmaking.

The new Arena Bi-Retrograde

Gérald Genta was always ahead of his time, and clearly, attitudes have softened since the ’80s. Given the instant sell-out success of the Arena Retrograde Smiling Mickey last year, the return of the mischievous mouse has proven to be a winning move. This time around, Mickey takes the focus front and center on the dial showing a football kick — a timely theme for the World Cup hype. Mickey’s pointing finger indicates the minutes while a small circular aperture reveals the jumping-hour indication at 10 o’clock just above his left kick.Arena Bi-Retrograde Mickey Mouse

The dial craftsmanship

Despite its playful aesthetic, everything underneath is a mastery of meticulous craftsmanship. To begin with, the dial plate itself is not lacquered or made of metal, as is typical, but is crafted from mother of pearl. As an organic material, each dial is naturally unique with its textural luster and depth. Furthermore, each finished dial results from a total of 14 image plates (or clichés) on which ink is first deposited and then stamped on the dial with a pad.

Mickey comes to life

The pad-printing technique creates the color pattern of the design, which then requires more than 20 fundamentally different manual operations to bring Mickey Mouse to life. This artisanal process is repeated several times to enrich the color and to bring the volume of the motif to a certain height. Some areas of the motif are further coated with a transparent lacquer to add brilliance and brightness.

Red detailing

The dial also features two retrograde scales for the namesake complication. A red retrograde minute track on the upper dial has a 210° arc. The retrograde date display arcs 180° on the lower half of the dial, and the Gérald Genta logo sits at 6 o’clock. The color of these features matches Mickey Mouse’s shorts and echoes the textured rubber strap. A theme-defining football (or soccer ball to some parts of the world) hovers at the 30-minute position.

The engine

Housed inside the 41mm polished steel Arena case is serious horology. The manufacture caliber BVL 300 boasts a triple complication with the bi-retrograde date and minute indications and a jumping hour. It has a beat rate of 28,800vph (4Hz) and 42 hours of power reserve. The case is water-resistant to 100 meters and features a limited-edition engraving on the back.

Each of the 200 Gérald Genta Arena Bi-Retrograde Mickey Mouse pieces comes with an exclusive presentation box and retails for €24,000 including VAT.

For more information, visit the Bvlgari online or Gérald Genta’s dedicated website.

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