Some of the best known and most loved watches are those that have a name you know and a face you remember behind them. Notable examples include Gerald Genta, who was responsible for (among other things) the design of the original Royal Oak; Richard Mille, everyone one of whose watches bears the unmistakeable stamp of his design sensibility; Max Büsser, whose watches are not only unimaginable without him, but also could never have come from anyone else. And it’s not just at the high end that watch designers sometimes get a share of the limelight; Baume & Mercier’s Alexandre Peraldi is a well-known example, as is Davide Cerrato, formerly of Tudor and now designing for Montblanc.
And yet, in many cases watch designers remain anonymous. Every watch is, of course designed, and designed by somebody, and yet, for the most part, we have no idea who designed a watch when we look at it, and not only is that fine with most brands, it’s actually the way they prefer it. And it’s not just watch designs, it’s watchmakers as well – you might have the best horological chops since Abraham Louis Breguet, but many brands would much rather nobody ever had any idea who you are.
A rather dramatic example of this knowledge gap is the Paul Newman Daytona – who designed it? A better-loved design is hard to think of (at least, if the avidity with which collectors snap them up is any indication) and yet, not only do we not know who designed it, we’re probably never going to know who designed it.
In a recent published story for GQ UK, the Telegraph’s watch expert (and founder of Salon QP) James Gurney takes an in-depth look at just who we know designed what – and why it is that so many brands still take every possible step to make sure their watch designers stay out of the limelight. He also discusses why the trend is starting to change. Check out his story at GQ UK online (and a hat tip to community member henry1 for pointing out the story in the comments).