Very interesting post Mister Frilly
, I think you pose some very interesting questions. I enjoyed the tangent. I think even more anomalous than having a watchmaker's or designer's name attached to a watch is having the same designer attached to three different watches from three rivals, all created within a relatively short time period (although the new Ingenieur is admittedly the bastard child of Genta's vision). It is pretty amazing that Genta's legacy has survived through these watches. Hell, even VC released the Overseas which is of a similar ilk.
However, I feel like it is a bit more common in the industry when you really think about it. With IWC, the name Kurt Klaus comes to mind. When I think of Ulysee Nardin and the Freak, I think of Ludwig Oeschlin. Omega's Co-Axial movement is strongly associated with George Daniels, and they seem to rely fairly heavily on his name in advertising. Also Grand Seiko, who claims that the finishing of their watches was taught to them by the one and only Dufour.
Here is a little blurb that I read a while back on the history of the Royal Oak:
"At the very beginning of the seventies, Audemars Piguet, just like many other Swiss watch manufacturers, was facing troubled financial conditions. Quartz watches from Japan caused a serious crisis - the period is often referred to as "the quartz crisis" - to the Swiss watch making industry which had no clear ideas on how to stop the dramatic sales drop.
In 1971 Audemars Piguet realized that, without a disruptive change, a financial collapse was inevitable. Elaborating some feedback that they received from the Italian market about possible interest for a steel luxury watch, the management of the manufacture decided it was time to introduce something totally new, a sporty yet elegant timepiece as never seen before.
The designer of choice for this task was a designer born in Geneva in 1931 from an Italian father and a Swiss mother: Gerald Genta. Not a new designer, rather one of the most famous watch designer at that time, having created successful watches for Universal Genève (Polerouter Microtors, White Shadow, Golden Shadow), Omega (Constellation) and Patek Philippe (Golden Ellipse).
On the eve of the 1971 Basel fair (one year before the launch) Audemars Piguet's managing director at the time, Georges Golay, called Gerald Genta at 4pm explaining that the Italian market was expecting an “unprecedented steel watch" for which he needed a design by the following morning. A sports watch for all occasions with the most beautiful finishes ever seen.
By the morning after Gerald Genta had invented the watch that was to become Royal Oak. He will later state that the Royal Oak was the masterpiece of his career."LINK TO SOURCE
It certainly does seem to be a counter-intuitive method of advertising for the brands, but at the same time, by introducing some of the "big dog rock star" watch designers, it definitely helps to make a large brand seem smaller. It is easier to forget that I am paying up the wazoo for a semi-mass-produced item when I think "this has touched the hands of this department," or this minute repeater has personally been inspected by THE Mr. Stern. I think it definitely adds to the romance of it all. New Breguet has little to do with old Breguet. But I would be more interested to hear about the inner workings of their department, and the strides that some of the watchmakers are making within the company as it stands now.