The B-Dinner: timeless Rome with Bulgari & Watchonista
At the invitation of Bulgari and with organization by Watchonista, the crème de la crème of Europe's most important watch influencers recently gathered to marvel at the creativity of the Rome jewellery firm accompanied by the soft strains of La Dolce Vita.
Rome is not in Italy. Rome is in all of our hearts and minds. Rome dons the cloak of the centuries. Its alleyways paved with black, its churches brimming with treasures, lovers draped across the steps of the Piazza di Spagna… Sound a bit cliché to you? Well, you'd be mistaken to believe this picturesque description. To do so would be to ignore the sheer vitality and power of a European city that has turned its heritage into its capital for the future, but also into a constant source of joy and inexhaustible well of creativity. Rome is a fountain of energy.
Immersion into Bulgari territory
Watch the B-Dinner recap video
For a deeper sense of the occasion, Bulgari and Watchonista got together to organise the first "B. Dinner": a totally immersive experience for a group of international influencers specialised in the world of watches. For the chosen few, La Dolce Vita is now a reality. A sunset drive through the city in a vintage Fiat 500 filled us with splendid technicolour memories of the sensual, effervescent beauty of the Eternal City. The first stage of this connoisseurs' journey? Via dei Condotti.
By the end of the afternoon, the long street lined with the city's finest shops is thriving with life, chic Romans are busy completing their shopping, while businessmen fresh out of the office, and tourists from all over the world are making their way to the Piazza di Spagna and the Trinità dei Monti. Located opposite the Bulgari boutique, the fabulous, world-renowned Antico Caffè Greco, with its historic interior and famous pastries, always a favourite stopover,. Renovated by Peter Marino in 2014, this splendid showcase has retained some of the original 1930s details, including the rare marble columns chosen by the Bulgari family, topped by the familiar iconic eight-pointed star motif. Ancient mosaics rub shoulders with contemporary counterparts carefully chosen by the American star architect.
An iconic showcase
Elizabeth Taylor's favourite sensual silk sofa, where she sat when she came to select her jewels, is still there. As is the original discreet back door allowing visitors to exit unnoticed. But the adjoining room is now converted into a contemporary lounge, decked in tender, subtle hues and dedicated to fine watchmaking. The elegant showroom invites connoisseurs to discover the rare and exclusive watchmaking complications in the Daniel Roth range, as well as the entire family of Bulgari watches.
On the floor above, a beautiful Roman-style salon invites visitors to discover the fabulous heritage of the jewellery house established in 1884. It showcases more than 130 years of richly coloured jewels and other creations, as well as leading watches for their time, such as Liz Taylor's Serpenti bracelet watch circa 1960, the Bulgari-Bulgari first introduced in 1977, or the boldly pioneering Diagono, one of Sting's favourite watches and one of the first that dared to use high-tech materials by featuring a magnesium watchcase.
Taking centre stage are the new versions of the Octo. These pieces were the choice for our fine group of enthusiasts, collectors, photographers and journalists. We enjoyed a Rome-style reception that was both timeless and in tune with the haute horlogerie of our time. In addition to the Octo Finissimo automatic watch, a world-record holder for the slimmest automatic watch, and its extra-flat skeleton versions, visitors were also presented with the new editions of the Bulgari Octo Maserati, with its impeccable retrograde complications that would not look out of place on the dashboard of today's Italian racing cars. They also looked very much in place, of course, on the wrists of our happy band of enthusiasts, as they sat at the wheels of their 1960s Fiat 500s.
A style of its own amid a sea of Swiss watchmaking excellence
A dusk, the stage was set for a tour of Rome. The perfect prelude to an Italian dinner. The Dal Bolognese on the Piazza del Popolo has, in fact, been an institution in Rome for three generations. Far off the typical tourist route, it has long been one of the favourite dining addresses of Rome's greatest families, chic Italians and the international jet set. Great emphasis is placed on appearances with the sheer quality of the products and service. The twinkling lights of the square merged with the glow of candles to cast a delicate light across the long table bedecked with white flowers.
Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari, accompanied by Guido Terreni, managing director of Bulgari watches, and art director Fabrizio Buonamassa-Stigliani, were on hand to welcome our group of enthusiasts. A selection of antipasta and sparkling wine were served while the Bulgari chairman gave a speech that touched on the firm's deep roots in Italian identity. There is no doubt about it. This is what contributes to the distinctive style and character of a Bulgari watch; it is what sets it apart from the rest in fine watchmaking. They have an assertive personality, no doubt due to their dual nationality. Indeed, for all their Roman-ness, they still have a touch of Swiss-ness about them and all the perfection and efficiency that go with it. The ever-evolving Bulgari brand has made a name for itself exactly where no one expected it.
In the 50s and 60s, Bulgari made a name for itself with multi-coloured fine jewellery, and in the 2000s, accomplished many great feats of fine watchmaking. Spearheading this expansion strategy is the Octo watch, with its 110-faceted architectural watchcase. Jean-Christophe Babin readily admits that all the fine watchmaking models serving as great style references these days were virtually all 20th century creations. With one notable exception: the Octo. To establish itself as a leading timepiece and bold statement for the new millennium, Bulgari gave free rein to its dynamic creative team, from the making of the world's finest tourbillon and extra-flat automatic, or slimmest skeleton, through to stylised models of contemporary design and fashion.
Throughout dinner, the conversation flowed freely and easily, sometimes verging on the ultra-technical aspects, sometimes on the more frivolous. With all the knowingly cool elegance and mannered nonchalance of the cultured Italian, Bulgari plays with forms and codes, creating its pieces beautifully, while keeping its tongue firmly in its cheek. Magic can happen. So much so that on certain nights of the year, like this one, we can truly believe that not only is Rome in Italy, Rome is in Bulgari.