LVMH Watch Week: Bulgari Bulks Up The Bridge Between Innovative Horology And Enduring Beauty
Some telling developments in Bulgari’s latest timepieces enhance the brand’s position as a risk-taking creator of the mechanically marvelous and gorgeously grand.
The time-keeping pieces from Bulgari live at the rarefied intersection of impressive horological progress and fashion/design-forward joie de vivre.
Family scion and brand Vice Chairman, Nicola Bulgari, has a particular reputation for design – and often, unexpected design – inspiration. Case in point: while he owns an impressive collection of automobiles, his stable leans heavily into pre-war Buicks and the work of legendary GM designer Harley Earl. Hardly a typical focus. Those out-of-the-box designs represent some of the most sumptuous and curvaceous automobiles ever created but are also packed with modernity and forethought.
“Bulgari has always been impetuous and daring,” Managing Director, Antoine Pin, shared with us during the debut of the brand’s LVMH Watch Week novelties. And the proof is in the pudding. Here are some highlights.
More Secret Than a Secret Watch
Bulgari’s iconic Serpenti Misteriosi high-jewelry watches carry the concept of a “secret” watch past the glamorous Liz-Taylor-as-Cleopatra heyday of its introduction in the late 1950s and into a gorgeously appealing adornment for today.
Believe it or not, once upon a time, it was considered impolite for a woman to check the time on her wrist. Hence the jeweled cover of secret watches. But luckily, that outdated tradition only translates into fun and mysterious intrigue today. There is more than just classical opulence going on here, however.
Equipped with the new BVL100 manually-winding Piccolissimo movement, the circular 12.3mm micro-engineered heart of the watch provides 30 hours of power reserve, as well as an elegantly small timekeeper that is revealed when you press the serpent’s tongue. But the timepiece component is wrapped up in its own container, with an integrated bi-directional winding “crown” on the caseback, which can be safely removed and re-oriented into the piece’s mouth to accommodate multiple wrist and wearing options.
More to the point, while the traditional watch industry is running hard at interchangeable straps to vary up your look, a removable watch component is also portable by definition. Could the Piccolissimo unit find itself inserted into multiple Serpenti bracelets or even other places? Time will tell, but it’s “impetuous and daring,” indeed.
Moreover, the Serpenti Misteriosi high jewelry secret watches are available in several versions. First up, there is a black-lacquered rose gold case and double-tour bracelet model (ref. 103559) with pear-cut diamond eyes and diamond-paved dial. Next is a green-lacquered white gold construction set with diamonds (ref. 103560). This version also has two pear-cut emerald eyes and a diamond-paved dial.
Meanwhile, the diamond-set, rose gold rendering (ref. 103558) has turquoise inserts, rubellite eyes, and a diamond-paved dial. And finally, the diamond-set case of the white gold version (ref. 103561) features a double-tour bracelet with a yellow gold diamond-set tail, pear-cut emerald eyes, and diamond-paved dial. There is no doubt that these are snakes you’ll be eager to get your hands on.
“Our mastery of micro-mechanisms is a door to creativity and luxury,” Pin commented at the debut.
As a self-described “jeweler of time,” Bulgari is more focused on its engineering and horological developments. And in that arena, the spectrum of innovation is broad (to say the least). However, according to Pin, the brand is interested in “finishing the journey to truly be a watchmaker and a jeweler.”
Certainly, micro-mechanics, as discussed above, are a pillar for its watchmaking efforts. And, of course, the popular Octo collection has its own set of laudable records for being the smallest and thinnest watches in the world. But, in the new Octo Roma Blue Carillon Tourbillon timepiece, another pillar for the house is reached: timepieces that sing.
On the heels of the recent introductions of the sweet-sounding Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater and Octo Roma Grande Sonnerie timepieces, the new 44mm Octo Roma Blue Carillon Tourbillon is a three-hammer carillon-style sonnerie. And while it not only represents Bulgari’s latest step to modernize the sonics, utility, and presentation of a chiming watch, it also has a gravity-defying tourbillon included in the mix for good measure.
Both sonnerie and tourbillon timepieces are often produced with an overly fussy appearance. But the architectural open-work titanium case and dial work of the Octo Roma Blue Carillon Tourbillon are not only purpose-built to enhance the sound and song of the multiple hammers and gongs, but present a decidedly modern zeitgeist.
A prominent white gold crown with a black ceramic insert and beefy white gold pusher to start the music on demand enhance what is one of the toughest-looking chiming watches you’ll see – or wear – if you can get your hands on one of 30 limited editions planned. Plus, on top of a three-hammer carillon and tourbillon, the manual-winding BVL428 calibre also features 75 hours of power reserve.
While minute repeaters and their ilk were created out of a kind of necessity during a time when lighting at night involved a candle or whale oil lantern, “chiming watches have a natural, multi-sensory affinity for a creative jeweler,” Pin explained. “We want to elevate and modernize this most charming of watch functions.”
Jewelry Beyond Gems
“We want to create a reality where watches become jewelry,” explained Pin during the unveilings. But, apparently, while Bulgari continues it unparalleled work with gem-set timepieces, solely relying on those delightful crystals might not be the only avenue to reaching that goal.
Enter: The popular and more-accessible Lucea line of timepieces.
This year, the brand’s Lucea Intarsio models explore some lovely chromatic territories; and particular favorites are the 28mm quartz and 33mm automatic Lucia Intarsio Aventurine in polished steel. Both the 28mm and 33mm feature diamond hour markers, but it’s the resultant holographic effect of the layering technique used on their aventurine dial that is the true “gem.”
Indeed, deep, dark aventurine serves as an elegant night canvas for a star-studded diamond sky. But the intricate layering of the aventurine captures the light at certain angles to project an incredible set of rays that burst from the center of the watch and take command of the dial view. The stars become “shooting stars” or, even better, go super-nova.
Pricing & Availability
The Bulgari Serpenti Misteriosi secret watches with the Piccolissimo movement described here range from $166,000 to $274,000, depending on the model. The limited edition Bulgari Octo Roma Blue Carillon Tourbillon (ref. 103627) lists for $317,000. The 28mm quartz (ref. 103617) and 33mm automatic (ref. 103620) Lucea Intarsio Aventurine timepieces list for $4,650 and $10,900, respectively.