Baselworld 2015: Bvlgari Roma

Baselworld 2015: Bvlgari Roma

Bvlgari Roma, a 40 year old that marked a watershed in watchmaking trends

Born in 1975, the year of countless changes, Bulgari Roma has sailed through the decades without ever losing sight of its key values: contemporaneity and modernity. The new models presented this year – the commemorative edition Bulgari Roma Finissimo, Bulgari Roma Tourbillon Finissimo, Bulgari Bulgari  Solotempo, and Bulgari Roma Tubogas – are celebrating the 40th anniversary of a legend which incarnates a large piece of watchmaking history.  

1975. Bulgari creates the Bulgari Roma watch. That was 40 years ago. Today, the generation born in 1975 is in the prime of their power and influence, their maturity and their achievements. “After the age of 40, every man is responsible for his face,” said Leonardo da Vinci. The great Italian genius thus expressed his vision of the assurance that comes with a certain degree of maturity. 

Bvlgari Roma Finissimo 40th Anniversary

The creation of the Bulgari Roma model marks a turning point in watchmaking trends at that time. This watch is designed as a very limited series for the great jewellery House founded in Rome in 1884 by Sotirio Boulgaris, already internationally renowned for his modern, elegant, inventive, colourful creations, and as a gift for his hundred best clients, as well as in tribute to the beauty and influence of Rome. 

Bulgari was not yet recognised as a watchmaker, even though the first watches had been created in the 1920s and were presented with great regularity as part of its collections from the 1940s onwards.

Bvlgari Roma Finissimo 40th Anniversary

Pioneering role

Bulgari chose innovation and modernity for the creation of this watch. In 1975, the conquest of space was a reality, and the trend was leaning towards digital displays. Quartz technology turned traditional watchmaking upside down. Bulgari adopted a frontrunner role and decided to combine these modern elements with classic references. The round Bulgari Roma watch resembles a stratum cut into the marble of a Pantheon column or the peristyle of a Roman monument. This precious gold model affirmed its quality as a creation designed and crafted by a great jeweller.  

But Bulgari goes further and shows the greatest audacity. Like the Roman emperors displaying the attributes of their power over the coins, it displays the inscriptions “Bulgari” and “Roma” engraved on its bezel in an immediately recognisable historical typeface, and established as the brand’s identity in 1934 during the renovation of the historic boutique at the Via Condotti in the heart of Rome. The House of Bulgari thus became the first to engrave its name on the case of a watch.

Bvlgari Roma Finissimo 40th Anniversary

All the elements of a great classic were there. But right from the outset, the Bulgari Roma watch sprang a surprise: there were no hands or dial in its centre but instead a digital display. The bracelet was also astonishingly creative. The trend at the time was for metallic bracelets. Bulgari did not opt for a gold mesh, which would be perfectly legitimate for a jeweller, but instead for a plaited rope with leather trim reminiscent of the Roman attachments typically used in Antiquity. 

Spectacular success

From the moment it appeared on the wrists of the hundred personalities closest to the Maison, this watch enjoyed dazzling success. Orders flooded in from all over the world and Bulgari decided to extend production of this highly particular watch whose inspiration draws on the company’s fundamental elements: daring and elegance. And always with the self-professed, thoroughly assimilated reference to Italian and Roman creative genius. 

Bvlgari Roma Finissimo Tourbillon

In order to maintain the highly exclusive nature of the very first Bulgari Roma watch, with its digital display, the Maison decided to equip the first series with a more traditional dial, with finely designed hour-markers and two hands. Once again, this proved a big success which marks the birth of a true new sign.

In 1977, the Bulgari brothers went a step further. 

The first Bulgari Bulgari collection, the natural evolution of the Bulgari Roma watch was launched. The Bulgari Bulgari inscription on the bezel, directly inspired by the mark of sovereignty on ancient coins, became an instantly recognisable sign all over the world – to the point of being included at the very heart of the design in a highly contemporary manner. The dial was equipped with a central seconds hand and a date window. Targeting both genders, it came in four different sizes in order to attract both ladies and men and to suit all wrists. Simultaneously classical and modern, it proved capable of playing on every code and every trend. The case was made of yellow gold, because the jewellery crafted is never far from Bulgari’s creations. But the strap was in leather, a resolutely fashion-forward, stylish move. The movements were either mechanical, in order to please fans of beautiful watchmaking, or quartz in order to meet modern-day needs and considerations of convenience. The international success of Bulgari Bulgari consecrates the entrance to the Maison in the watch industry.

Bvlgari Roma Finissimo Tourbillon

The perfect fusion between jewellery and watches

From this point on, this emblematic watch would be translated into many versions, leaving the way clear for Bulgari to explore every possible creative watchmaking avenue. From 1980 onwards, using the Tubogas bracelet technique it had long since mastered, Bulgari achieved a perfect fusion between jewellery and watches, consistently pervaded by a rare brand of creative boldness. Coiled like an ancient snake around the wrist, the articulated gold bracelet was also a subtle reference to the exhaust pipes of beautiful cars in the Roaring Twenties. 

Bvlgari Roma Finissimo 40th Anniversary

This intrinsically desirable golden ribbon also represented a technical prowess and the embodiment of highly skilled artisanal know-how, because it requires long hours for a jeweller to be able to entwine so inseparably the two incredibly supple pieces of metal.

Once again, this represented a daring, successful marriage of classical culture and technological modernity. Perfectly espousing the fashion of its time, this wave of brilliant seduction from the 1980s is now so easily recognisable that the Bulgari Bulgari Tubogas ladies’ watch is regarded as much as a timeless piece of jewellery as a refined fashion accessory providing an unmistakable edge. 

Bvlgari Roma Tubogas

For a decade, the men’s and ladies’ collections enjoyed unfailing success. Initially perceived as refined, aesthetic pieces, they have become a sign of recognition among fans of beautiful contemporary watches. At the turn of the 1990s, Bulgari made yet another surprising introduction

Codes challenged

Well before it became fashionable, the jeweller dared to challenge the established codes of luxury and the high end, by presenting a watch in 1993 with very simple, sober aesthetics, but that is nevertheless revolutionary in terms of style with a case combining gold and composite materials. To stir desire and stimulate the imagination, you have to show up where you are least expected. 

Bvlgari Bvlgari Solotempo

At the same time and in the same line of thinking, the watchmakers of the Maison Bulgari were secretly preparing another big surprise: a watch with a mechanical movement and skeleton dial. It was presented in 1996 and aroused great admiration among the most informed connoisseurs and best-known critics. So much so that the following year, in 1997, for the 20th anniversary celebration of Bulgari Bulgari, the new watch produced with a dial bearing the anniversary number swiftly became impossible to find. This is still the case today because these pieces that have remained eminently contemporary rarely leave the collections of their owners who enjoy wearing them for years and always with the same feeling of newness. 

The first decade of the new millennium was the moment when the technical watchmaking aspect of this timepiece, already established as a reference in terms of design, became recognised. In 2001, the introduction of a chronograph brought an element of sportiness. And, in 2004, with its Tourbillon, Bulgari finally joined the ranks of the great watchmaking Houses. 

Bvlgari Bvlgari Solotempo

The power of the imagination

Keenly aware that it had a treasure in its possession, from both stylistic and a technical standpoints, Bulgari could not simply leave its Bulgari Bulgari range to live happily ever after, outside of the development flow of its other watchmaking creations. Thanks to its emblematic design and the power it exercises on the imagination, it has become a central member of the Bulgari family. This was yet another reason for revitalising it in 2013 with the launch of a new, expanded collection which includes a new case and a new automatic in-house-manufactured movement, the Solotempo calibre. It also rolled out a highly exclusive capsule collection, reviving the Bulgari Roma name. 

This is the story of how this watch has fascinated, surprised and enchanted for 40 years. There are few watchmaking pieces that have been able to establish themselves so firmly over time while always appearing new and being thoroughly up-to-date. Embodying a trend, preceding a fashion, while paying tribute to the fundamental elements of creation, architecture and design. 

Bvlgari Bvlgari Solotempo

Once again, Bulgari shows that form is intrinsically substantive, and that appearance is the visible manifestation of an intangible essence. This is how a timeless watch is made, step by step

40 years old, the age of opportunity

Forty years old is the age of opportunity. Of serenity and new beginnings. To celebrate this great anniversary, and the past four decades of an unfailing, ever-increasing success, the Bulgari Bulgari family is expanding with the Finissimo hand-wound model, an ultra-thin Tourbillon and new more modestly-sized dials.

Luke Evans ©Olivia Tsang

Delving into the details, one should naturally begin with an introduction to Bulgari Roma Finissimo, three creations of which one is a limited edition for the 40th anniversary: the Bulgari Roma Finissimo in yellow gold. This watch symbolizes the return to the origins of the sign born in 1975, respecting the original codes. Bulgari enriches the understated design of this iconic timepiece with the finesse of its own ultra-thin mechanical hand-wound movement created by its watchmakers.

The 41 mm dial opening reveals a small seconds subdial at 7 o’clock, while the approximately 65-hour power-reserve display appears on the back. Mechanical hand-wound Calibre BVL 128 just 2.23mm thick, enabling the entire watch to measure just 5.15 mm. This is a new watchmaking feat for Bulgari. This 26-jewel movement beating at 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz) is adorned with the most beautiful decorative elements calling on the manual skills of circular graining, chamfering and Côtes de Genève.

Luke Evans ©Olivia Tsang

Three interpretations are offered, always with a black alligator strap: the first capturing the codes of the first Bulgari Roma watch, in other words, a limited edition of just 100 pieces in gold; the second is in pink gold with an opaline dial; and the third is made of steel with a black lacquer dial. 

An exclusive, clever combination

In addition, such an important milestone deserved a Grande Complication model. Bulgari Roma now delivers truly dizzying slenderness in the new Finissimo Tourbillon version, featuring an exclusive and ingenious combination of two of the most delicate watchmaking complications: extreme finesse and the Tourbillon. This small revolving carriage housing the escapement and balance wheel is designed to release the movement from the grip of gravity by counter-balancing its resulting disturbances and enhancing the isochronism of the balance wheel. It is a means of achieving the most accurate possible mechanical movements. 

Luke Evans ©Olivia Tsang

The Finissimo Tourbillon BVL 268 movement is just 1.95mm thick, an absolute world record for a flying tourbillon without a bridge. This Manufacture-made mechanical hand-wound movement, decorated with the greatest delicacy according to the ancestral techniques of circular graining and Côtes de Genève, has a 52-hour power reserve. It beats at the rate of 21,600 vibrations per hour (3 Hz).

The pink gold case is barely 5.40mm thick with a 41 mm diameter. The bezel can be set with 44 brilliant-cut diamonds totalling approximately 2.5 carats. The pink gold crown has a black ceramic insert echoing the magnificent lacquer on the dial and the alligator strap. 

Let’s get this party started!

Finally, and this is the third innovation for 2015, the Bulgari Bulgari watch has been reinterpreted in an interesting variation with a dial with a 39mm opening. Style is also a matter of mastery. This Solotempo array offers a range of very complementary versions: in pink gold on a black alligator strap, in steel on a brown alligator strap or steel bracelet, in gold and steel on a bracelet in the same metals, or all gold. All of them are driven by the high-performance mechanical self-winding 26-jewels Bulgari BVL 191 Manufacture Solotempo movement, endowed with a 42-hour power reserve and beating at a rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz) that powers this very beautiful classical watch. 

Luke Evans ©Olivia Tsang

Ladies have not been overlooked because in addition to the dedicated ladies’ collections, Bulgari is offering a wonderful, precious new watch, christened Bulgari Roma Tubogas. It bears the magical inscription Bulgari Roma and is fitted with the famous Tubogas bracelet made of pink gold and steel, as is the case with a 26mm diameter. Practical by day, this gem of a watch becomes a full-fledged piece of jewellery by night thanks to its chic, sober style, enhanced by the sparkle of diamond hour-markers twinkling on its chocolate brown dial. A veritable feast for the eyes. This elegant and precious model knows how to play on its rarity because only 1,975 examples have been produced, in tribute to the year the Bulgari Roma was born. The back of every is engraved with the inscription “Limited Edition / 1 out of 1975”. 

And with so many gifts, in the greatest Roman tradition … let’s get this party started!