With more than a century of history under its lavishly jewelled belt, Bulgari is Italy’s hip answer to the straight-laced Place Vendôme Maisons. But it’s only within the last 10 years that the brand has really been able to call itself an horologer — and with the awarding of the prestigious Aguille d’Or watchmaking prize to the Bulgari Octo Finissimo at the Grand Prixd’Horlogerie in 2021, it was finally recognised by its peers and since then has grown into its power. Although the House often seems to have something of an identity crisis — Italian agility in design versus Swiss horological precision, all owned by a French luxury conglomerate— its international nature is evident in its ‘expect the unexpected’ feel. Here MOJEH speaks to Antoine Pin, the charismatic managing director of Bulgari’s Watch Division, to find out more about what’s driving the brand to ever more dizzying heights.
MOJEH: This year Bulgari reinterpreted its codes with new technology in Serpenti Tubogas, haute joaillerie watches featuring the iconic Divas’ Dream motif and the newly-launched Allegra. Why are these kinds of women’s jewellery watches so important to Bulgari?
Antoine Pin: Jewellery watches have always been in Bulgari’s DNA, just like high jewellery. Indeed, the first Bulgari jewellery watch was created in 1918. Since then, the brand has been expressing its personality as a ‘Jeweller of Time’ by working with the finest stones, applying the most exclusive know-how and bringing in what we cherish the most — pure innovation decade after decade. Our new products this year have highlighted different elements such as design and tactility, as well as the techniques that underline the development and the innovation behind new creations.
M: What dimension does a jewellery watch add to a woman’s collection, that an item of jewellery cannot?
AP: It adds the dimension of functionality, offering both the elegance of fine jewellery and the practicality of a timepiece. It merges artistry, craftsmanship and utility, creating aunique and valuable addition to a woman’s accessories repertoire. There has been a growing demand for women’s watches that not only serve as beautiful accessories but also offer advances in horological features and technical complexity. Bulgari’s Divas’ Dream collection, with its automatic calibers and the addition of complications like minute repeaters or tourbillons, exemplifies this shift towards offering women’s watches with enhanced technical capabilities. It showcases the brand’s commitment to combining elegance and mechanical craftsmanship.
M: For a brand that’s been creating timepieces since 1918, how important is it to look to the Maison’s archives for inspiration, both in watchmaking and jewellery, and what do you find there?
AP: The archives provide a sense of continuity and authenticity, allowing Bulgari to maintain a strong brand identity and a recognisable aesthetic. They serve as a constant source of inspiration, reminding the Maison of its heritage, craftsmanship excellence and innovative spirit. The unique fusion of Italian flair, architectural inspirations and vibrant gemstones that characterise Bulgari’s designs can be traced back to the archives, making them an invaluable resource for creativity.
M: Bulgari’s watchmaking division is now known for innovation above all else – last year’s Octo Finissimo Ultra set an eighth watchmaking world record for the brand. What were the advancements that allowed the Tubogas to be set with gems after its long, well-loved history?
AP: Serpenti Tubogas Infiniti is a real revolution for us froma development point of view. We completely rethought the construction of the Tubogas bracelet to be able to set it with diamonds. The historical design did not allow for gem-setting and we had to rethink the technique while keeping the recognisable design virtually intact. Now each link is crafted separately with its unique dimensions, diamond-set and polished before being assembled into the bracelet. We are finally able to showcase our unique know-how as a jeweller and to express our creativity with Serpenti even more. This new version offers us infinite possibilities in terms of creativity and the innovative use of precious materials.
M: Bulgari timepieces are a joint effort — movements designed and manufactured in Switzerland, with the jewellery and gem-setting taking place in Italy. How does this combination of manufacturing locations and specialisations benefit the final product? And how does this intersection of high jewellery and high horology represent what Bulgari’s watchmaking is trying to achieve?
AP: By having movements designed and manufactured in Switzerland, which has a long-standing reputation for fine watchmaking, Bulgari can tap into the expertise and precision of Swiss watchmakers. On the other hand, having the jewellery and gem-setting taking place in Italy, a country known for its rich history in high-end craftsmanship, allows us to leverage the Italian flair for design and creativity. Our creations showcase the fusion of two art forms, blending them seamlessly to produce watches that are true works of art.
- Words by Rachel Silvestri