Interview by Eleanor Pryor
Luxury timepieces have an appeal as the ultimate boys’ toys, but when you enter the watchmaking world and see the technicality and intelligence behind the scenes, they become even more fascinating. I started at Bulgari 15 years ago, in the marketing department, but I always had my eye on the technical side because that’s where the true luxury values show through. When I took over the watch division in 2009, it was a privilege to lead a team of 350 people within this department.
Bulgari has always had an aspect of joy, a creativity that is exuberant. In Rome, we have 360 days a year in the sun, we live outside, the houses are colourful. So we see luxury very differently to others in Europe, who perhaps have a more understated approach to aesthetics.
My team and I have continued to add renewed expressions of creativity to the Serpenti collection, possibly the most recognisable of Bulgari’s timepieces for women. A new version features a snake that coils around the wrist then bites its own tail – one of the more fascinating executions of this particular style. Our Diva watch has also been well received – in fact, beyond our expectations. Women are falling in love with this collection and it’s very difficult to keep in stock because it’s flying out of the stores. Because it’s a very recent design, we can be very playful with it, creating the petals from lots of different materials, or exploring the juxtaposition of gemstones with diamonds. It is this unique approach that ensures endless opportunities ahead.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Bulgari Bulgari, and we have built on this collection as testament to its iconic design. When the Bulgari Bulgari was first created, we didn’t even design watches. We had creativity, but it wasn’t a technical creativity, so we needed assistance from other suppliers to make it happen. Then in 1982, we founded Bulgari Time in Geneva, which then became Bulgari Horlogerie. Since then, we have continued to further develop a culture of watchmaking and it has now become a true production asset to the brand. Today, more than 60 per cent of our timepieces are produced in-house, from dials to mechanical movements – we’ve become a truly integrated company. The growth in the past five years or so has been phenomenal, allowing us to launch such pieces as the Octo Finissimo, the thinnest tourbillon in the world.
The beauty of working at Bulgari is that, as I always say, we are the only brand with the extraordinary talent to be able to blend the aesthetic and the technical. Italians have an artistic culture rooted in the quest for beauty, but without also having exquisite skill in watchmaking, they would not be able to refine their aesthetic; the finished piece would not turn out as the designer had imagined. At Bulgari, the technical is servicing the design, rather than vice versa.
I think we are at a very different stage from the competition. The beginning of the year has been a prudent one for the watchmaking industry, but we are lucky to be counter-trending – last year we did really well, and this year, we are doing even better. This allows us to continue with the boldness and creativity for which Bulgari is renowned.