Italian maison Bulgari boasts a long history of expertise in the realm of high jewellery, having been founded more than a century ago. Not content with resting on those laurels, however, Bulgari broke into the world of haute horlogerie in 2010—and has been receiving accolades ever since.
Though a heritage brand, Bulgari has refused to be bound by the established conventions of watchmaking, and its timepieces are rewriting the industry’s rules. Its innovative approach resulted in five out of six of Bulgari Horlogerie’s newest creations making it into the final selection for the 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG), the world’s most prestigious watch awards that's often referred to as "the Oscars of the watch world".
Leading the pack is the Octo Grande Sonnerie Perpetual Calendar, Bulgari’s most complicated timepiece. It boasts two of the most prestigious complications—the grande sonnerie, or grand strike, and the perpetual calendar—plus the full range of calendar indications, a moon-phase display and a tourbillon.
The Octo line redefined the contemporary men’s watch and has gained an exclusive cult following due to its unprecedented shape—octagonal rather than square or round—as well as for the rare ancient Roman coins that grace the cover of the Octo Monete.
“Starting from the 1970s, Bulgari was the first to use coins as a gemstone,” says Bulgari Horlogerie artistic director Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, explaining that it can take up to three years for their suppliers to source the coins from auctions. “It’s something very important to me because it embodies the essence of the brand—Roman ancient history and contemporary design.”
Bulgari’s four other shortlisted timepieces all push the artistic boundaries of watchmaking in their own right.
The Serpenti Pallini is both a watch and a high jewellery masterpiece, bringing together 18K white and rose gold, diamonds and emeralds in an eye-catching serpent-themed case and bracelet, while the Divas’ Dream Roman Nights watch indicates hours and minutes with sapphires and brilliant-cut diamonds on two overlaid aventurine discs.
Last but not least are two watches from the Lucea collection: the Lucea Tubogas Red Dial, designed to celebrate Chinese New Year, and the Lucea Tubogas Skeleton. Drawing on Bulgari’s mastery of colour, the former features a bright red dial with diamond hour markers, while the latter’s pink-gold case houses an open dial displaying Bulgari’s logo spelled out in letters plated in rose gold and set with 117 diamonds.
“Inspiration, for me, is everywhere,” says Buonamassa Stigliani. “Even within the brand itself—it’s full of tales.” We’ll definitely be watching how Bulgari’s history as a pioneering watchmaker develops.