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Watch how they sparkle

By THERESE JAMORA-GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Sep 08, 2021 5:00 am

Zendaya hypnotized her 105 million Instagram followers by previewing Bulgari’s Magnifica Hypnotic Emerald necklace, High Jewelry Emerald ring and Diamond stud earrings at the premiere of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune at the 78th Venice Film Festival.

The snake has long been Bulgari’s icon, symbolizing eternal life and feminine seduction. In this new necklace that took Bulgari artisans 1,800 hours to make, it carries a 93.83-carat cabochon-cut Colombian emerald in its jaws, while its body is set with pavé diamonds, as well as diamond baguettes and emerald cabochons.

While the iconic look strengthened Bulgari’s status as the Roman jeweler to the stars, the recently concluded watch fair Geneva Watch Days (GWD) reinforced Bulgari’s position as a watchmaker with unrivaled expertise in high-jewelry watches for women and high-tech watches for men.

The Serpenti Spiga features a new crosshatched bracelet pattern for the iconic watch, available in white or rose gold set with diamonds in single- or triple-wrap styles.

Held this year from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3, Geneva Watch Days was in “phygital” format: physical — “We are sitting in Geneva with 350 media and about 300 retailers, gathering 25 brands,” said Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari, one of the founding brands of GWD — and digital for everyone else.

“This is our third watch event this year; we started in January with LVMH Watch Days, and one of the stars was the Lucea re-launch,” Babin continued. “Then we moved to Watches & Wonders digital, where the big star is still the Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar — the seventh world record in a row. And now we end the year on a very high note, hopefully commercially as well.”

Zendaya previews the Bulgari Magnifica Hypnotic Emerald necklace and High Jewelry Emerald ring paired with Diamond stud earrings at the premiere of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune at the 78th Venice Film Festival.

Today Bulgari is growing double digits in watches, as compared to 2019, “so the recovery has been achieved already,” according to Babin. “We see a lot of potential in the high end, and as a jeweler, we are especially legitimate in the high end, as jewelry is high-end by definition.”

Colorful jeweled watches for ladies

For ladies Bulgari launched a brand-new Divas’ Dream collection: the new Divina Mosaica and Diva’s Dream watches.

“Diva was born as a jewelry collection in 2014, as a watch in 2016, and ever since has developed nicely as our main jewelry watch collection, together with the Serpenti jewelry watches,” notes Babin. “Unlike Serpenti, which is a very shaped, strong-pedigree watch, it’s a round watch, and we decided for this new Diva Mosaic collection to pay direct tribute to the mosaics of Caracalla, which was the starting point of creativity of the jewelry collection.”

The Diva’s Dream Peacock Diamonds combines gem-setting, mother-of-pearl inlay, and a miniature enameled peacock.

The Diva collection continues Bulgari’s exploration of turning high jewelry into watches, according to Antoine Pin, managing director of Bulgari’s watch division. “It’s our home, and we have the duty to push further the exploration,” he says.

The Divina Mosaica is a watch inspired by Bulgari’s Roman origins, specifically the thermae or baths of Caracalla, which are decorated with mosaics over gingko leaves. “We’ve literally transferred those mosaics from Caracalla into the watch,” Pin says. “It’s a mosaic of the pink sapphires — or tsavorites for the green version — which is actually a degradé of stones from very light on top to much more dense pink.”

The fan motif of Bulgari’s Divina Mosaica watches in green tsavorite and pink sapphires is inspired by the mosaics in the Roman baths of Caracalla.

A longtime patron of the arts, Bulgari has been financing the restoration of the Caracalla mosaics, which have become an iconic and enduring Bulgari motif.

“The star is the diamond Diva Mosaic Minute Repeater,” Babin says. “It’s a really unique combination of all types of diamond cuts you can dream of: diamond baguettes, pavé diamonds, round diamonds, rectangular diamonds, and all that has been put together to make sure that the Diva motif could stand out.”

The watch also has a charm on the left-hand side at seven o’clock that is a minute-repeater lever. Activate it and it chimes out a pretty tune.

Diamond days: The Divina Mosaica Minute Repeater

“Jewelry watches are in strong demand,” notes Babin, “and already in Watches & Wonders we presented the new Diva with the gold-and-diamond bracelet; before Diva was available only with a satin bracelet. And we had many requests from clients to have also a solid-gold bracelet, ideally adorned with diamonds, which we did. Mosaica is really the flagship of Bulgari in the field of jewelry watches with sophisticated mechanical movements inside.”

Babin says Bulgari’s biggest markets for such high-end jewelry watches are China, the USA, and Europe: “They like the combination of a jewelry piece together with the functionality of a watch.”

Invitations to travel

Bulgari’s premier men’s watch is the Octo Finissimo Ultra-Thin, which at a mere 40mm x 5.15mm has made Bulgari synonymous with extremely thin, light and comfy-to-wear watches.

“It continues to be a flagship of Bulgari excellence in sophisticated, creative, innovative watchmaking with seven world records in a row,” notes Babin. “It’s widely known as probably the most iconic watch of the 21st century. We have already more than 60 international awards on that watch, so it’s the most awarded watch in watchmaking history.”

The world’s most awarded watch: Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo

Pin agrees: “Today Bulgari is probably renowned most for its Finissimo line of calibers, which are the slimmest ones in the world. We are breaking the record in relation to this trend, and we can arguably say that we have set this trend of going back to simplicity and elegance in terms of watches — going the opposite way to the very big, bulky and ultra-sporty watches — but looking at performance from a different perspective.”

If the Octo Finissimo is one of Bulgari’s most iconic watches, Pin says the other is the Serpenti Tubogas: “It’s even more important because it’s the essence of who we are,” he notes. “This Serpenti full-pavé Tubogas is actually a piece of jewelry turned into a watch. This watch is even more important because, since 2021, we are able to set the Tubogas bracelet, which is so flexible, with diamonds. So today, from the head to the tail, we can create a real piece of jewelry. It’s a new stage in the history of this collection, which was created in 1937. So it’s one of the most historical collections in the history of watches today.”

Octo Roma WorldTimer

Going back to men’s watches, at GWD Bulgari paid attention to the other side of Octo: the Octo Roma with a simpler case and more affordable entry price (the Solo Tempo starts at 5,600 euros, with grand complications like the Carillon Tourbillon that chimes the bells of Westminster going up to 800,000 euros).

The new Octo Roma WorldTimer is the ideal traveler’s watch, positioned in the more accessible range of 8,000 euros. Driven by a new, 261-component integrated movement that allows you to read the time in 24 zones simultaneously, the WorldTimer’s selected cities are not just the usual world capitals but focus on destinations with Bulgari hotels standing or rising.

Made for travel: The blue Octo Roma WorldTimer in brushed steel gives the time in 24 cities that have special significance to Bulgari.

“We want to remind our client that they can also feel the best of Bulgari in beautiful hotels and dream destinations like the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, rather than St. Barthelemy in the Caribbean,” Babin explains, “so that it’s not only a world timer but also a true Bulgari world timer for fans of la dolce vita.”

The Octo Roma WorldTimer comes in two versions: brushed steel, and a younger, sportier version with black diamond-like carbon (DLC) and a soft strap.

Aluminium GMT

Last year, the Aluminium GMT watch was Bulgari’s main initiative at Geneva Watch Days, and it was such a strong success that the model is currently out of stock. Bulgari actually had to keep its Swiss manufacturer open during the summer for the first time ever to try to catch up with demand.

Dress up, dress down: Bulgari’s Aluminium GMT executed in blue and red targets Gen Z and millennials.

Now they’ve added a fourth Aluminium GMT, executed in blue and red with simple functionality. “We’re targeting primarily the Generation Z and millennials, as kind of a first luxury watch in the portfolio, allowing them to enter into Bulgari at a reasonable price with an authentic, mechanical high-quality watch but pretty young in style. Dress-up, dress-down as a design has proven to be very versatile.”

The butterfly effect

Higher up on the scale is the Octo Roma Central Tourbillon Papillon, the high-precision complication of which is inspired by the flight of the butterfly. Two wing-shaped hands run in turn along a 180-degree semi-circular track, indicating the minutes while the jumping hour appears in the window located at 12 o’clock.

The advantage of the Papillon device is that it consumes less energy than the traditional minutes display, which allows it to have a 60-hour power reserve.

The high-precision complication of the Octo Roma Central Tourbillon Papillon is inspired by the flight of the butterfly.

“The Butterfly Tourbillon is very creative, sophisticated and magical,” Babin says. “It’s a rose-gold piece that we’re going to sell at 124,000 Swiss francs, which is quite a competitive price for a tourbillon.”

With their releases for Geneva Watch Days 2021, it’s clear that Bulgari has recovered well from the manufacturing challenges of the pandemic and is looking to increase market share across all demographics.

“Next year we really want to expose the capacity of Bulgari to master various crafts related to the world of jewelry,” Pin says.

That should result in more wondrous watches for sure.

In the Philippines, Bulgari is located at Greenbelt 4, Ayala Center, Makati, tel. 728-5061/ 62, and The Shoppes at Solaire Resort & Casino, tel. 8241-3287.