“I wish I were a woman so I could wear a Serpenti!” Overhearing these words as I entered the Bulgari booth at Baselworld 2016 on my way to meet with the Director of Bulgari Watches Design Centre, Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, I was surprised that the esteemed watch editor who pronounced them (and later confirmed to me) would cite a timepiece known more for its distinctive feminine design than for what makes it tick. My surprises were not over, as I discovered during my time at the booth.
Fabrizio Stigliani told me last year that after studying industrial design, he designed cars for 4 years before joining Bulgari (where he has been now for 15 years). And that designing the Maserati Granturismo or the Fiat Panda was exactly the same thing, “not in terms of language and dreams, but in terms of project – it’s a car, it’s an object, and I have to be able to design it”. In comparison to watches, he said that both (cars and watches) can take up to 5 years to develop, both have important technical challenges, and that only the proportions and size differ. And the aesthetic inspiration of course, which in the case of Bulgari is Rome, a city Stigliani knows like the back of his hand.
This year, it was the record-setting Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater – the thinnest hand-wound Minute Repeater to date (6.85 mm case) — that took 5 years to develop. You can read full details in our story dated March 22, and when looking at the photo here, see why Stigliani told me his aim was to design “a minute repeater to wear every day”. It’s clean, easy, sleek and exudes understated self-confidence. “And in titanium, for better resonance (and wearing comfort)” he added.
Straightforward, he told me that among the different Bulgari collections, “Diagono is manly”, and Lvcea is perfect “if you don’t like snakes or Bulgari Bulgari branding on your wrist”. But the 2 leading collections are Octo for men, and Serpenti for ladies.
Which brings me back to the iconic Serpenti, and my multiple surprises. In perpetual rebirth, the Serpenti has emerged this year in a profusion of new interpretations: 26mm Serpenti Jewellery versions with colourful use of diamonds, mother-of-pearl, coral, onyx and turquoise on a pink gold structure; the Serpenti Spiga with curved 35 mm case and single coil in black or white ceramic with pink gold, lug, tail and diamond-set bezel;
the captivating Serpenti Five-coil Tubogas with 5 (five!) rows of steel and pink gold surrounding a 35 mm case in pink gold and steel, or steel, set with diamonds;
and the Serpenti Incantiti or Enchanting Snake, with the snake encircling a round case instead of your arm “because not everyone wants to wear a snake on her wrist” says Stigliani.
The Serpenti Incantati comes in 4 Jewellery versions with 30mm cases and a choice of bracelets and straps, while the positively spellbinding 41mm pink or white gold diamond-set Serpenti Incantati Skeleton Tourbillon in 2 limited edition versions that combine haute jewellery and haute watchmaking, boasts the entirely skeleton-worked hand-wound Manufacture tourbillon Calibre BVL 208, with bridges crafted in pink or white gold and finishing second to none.
And what collection this year was the most challenging for Stigliani to design? “The Serpenti!”, of course.