Bulgari Interview with Jean-Christophe Babin
As the Bulgari group CEO explains, his clients are reaping the benefits of proactive investment across all the brand’s divisions.
Bulgari has opened the year with several new complications for women. Is this an experiment?
It’s more of a move to strengthen a trend we have noticed in our jewellery lines, which are doing very well. Last year we offered a limited series of 15 Bulgari Bulgari tourbillon watches, and their success persuaded us to offer 50 more for 2018. In fact, we will be broadening our range of jewellery watches with complications along two axes: the Serpenti, and the much newer Diva. Diva will be expanded to incorporate mechanical complications we have used in other ranges in the past. And, because its case lends itself so perfectly, it will also see some new complications we have not used in ladies’ watches before, such as the minute repeater we unveiled at the beginning of the year.
Diva's Dream Minute Repeater © Bulgari
Will you have anything new for Baselworld?
In Basel we will be focusing on the Lucea collection, which includes watches priced from CHF 5,000 to 25,000. Men will be able to discover our latest Octo Finissimo models.
What has been the response to your customisation options?
Our clients loved the experience we made available with the Serpenti; more than 500,000 people used our app and configurator, although most of them ended up choosing one of our standard models. That’s encouraging for us, it tells us that our creations are still relevant, and it also provides a richer experience for our clients. We also draw inspiration from our successful jewellery lines, and bring them to our watchmaking. An example of this approach is the three types of gold used in the B Zero 1 ring, whose colours can now be found in the Serpenti watch.
Configurator © Bulgari
Were your 2017 results a cause for optimism in 2018?
Apart from the results themselves, which were the best ever in the history of Bulgari, with all our divisions posting excellent performance, what I take from 2017 is that Bulgari has reaped what it sowed. Last year, Bulgari created 1500 jobs – that’s huge. For example, our high jewellery workshops in Valenza were completely refurbished and enlarged, expanding from 380 workstations to 600. This will increase further to 800 in 2018. In parallel, we created the Bulgari Academy, which trains between 40 and 60 apprentices at any one time in fine jewellery techniques. We also opened two new Bulgari hotels, which not only provide us with a platform to express our brand values, but they are also a way of recruiting top-end clients. Our multi-channel customer service has also expanded significantly, with the opening of seven centres spread around the world. They proactively manage our e-commerce operations by providing clients with an efficient interface 24/24. In the Bulgari leather goods division, we have moved towards vertically integrated production, by bringing leather cutting in-house. This is an important step forward in terms of increasing our expertise and adding value, where previously we were limited to crocodile. In perfumery, we have just opened a new ultra-modern workshop equipped with more efficient production procedures.
Will Bulgari’s watch customers also reap the benefits of these investments?
We began investing in watchmaking well before 2017, but our watch division has grown enormously thanks to synergies with haute horlogerie, enabling us to significantly reduce the cost of movements for entry-level watches without sacrificing our margins. So yes, our clients are seeing plenty of benefits. All these advantages, combined with the brand’s popularity, make us reasonably optimistic about 2018.
Bulgari has its own clear definition of excellence, which involves the perfect balance between design, added-value, quality of its products and its worldwide service. In the case of Bulgari watches, it all started with the Bulgari Bulgari watch that led to the creation of Bulgari Time in Switzerland in 1982.Find out more >
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