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LVMH Swiss Watch Manufactures Exhibition
Bulgari - Ultimate Seduction

Bulgari Ultimate Seduction

Creative director of Bulgari, Fabrizio Buonamassa, shows us the power of the new timepieces revealed in Dubai.

If you haven’t heard the name Fabrizio Buonamassa before, etch it into your mind now. Hailed as the successor to the design legend that is Gérald Genta, Buonamassa is creative director of Bulgari, father of the Octo Finissimo and the man responsible for the greatest (and incidentally most successful) watch collection launched this millennium. Fresh from the tremendously successful reception to his newest project, the Serpenti Seddutori Tourbillon, Buonamassa sits down with WorldTempus at the inaugural LVMH Watch Week, hosted at Bulgari Resort Dubai. In this frank interview, Buonamassa tells us about the most difficult part of a designer’s job and his dreams of one day creating a Serpenti for masculine wrists.

Ultimate Seduction

Fabrizio Buonamassa © Bulgari

We’re here on the second day of the inaugural LVMH Watch Week, held in Dubai. How do you feel about it so far? Is it what you expected?

Yes. We are very happy about the overall reaction to our products. We are also very happy about the reaction on the fair and it's a very important fair for us because it was an amazing effort to be here in January. Jean-Christophe [Babin, CEO of Bulgari] had this idea the year before last, and as you can imagine, it’s not easy at all to manage four different brands with four different timetables in terms of their product development. It was an amazing, amazing effort. Previously we did show some new products in January, but still this was a great change for us in terms of product development process. A number of the watches you see today are watches that we would have developed with a Baselworld launch in mind. They are all that strong, even the Octo in steel. The reaction has been really positive, the way we’ve been able to host our guests has been amazing. In terms of sales, we will see, but honestly I think it will be a positive because we have very interesting products. We will see. It is the first edition, so we will make some fine-tuning. 

 

Tell us more about the decision to focus on feminine timepieces, and the new Serpenti Seddutori Tourbillon.

For us, Bulgari is a female brand, it’s one of the most iconic jewellery makers that you have on the market, and it’s been like this since many years. It's clear that after all the effort on the Finissimo, now the focus is again on the ladies’ watch but with our know-how of today. So that's why the Seddutori has this kind of bracelet. That's why the Seddutori has a thin case. That's why the Seddutori has this kind of tourbillon. The concept of miniaturisation, these amazing skills, allowed us to create the Serpenti Seddutori today. It's a very important asset for us. That's why you have the polished and sand-blasted ceramic because it works well even on a ladies’ watch. We have many, many lady clients that love to wear male watches, even grand complication watches with huge movements. This is a part of the market, but it’s also our DNA. We are a jewel maker, we make products for ladies — high jewellery, the Lucea, the Serpenti Seddutori. We want to continue to invest in mechanical movement for ladies. 

Ultimate Seduction

Serpenti Seduttori Tourbillon Rose Gold © Bulgari

What’s interesting is what you said earlier — that you were having great success with the Octo and that it was time to focus on something else. Because this wouldn’t be obvious to a lot of other brands. They would prefer to continue doing something that they’re already successful with.

I think if you want to be a real important player in the watchmaking industry, you have to put the same effort that you put in the Finissimo, on the male watches, on the ladies’ side, because otherwise you are asymmetric in terms of development. So we have our manufacturing, we have our watch masters, and I think it's very important to put the same efforts that we have in the male assortment on the ladies’ one. 

 

Something I’ve always found very striking about the Bulgari designs is that they are very strongly gendered. The masculine collections are really masculine and the feminine collections are very feminine. Does that make them easier to design, because you’re not constrained by having to find a way to appeal to both sides?

We are very proud to be one of the few watchmakers that approach ladies and men separately with their own set of rules, because there are many watchmakers out there who just make the same watch in a smaller size and call it a ladies’ watch. We create dedicated designs for ladies, like the Diva’s Dream or the Lucea. But for the future, we might have different opportunities. Today, it’s still a little too early to mix these codes.

Ultimate Seduction

Diva's Dream Finissima Minute Repeater Malachite © Bulgari

That said, I do feel personally — just through my own observations — that the very nature of the Bulgari client is to be adventurous, they are not afraid to express themselves.

Yeah, absolutely. I want to tell you something, sometimes in my brain, I imagine a Serpenti watch for men. Why not? So I was in London maybe two years ago, and I noticed a couple of young gentleman trying on a Serpenti. Diamonds and everything. I totally agree with you, it’s really a matter of the client profile. Bulgari is Italian Extravaganza, it is boldness, Italian lifestyle, it is flamboyant. It's not just about the gender, where we look at masculine watches for men and feminine watches for ladies. That's why we love to play with different codes; I love having this contamination. So I love to see the Octo on a lady's wrist, and I love to imagine a Serpenti for gentlemen. I don’t know why. I have no plans for this in our collection. But sometimes I just have this peculiar idea.

Ultimate Seduction

Octo Finissimo Automatic Satin-Polished-Steel © Bulgari

I love this idea, and I don’t think it’s peculiar at all. In fact, Bulgari is one of the few jewellery brands that have a very strong offering in men’s jewellery. In the past, the most impressive and elaborate pieces of jewellery would be worn by men, and powerful men at that. Kings, princes, dukes, popes, cardinals — men who wore jewels as symbols of strength and authority. I would love to see this come back.

Yeah, I do agree with you. The jewellery line for gentlemen can be fantastic, and we could do it. Now, we have to be focused on our heritage and we have to continue to develop our products with a certain consistency. Afterwards, in the future, maybe we're going to have more opportunities to mix and match different things. But now it's very important to be consistent with our heritage.

 

Speaking of heritage, one thing that I notice about all these watches we’ve seen today is that even though these have been part of Bulgari’s history for a long time — the first Bulgari pieces with the serpent motif came from the late 1930s, and the original Octo design predated the 1970s octagonal watch trend by quite a bit — the strongest aspect of the Serpenti Seddutori is how contemporary it is. The same with all the other collections, they are completely modern.

One of the most difficult things to do as a designer is to express these heritage elements of a brand in a modern way. As a designer, I love to play with the designs of the brand and to imagine the evolution of these designs and create products that don’t exist yet but that, when you look at them, will immediately recall to you the brand. The Serpenti Seddutori was maybe the most difficult one, because the idea was to have a Serpenti with a mainstream approach. “Serpenti” and “mainstream” are concepts that don’t fit together, but this is the uniqueness of Bulgari. We can play with archive elements in a contemporary way. We don’t do a copy-and-paste exercise from the archives, unless it’s for a special anniversary or limited edition. The secret is in the execution of our designs. This is what it means to be Bulgari.

Ultimate Seduction

Serpenti Seduttori Steel and Diamonds © Bulgari

 

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