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Bulgari - Past And Present: A Bulgari Primer

Bulgari Past And Present: A Bulgari Primer

In the second half of 2020, the house of Bulgari releases a trifecta of timepieces that references each of the last three decades of the brand.

A mere 10 years ago, if you had tried to get people to believe that Bulgari would be one of the most exciting watchmaking companies of the 21st century, you’d have a difficult time finding someone to take you seriously. This is not to say that they didn’t have the expertise or the luxury credentials in 2010 to back up such a statement. They had acquired and incorporated the fine watchmaking brands Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth at the turn of the millennium, and over a century of history in fine jewellery craftsmanship practically guaranteed that they knew what they were doing in terms of design and the transmission of luxury values.

Past And Present: A Bulgari Primer

Bulgari Aluminium White Dial © Bulgari

The truth is, there were plenty who believed that watchmaking excellence could come only from a handful of traditional brands, from companies and artisanal workshops with deep roots in the heart of Swiss watch country — certainly not from an Italian brand known primarily for its jewellery creations with scarcely a decade of haute horlogerie savoir-faire in its pocket. For these doubters, fundamental assumptions would be broken and reformed in the course of a few short years. Bulgari rewrote the ABCs of watchmaking convention, and it started with…

A is for Aluminium, a lightweight metal that is resistant to magnetism, with a favourable density to strength ratio. While pure aluminium is fairly soft, alloys have significantly higher levels of hardness. While aluminium atoms on the surface of an alloy will rapidly undergo oxidation, this seemingly destructive process actually gives aluminium its corrosion resistant properties, as the quick-forming surface layer of aluminium oxide protects the main interior volume of aluminium. Bulgari seized on this material, beloved of high-tech domains such as aerospace industries but shunned by the luxury world due to its ubiquity (read: lack of perceived prestige, although — fun fact — aluminium cost more than gold when it was first discovered) and the ease with which it could be scratched and deformed. The Bulgari Diagono Aluminium debuted in 1998, becoming an icon of the era and an instant cultural touchstone due to its popularity amongst the pre-Y2K jet-set and its material connection to their preferred mode of travel.

Past And Present: A Bulgari Primer

Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph © Bulgari

At the Geneva Watch Days watchmaking salon of 2020, Bulgari have relaunched this ‘90s must-have accessory and amped up its specifications, replacing the original quartz movement with the automatic cal. B77 (or alternatively the automatic chronograph cal. B130) and using a more resistant alloy of aluminium to suit those of us who’ve grown out of our grunge phase and prefer bright shiny watches to scarred ones.

B is for Bi-Retro, a time-display configuration for which legendary designer Gerald Genta had a particular affinity. After Bulgari acquired the Gerald Genta brand in 2000, the following years were spent slowly integrating and accommodating the latter’s identity and considerable repute among watch aficionados within the overarching Bulgari brand. Alongside the new Bulgari Aluminium released at Geneva Watch Days was the Gerald Genta 2020 Arena Bi-Retro Anthracite Dial, featuring jumping hours, retrograde minutes and retrograde date — paying homage to the vast contributions that the Gerald Genta brand has made to the current stature of Bulgari Fine Watchmaking.

Past And Present: A Bulgari Primer

Bulgari Gerald Genta Arena Bi-Retro Sport © Bulgari

C is for Chronograph, a new skeletonised version of which, together with a tourbillon, anchors the record-setting Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic, also launched at Geneva Watch Days. Earlier this year, we did a run-down of Bulgari's ultra-thin records over the last six years, but there was never any assumption that it would be a definitive or final list. Bulgari have set so many records in this field that we almost feel a little unsurprised by each successive new feat of theirs — which is of course a disservice to their magnificent product development team. Every record deserves to be welcomed and greeted with the same delight and approbation as we had for the first, especially when it's a 7.4mm-thick openworked tourbillon monopusher chronograph with peripheral winding. Especially when it looks as good as this.

Past And Present: A Bulgari Primer

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic © Bulgari

The House of Bulgari is one of the most compelling and accomplished watch companies of the 21st century. Simple as ABC.


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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.

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