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Bulgari - What legends are made of…

Bulgari What legends are made of…

The Bulgari “Serpenti” snake watch has now definitely reached the well-deserved status of a legend.

Words like “legendary”, “iconic” and “mythical” are often used, and equally often misused, when watch aficionados describe their cherished trophies and most beloved horological pieces. More often, we can find such superlatives in any kind of marketing material and commercial publications, including auction house catalogues.

But seldom are such adjectives as appropriate as in the case of the celebrated Bulgari “Serpenti” snake watch. Whereas the basic concept isn’t per se breathtaking – the combination of a serpent-shaped flexible bracelet housing a watch movement inside the snake’s hinged head, it is the combination of creativity, craftsmanship and uniqueness behind each piece that renders it so different from any other type of decorative watch.

But when does a watch or timepiece deserve to be called “legendary” or “iconic”? In my view, It is the combination of a unique, authentic and timeless design paired with superior craftsmanship, a high level of exclusivity and style true to the firm’s history and DNA.

The snake has been, for thousands of years, a symbol of seduction, but also rebirth and wisdom. It comes consequently as no surprise that mankind has used the snake as a motif in jewelry, be it for necklaces, bangles or rings. But it was Bulgari, the famous jewelry house from Rome, who introduced the snake watch in the late 1940’s and since then it is one of the firm’s signature pieces. Vintage snake watches come in a variety of versions and it is very difficult to find two identical examples. Often enameled, either with opaque or translucent enamel or a combination of the two techniques, the colors range from white to black but include also coral-orange, turquoise and different tones of green. The most lavish examples are enameled in multi-colors and combined with precious stones.


Bulgari Serpenti

The Bulgari jewelry dynasty was founded by Greek immigrant Sotirios Voulgaris (Italian: Sotirio Bulgari) in 1884. His sons Constantino and Giorgio opened the family’s second shop in the early years of the 20th century. The firm was known for their creative skills but also the use of the finest and most valuable gems. Bulgari’s know-how in pairing Mediterranean creativity and classic elegance ensured that their fame grew rapidly amongst the world’s elite, including Europe’s nobility, the international high-society and most notably Hollywood’s stars.

In fact, many of the most legendary actresses (but also actors) paid regular visits to Bulgari’s flagship store in Rome’s famous via dei Condotti, especially during their extensive stays in Italy’s capital when filming at Cinecittà. Elizabeth Taylor was no exception and it was during the production of Cleopatra in 1962 that she is said to have acquired a snake watch. Photographic proof exists that Elizabeth Taylor was wearing this masterpiece on the set. Made of gold with both the snake’s head and tail set with diamonds, this very piece was offered in the Elizabeth Taylor Collection landmark auction of her Estate at Christie’s in New York in December 2011, fetching US$974,500 against a pre-sale estimate of US$12,000/15,000 – some 65 times its higher estimate!


Bulgari Elisabeth Taylor

What appeared in the eyes of a layman to be an astronomical, possibly unreasonable price paid for a piece of memorabilia was recently put into perspective and seen in a very attractive new light, when another Bulgari snake watch, adorned with black enamel and diamonds, was sold in June of this year at a London jewelry auction for £662,500, consequently breaking the magic “one-million dollar barrier” for the first time for a Bulgari snake bracelet watch.

In the international auction arena for vintage collector’s watches and timepieces, such intense level of bidding is usually reserved to a handful of superlative watches and timepieces created by the most exclusive and prominent manufacturers such as (in alphabetical order) A. Lange & Söhne, Audemars Piguet, Breguet, Cartier, Patek Philippe, Rolex and Vacheron Constantin. This exclusive club has now welcomed another distinguished member – Bulgari!

Since 2010, when Bulgari re-launched the snake watch at the Basel fair as the “Serpenti” line, it continued growing in popularity and has now definitely reached the well-deserved status of a legend.


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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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