Jean-Christophe Babin, Bulgari CEO Reveals the Maison’s Latest Novelties

Lindsay Judge   |   04-05-2022

While it may have a long history of being a jewellery Maison, Bulgari has earned its legitimacy in the world of watchmaking and more than proven itself as a key player amongst the world’s finest watch brands.

 

After the reveal of its world-record-breaking Octo Finissimo Ultra, the world’s thinnest mechanical watch earlier this year, the Maison returns with its latest timepiece offering at Watches and Wonders. With exciting new novelties for both men and women, from the most innovative and complicated watches to the most elegant jewellery pieces, we discover the latest novelties with CEO Jean-Christophe Babin.

 

 

What can you tell us about the novelties for both men and women? 

 

We already disclosed some Serpenti jewellery novelties this year at LVMH watch week, the most stunning being the Serpenti Secret watch which features the new revolutionary Piccolissimo mechanical movement which is a wonder of technology. Now at Watches and Wonders, we are still talking about Serpenti but we are talking about a watch that is more of a daily wear piece. So, they are more affordable watches, but they are still jewellery pieces. When it comes to the new Serpenti Spiga, we have the addition of malachite paired with rose gold and diamonds. This was initially created in ceramic, and we have evolved it into gold, set it with diamonds to turn it into a wraparound jewellery watch.

 

 

Serpenti Tubogas

 

How difficult is it to work with malachite? 

 

Malachite is a stone that we work with a lot in jewellery, especially on the Diva collection, and we have been using it on the dial of the Bulgari Lady and the Diva jewellery watch, so it is a material that we know how to cut. This time it was a bit difficult because the dial is slightly curved, but we managed, and we have developed our capabilities related to this over the years. It’s a very interesting watch and this colour, is very appealing to the Middle Eastern customer. We know that green has very strong values and emotions in Islamic countries, and we believe that the Serpenti watch is already very appreciated there, but this watch uses a colour that is popular in the region and together with the diamond setting and the rose gold, I think it will be a great success.

 

 

Tell us about the new Diva – the savoir-faire is amazing and the setting of the jewels on the dial is just beautiful.

 

Diva was originally born to be a jewellery watch but, much like Serpenti, it can also be a daily watch. The line has evolved across two directions: one uses small Diva elements such as flowers, and the other one acts more as a support for Métiers d’ Art, spanning from feathers to enamel and now we are going a step further into the artistic dimension of Diva, so it’s not only a jewellery watch. These watches are meant to increase our desirability in the jewellery watch sector, which is already quite important for us – we are jewellers by trade, so it’s natural – but strangely enough, it’s not a market segment that is explored by many brands. Most Swiss brands are masculine brands and are born with male watches, they have obviously developed into ladies’ watches, but often by using the men’s watches in smaller diameters. So, the Swiss watchmaking companies are not so experienced in true jewellery watches and therefore we have this over many of the brands. This is very important for us as it is the core of our history and now, we are applying it to watchmaking which allows us to further develop our expertise within the company and it is something we have been developing for over 100 years. The first Bulgari jewellery watch was crafted 103 years ago in 1919 – it was a platinum and diamond watch that complemented the jewellery offering. Today, we have two elements of Bulgari – the jewellery element and then the technology one. And so, we have a strong push in this sector, and we are bringing back coloured gems into the watch collection, the same way we do it on jewellery. We are completing our collection, providing more breadth and depth so that we have the ideal desirable jewellery watch assortment and also covering very different lifestyles and price points. 

 

 

Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic

 

Let’s talk about men’s watches – the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic is very special.

 

This watch is state of the art in terms of its complication, but obviously like every single grand complication at Bulgari it comes in a very contemporary design and treatment. On one hand, our complications feature the best in acoustics for example, but they are also fitting with 21st-century style, meaning they are very contemporary. This is where Bulgari watches for men are different from many competitors because we dare to be very contemporary, and we combine the traditional grand complications with modern design and styling, and I think that is what our customers are looking for.

 

 

As a Maison that covers both jewellery and watches how do you remain strong and consistent with both sectors? 

 

Even though we are an Italian brand I believe that we are very military when it comes to our frame. What I mean by that is that our inspiration is clear – architecture, codes, symbols, arts, – and all our designs come straight from Roman history, arts, and architecture. This starts with our jewellery but in turn, also dictates our other categories in both men’s and women’s collections. Everything is directly inspired by our Roman history. Therefore, this cross-categorial way of creating, leverages icons that are all coming from one source, and it creates consistency across all our categories because we have one clear narrative. You will find this in all our products, in our communication, in the way we welcome our clients in our hotels and boutiques, and this is what is creating a unique brand consistency because there is a very strong history of 27 centuries of unrivalled leadership in the field of architecture. Yes, this can also be a constraint, but as you know, Rome has so much validity that it is an opportunity for us to fit within that frame in everything we do. Rome is probably one of the most famous and desired cities in the world, everyone wants to visit, and I think it’s a very emotional city and it’s the only city in the world with 27 centuries of ongoing arts and architecture and it has always been at the forefront of its time. It is a unique treasure for a luxury brand to get inspiration and to create a frame warranting that consistency that is so important to be successful as a luxury brand today.

 

 

Octo Finissimo Turbillon

 

How is it serving you to have the factories all being in Switzerland when it comes to watchmaking? 

 

For watchmaking we must be in Switzerland, this is where the excellence is and if we want to be amongst the best brands and watches, that is where we need to be. What makes a difference is that we are one of the most integrated watch brands when it comes to movements. Except for quartz, all our movements are made in-house and some are very original. All our cases and dials are crafted in our new Saignelégier Manufacture which we opened just before the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a brand-new Manufacture with a lot of synergies between dial making and case making. This enables us to be much more agile and allows us to shorten the lead time and then we have Neuchâtel where we assemble the watches. So, it’s a circular approach. This integration enabled us to be more daring because we understand every excellence and dimension of watchmaking. This explains why for instance we were capable of not only coming up with the idea of the Octo Finissimo Ultra, but because we are integrated, we could also design and develop a bracelet for it, which was one of the most important challenges for us. Designing a titanium bracelet that fits with such a thin watch, if we were sourcing it from outside it probably would not have been possible, but as we master bracelets inside, we were able to do it. So, this integration is sometimes a challenge because when we run out of capacity, we can have longer lead times, but it means that we know exactly how to craft a bracelet, case, movement, etc. and that enables us to be more daring and creative because we have mastered all these areas of excellence. We don’t delegate to others, and we have full control, which is also very important for ensuring the quality of our products.

 

Serpenti Seduttori

 

When can we expect to see these watches on the market? 

 

Firstly, and very soon we will launch the ladies’ watches. Some of the Octo Finnisimo watches will also launch soon – the Steel Chronograph and the Minute Repeater – and the last to come will be Ultra which will be launched in November. But most of what you see today will be in the market by September at the latest. The Serpenti watch with Malachite will launch in the Middle East in September.

 

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