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Reviving a 90s icon and bringing forth a new version of the classic Serpenti — we spoke with Bvlgari’s managing director Antoine Pin to decode their Geneva Watch Days 2020 offerings. 

“Italianism, disruption, boldness, and focus” — a fitting reply by Antoine Pin when asked what gave Bvlgari its edge today. There’s no denying that this brand has been exceptional in vision, art, craft, and design. The watchmaker doesn’t settle by simply adding new designs to the mix, but pushes boundaries and aims for the exceptional. The Octo, a pinnacle of miniaturising complex movements, is testament to this — it has been setting records for its ultra thin form for the last six years. This year also saw the iconic Serpenti shed its skin once again and emerge more glamorous than ever. 

Bvlgari’s Antoine Pin on setting horological records

Mr. Antoine Pin
Antoine Pin

What were the core inspirations behind Bvlgari’s line for 2020?

For this year, we’ve capitalised on the models that were the pillars of Bvlgari. Last January in Dubai during the LVMH Watch Week, we introduced Serpenti Seduttori Tourbillon, which bears the smallest tourbillon to ever rest on a woman’s wrist. We also launched the new mainstream Octo Finissimo S in satin/polished steel which is 100m waterproof. At the Geneva Watch Days in August, we introduced another range of key novelties: The Bvlgari Aluminum collection, the Octo Finissimo Chronograph Tourbillon Automatic Skeleton, and a reinvented Gerald Genta Arena Bi-Retro.

As a Roman jeweller of time, we strive to combine creativity and watchmaking mastery, and our novelties are a testament to that. We decided to emphasise on the Bvlgari Aluminum, a customer-favourite from the 90s. The reinvented version, however, is designed with modernity in mind. We wanted it to have a fresh, young, and smart spirit. More so, we also wanted it to have an appealing price point.

Antoine Pin
The Octo Finissimo family

The Octo was the star of this year’s collection. What were the challenges in crafting the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton?

The greatest challenge was miniaturisation. We managed to fit more than 480 components of the movement into such a restraint volume. To put this into perspective, we fitted an integrated chronograph system, a tourbillon regulator, and the automatic peripheral mass into bare millimetres of space. That is a true marvel of horology!

The Octo Finissimo family sets records year after year. How challenging is it for the brand to up the ante?

Six years ago, Bvlgari birthed the genre of ultra-thin watches in the contemporary watch industry. And now, we have mastered craft behind such novelties and mechanisms. But, with expertise comes curiosity, which gave us the appetite for consistently in setting new records. We’re still trying to identify newer potentials to develop complications and innovations within this limited range. And I can say we have plenty of ideas yet to exploit.

The Bvlgari Aluminium Collection
The Bvlgari Aluminium Collection

How did a non-traditional material like aluminium find its place in this year’s collection? And what were the challenges you faced while crafting?

There was a conversation at Bvlgari’s HQ back in the 90s that started with this ‘Imagine a top luxury watch brand launching a piece made out of industrial metal and rubber.’ It was disruptive at the time and still is, 20 years later.

We wanted to revive this as a new collection that would cater to younger generations looking for a smartwatch, that’s why the Bvlgari Aluminium is here today. It found its place because we have been asked for years to launch it by press and clients. After 22 years, this watch was still alive in the memories, so that we decide to reactivate it but with improved all features; the aluminium alloy is different from the one we used at the time. Thanks to massive progress made in the industry, we could identify a new alloy with the same granularity and feeling but much more resistant to scratches than the traditional one.

The Serpenti has come forth in a bedazzling form — who is the woman Bvlgari aspires to attract with this line?

The Serpenti is versatile, and it’s a perfect mix of high jewellery and watchmaking finesse that suits the flair of a modern woman. It is therefore not a matter of age, even though women with a certain maturity appreciate the piece, but more a matter of style and personality.

Bvlgari Gerald Genta Bi-Retro
Bvlgari Gerald Genta Bi-Retro

The Gerald Genta line has had a long and rich history of design – how has it reinvented itself for 2020?

As a foreword, Bvlgari has had a long-lasting relationship with Gerald Genta since the 70s. Then the Maison acquired both the Gerald Genta & Daniel Roth workshops in 2000. We continued to produce watches GG branded afterwards.

In 2019, we launched a limited-edition in platinum to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Gerald Genta brand. This year, we introduced the Arena Bi-Retro in titanium. We aim at redeveloping the community of Genta fans, with some anniversary collections that we will launch in the future as many collectors request for it. Our aim is consequently to feed those demands on an exclusive basis and limited production.

Antoine Pin

Bvlgari is aiming to create a unisex appeal with its collection. What led to this decision, and how has this come about in design?

The unisex appeal that caught your eye is to allow appreciation of our models by everyone, irrespective of gender. The models in universal designs and sizes appeal to a masculine as well as a feminine clientele. We didn’t want this dynamic to prevent anyone from owning a novelty. Even though it has been designed to fit men, the Bvlgari Aluminium, for its standard size, also appeals to ladies.

How is Bvlgari managing to offer their boutique watch services in a time of pandemic / social distancing?

To respect the safety of our customers, most of our boutiques closed between March and June. However, to provide the Bvlgari experience, we handled it via Zoom. We conducted daily meetings for status updates and more details. Now, since most markets are getting back to normal, we can secure these service physically while maintaining all the mandatory sanitary and safety constraints to preserve the customers’ safety.

All images: Courtesy brand

Mikhail Gomes
Senior Features Writer
A watch aficionado, Gomes also enjoys learning about fine whiskies, and one day hopes to establish his own menswear label. At Lifestyle Asia India, he writes on watches, menswear, auto and tech.