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05/09/2022
 3 minutes

Bulgari: Good luxury watch brand or just jewelry?

By Thomas Hendricks
Bulgari-Magazin-2-1
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Bulgari is the third largest jewelry producer in the world. The brand was founded by Greek silversmith Sotirios Bulgari, who opened his first shop in Rome in 1884. The workshop initially specialized in making decorative silver pieces, before moving into precious stones and jewels when Sotirios’s sons took over the business in 1932. In response to interest in snake-inspired jewelry sparked by Queen Victoria’s engagement ring, Bulgari adopted the serpentine motif in many of its designs. In 1948, the Italian brand completed its first iteration of the Serpenti, a coiled and ornate piece of high jewelry that concealed a small watch within its head. The hand-wound calibers powering these watches were provided by several leading watchmakers of the time, including Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget, and Vacheron Constantin. 

The Bulgari Octo Finissimo is one of the most popular watches from the brand.

Are Bulgari watches Swiss-made?

In the second half of the twentieth century, Bulgari was looking to expand from just jewelry into watchmaking. Taking cues from brands like Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, the brand hired Gérald Genta to craft an original look for their new line of timepieces. Bulgari’s Swiss subsidiary, which was in charge of watch production, was established in 1980 alongside the release of their first timepiece, the BULGARI BULGARI. Today, Bulgari Time has its headquarters in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. In the decades following the release of the BULGARI BULGARI, the brand expanded the collection as well as the Bulgari Serpenti. They also explored the use of new materials and gem-setting techniques. Other collections were also introduced, including the Assioma, Ergon, and Rettangolo.  

Thanks to a growing market share in the luxury jewelry, timepiece, and fragrance sectors, the Bulgari Group was able to acquire the manufacturing rights to Gérald Genta’s line of watches and watch manufacturer Daniel Roth in 2000. Through this purchase, Bulgari’s watch subsidiary gained access to a wealth of new designs, including an octagon-shaped case by Genta that had not yet been fully realized. After LVMH acquired a majority stake in Bulgari in 2011, development of the brand’s Octo Finissimo collection was set in motion.  

The Bulgari Serpenti: an iconic combination of watchmaking and jewelry

Does Bulgari offer in-house movements?

The Bulgari Octo Finissimo launched in 2014 with a striking case architecture and impressive degree of thinness. Equipped with the in-house movement BVL 128, the whole watch measured just 5.15 mm thick. Along with the Serpenti, the Octo Finissimo line has grown to represent Bulgari’s presence in the watch world. Bulgari’s Octo collection, in particular, continues to push the boundaries of ultra-thin watchmaking with the release of several record-setting complications in the past few years. All the while, Bulgari continues to experiment with sand-blasted steel and a range of precious materials, further highlighting the dramatic style of this integrated-bracelet watch. 

Bulgari’s Reputation

While Bulgari has previously been more closely aligned with jewelry and fashion-oriented watches, their new offerings in the Octo Finissimo line command considerable respect within the industry. Prices for quartz watches from the last twenty years run from a few hundred dollars to the low thousands, while watches with an integrated bracelet from the current Bulgari Octo collection begin around $4,000. Special editions, precious metal variants, and watches with complications come in at a variety of price points, ranging from $10,000 all the way to more than $200,000 on Chrono24. 

Through careful development and acquisitions, Bulgari’s watches have been elevated from niche offerings in fashion to serious players on the world stage of mechanical timepieces. The Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar even earned the Aiguille d’Or at 2021’s GPHG awards


About the Author

Thomas Hendricks

I didn’t grow up a watch guy, but a few years after graduating from university, I landed a job at the online publication Watchonista as a writer and marketer. “Welcome to the watch world,” my colleagues told me half-jokingly, “no one ever leaves!” Now at Chrono24, I work as a private client advisor, helping people find the perfect watch for major life moments.

Read more

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