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“We break the rules”: Bulgari Watch Design Chief Fabrizio Buonamassa

A watch designer combines codes of the past and the future to create designs for the present.

Bulgari might be more than a century old, but its watch design chief wants this to be known: The revered Italian luxury brand is not stuck in old ways.

“We break the rules,” says Fabrizio Buonamassa, senior director of Bulgari’s Watches Design Centre, whom The Peak met in Tokyo recently, on a visit to view Bulgari’s latest watches and its recent retrospective, The Art Of Bulgari: 130 Years Of Italian Masterpieces.

Elaborating on the groundbreaking nature of the brand’s first Bulgari Roma timepiece – the precursor to its Bulgari Bulgari watches, which bear repeated inscriptions of the brand’s logo on the bezel – he says: “In 1975, when the industry was making square, triangular and hexagonal watches, Bulgari created this perfect circular watch that was so thin, with a digital movement and in yellow gold.” The norm then was to use mechanical movements.

Today, inventiveness remains a core value. For the brand’s Magnesium Diagono “intelligent watch” – a mechanical timepiece embedded with an NFC chip – Buonamassa designed a case crafted from high-tech materials, most notably magnesium (which is light and strong), and the space-grade polymer Peek (which is breakand temperature-resistant). But breaking new ground is not just about blindly pushing boundaries. He stresses that “a Bulgari watch has to be something you can pass on” to future generations. Which is why he and his team put a new spin on iconic shapes, rather than produce far-out forms.

This insistence on “purity”, as Buonamassa puts it, is reflected in families like the eight-sided Octo and the brand’s refreshed Daniel Roth cases (rectangular cases with rounded ends). While these designs are, in part, legacies of the Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth manufactures that Bulgari acquired around 2000, they have been updated with a streamlined elegance that is resolutely Bulgari. With two minute hands that take turns indicating the minutes displayed along an arc, the Heure Sautante Papillon presented in Tokyo is inspired by a signature Daniel Roth mechanism and design.

Buonamassa says: “We changed the proportions of the case and the lugs. And for the first time, the box-type glass (a watch glass that has raised edges and is mounted on the case band, without a bezel) is not round. It’s easy to produce a round box-type glass, but it’s not easy to create one in the Daniel Roth shape.”

For a designer looking to perfect already iconic designs, minutiae indeed matter. “I have to use the same iconic design codes through the entire Bulgari collection. But, when you look deeper, the details can be completely different.”