Haute Time had the chance to speak with Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin at the Biennale des Antiquaires 2014 in Paris, France, and as soon as we sat down with him, were reminded of the importance of placing the brand within its rich jewelry heritage.
JCB: “This year, Bulgari celebrates its 130th anniversary. Therefore, here at the stand, created in the spirit of the new design of our flagship boutique in Rome on Via Condotti, 10, aside from 100 new high-jewelries, we are presenting a great historical exhibition, including pieces from the collection of Elizabeth Taylor purchased at the auction in 2011. Here we are showcasing pieces from the MVSA line with takhti-cut gems. Due to the almost flat inner side, they fit more closely to the body, providing unusual tactile sensations. There are also some timepieces among our Paris premieres: for example the Serpenti with a complex flexible jewelry bracelet and new Diva versions. These models are designed for ladies, because Biennale is primarily oriented for women.”
Haute Time: You boast a great experience in the watch industry, but now you head a brand known primary as a jewelry brand. What place do you assign to watches in the near future for Bulgari?
JCB: “We have a very strong watch component! The very first Bvlgari Bvlgari appeared in 1977, and this collection has become our icon. Unlike traditional watchmakers, we have watch collections, inspired by the jewelries, for example, the B.Zero 1. This is not what is usually called “the watch with a capital letter», but these pieces are not being faced with a such task. It is rather jewelry accessories, a great supplement to women’s jewelry. But there is also a specific watch course and I intend to work actively to strengthen it.”
HT: Last year you arrived at Bulgari, but you stepped inside the company’s headquarters later. You had a similar experience TAG Heuer. How quickly did you get into the spirit of the brand?
JCB: “Bulgari is very Roman brand. Two great cultures – Roman and Greek – organically consolidated to form it. You should remember that the founder of the company, Sotirio Bulgari, was Greek. So I had to feel the personality of the Eternal City, to ramble through its streets, take another look at the architecture and ancient monuments. Paolo and Nicola Bulgari – the third generation of the brand’s founder – helped me a lot. Overall, it took me about six months to thoroughly understand the actual state of affairs.”
HT: What productive assets does Bulgari have? Have you already begun to use the resources of the LVMH Group partners, in particular, the Zenith El Primero mechanisms for the Octa Velocissimo and do you have plans to carry on this practice?
JCB: “Our masters in Rome are responsible for creating high-jewelry pieces. Basic jewelry collections, such as Bvlgari Bvlgari, B.Zero 1, and Serpenti are produced in the town of Valenza in Piedmont. All the watchmaking facilities are located in Switzerland, our factories are in Neuchatel, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Sentier (where grand complications are made). As for the second part of the question, it would be unreasonably not to use the resources of the Group. This is usual proceeding: I did it at TAG Heuer, and I see no reason why I cannot do the same in Bulgari.”
HT: A while back, Bvlgari acquired brands founded by the great watchmakers Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth, but today there are only mentions of this past in the model’s names. Do you have plans to reintroduce them in the future?
JCB: “Along with the brands, we have acquired perfectly equipped manufactories that specialize in highly sophisticated calibers. In the Daniel Roth collection, our most complex watches are grouped, such as the L’Ammiraglio del Tempo with a minute repeater and a Westminster chime. Look at the shape of the case, at the dial, you should concede that we are not moving off from the distinctive style of the brand’s founder. All of the collectors that have our Magsonic model believe that Gerald Genta made its design, and by the way, his name is presented on the dial along with the Bulgari logo. So the workmanship of these masters is alive and doing well.”
HT: A lot of watch brands use marketing alliances with other manufacturers of luxury goods, such as cars or yachts. Bulgari collaborates with Maserati. Can you share your impressions on the subject of this alliance?
JCB: “It’s a great experience! We are two brands with Italian spirit, so we have no problem with mutual understanding. This year, our partners are celebrating their 100th anniversary and as a gesture of gratitude, we launched the second version of the Octo Maserati, which will be released in a limited edition of 1,914 pieces. This number corresponds to the year of Maserati establishment.”
The Octo Maserati Chronograph, unveiled on 20 September, uses the Octo Velocissimo as a basis. The novelty features an automatic high-frequency caliber BVL 328 based on the El Primero. The Chronograph is housed in a 41,5mm stainless steel case with lacquered blue and white dial. The caseback is made of tinted blue glass and engraved with the Maserati logo and serial number, the timepiece is secured by a strap in special Maserati Blue color.
For more information, please visit the official Bvlgari website.