Why Bulgari's watches are hitting their stride
Finding a niche can be a seriously cut-throat business with regards to the watch industry. Being the oldest; the most precise; the lightest; or the first to use a new material can be the difference between a watch costing AED10,000 or AED100,000.
The horology department of the Rome-based luxury house Bulgari has spent the last few years carving out a rather lucrative niche, by creating a range of record-setting ultra-thin watches, known as the Finissimo collection.
This year see the release of the latest addition to the collection: the Finissimo Automatic. At a mere 2.23mm thick, it is the thinnest automatic watch ever made. At Baselworld, Esquire Middle East caught up with Bulgari watches' managing director, Guido Terreni for a closer look.
ESQUIRE: Is the watch industry a happy place to be at the moment?
GUIDO TERRENI: The watch industry is experienced when it comes to the ups and downs of business. There have been periods of tremendous growth, and other periods of crisis. But it’s a happy place, depending on where you are. There is an Italian expression: “When the wind blows, even Turkeys can fly. So when the wind stops you’d better be an eagle.”
ESQ: And what does that mean, exactly?
GT: What this means is that you cannot just go with the flow. You have to be gaining market share and being more creative, regardless of whether the market is good or not. I believe that in the current market conditions you have two attitudes: you either sit and do variations of designs you already have, or you tackle the market with innovation and creativity. We are focusing on the latter, especially in the Middle East. It’s one of our best-performing regions.
ESQ: Is that true in the men’s segment as well?
GT: Well, men’s is behind the women’s segment in the Middle East, as it is a much younger brand. But it is much more present and established in places like Japan. The Middle East is a real area of interest as the knowledge of watchmaking in the region is steadily growing.
With the Finissimo range, we wanted to cut into the old fashioned watch segment by producing a collection that was for the stylish gentleman of today that can be worn for both formal occasions and everyday use. That’s why we developed the thinnest automatic movement in the world and chose sun-blasted titanium to give it a modern, masculine look that is really sleek. We also developed a new buckle that is integrated into the strap so it looks flawless, while only weighing 42 grams [with a leather strap].
Bulgari watches' managing director, Guido Terreni
ESQ: Do you think that being an Italian brand helps your image?
GT: Being Italian helps us stand apart from the average customer. You don’t come to Bulgari because you want to be like someone else. You come to us to express your different taste, and that’s what Italian style brings to the luxury industry.
ESQ: How important is the brand’s Roman heritage?
GT: It is very important. When you are Roman, you have lived 2,000 years in a town that has the highest luxury the world can experience — firstly with the Roman Empire, and then with the popes. Rome is an open-air museum, and that appreciation and understanding for beauty is as much in our DNA as technique is in that of the Swiss. It’s part of our culture, and people choose Bulgari because of this backstory. When you come from a culture that once ruled the world, that sense of power runs through the brand and it is expressed through different executions. For example, the design of Scuba Diagono is based on a Roman column.
ESQ: The last few years have seen Bulgari release the world’s thinnest tourbillon, and now the thinnest automatic. Are there any more up your sleeve?
GT: It took me six years to get the automatic to the market! Can’t you at least appreciate it before asking me about what’s next [Laughs]?!
The goal of the Finissimo collection was to be high-end — we’re talking around Dhs509,000 for the tourbillon — so there are only a happy few who could experience it. Following that would be to make the range more accessible, so we chose to concentrate on pure movements to build a collection. With a watch so thin, having overlapping functions and multiple complications affects the purity and readability of the piece.
ESQ: How important is Baselworld to Bulgari?
GT: Basel is important. For us it is much more than just a place to launch our new pieces, it’s a place where we welcome all our business partners, take orders from retailers and meet journalists. The amount of business we do in Basel is small compared to what we do in our boutiques, but in the grand scheme of things it is an important place to showcase your creativity as a brand and get external feedback. Take the Finissimo, I’ve been working on the project for six years but I was not able to show it to anyone outside of the company for feedback. Having new voices giving their opinions is important.