Bulgari’s high jewellery watches take inspiration from Mediterranean flora and faunaKylie Lloyd-Wyatt
With the rise of their watches popularity on the back of some pretty stellar releases – the Octo Finissimo, recent Octo Roma, and the ever-evolving Serpenti come to mind – us watch-o-philes could be forgiven for overlooking Bulgari’s accomplishments in high jewellery. Last week, at the Palazzo Ducale in Venice, Bulgari unveiled the Mediterranea High Jewellery Collection, including a number of incredible watches that remind us just how amazing the combination of excellent watch making and exquisite high jewellery can be.
The Southern Radiance sub-collection celebrates the underwater environment of the Mediterranean Sea. Pieces are crafted from precious metals and an array of meticulously set gemstones to create intricate underwater scenes and creatures in what is a masterclass in high jewellery. The Giardino Marino Grande in rose gold and Piccolo in white gold are “secret” watches, where an ornate cover hides the watch face so that they look more like bracelets of jewel-encrusted sea stars, coral and shells.
This collection’s Diva’s Dream in white gold is a spectacularly executed three-dimensional orb, like a mini aquarium on the wrist, that can be viewed from multiple angles with an equally sparkling bracelet resembling fish scales. These three pieces utilise the 3Hz Piccolissimo manufacture manual winding micro movement coming in at only 2.5mm thick with 30 hours of power reserve.
Perhaps my favourite is the Octo Roma Mediterranea, a 44mm rose-gold Octo Roma case sporting a particularly dapper diamond-set cephalopod sprawled across the case cover. But the in-house BVL 268SK movement is the star for us watch lovers – a manually wound calibre with an expertly skeletonised ultra-thin flying tourbillon with 52 hours of power reserve.
Moving to Rome now, with the Roman Splendor sub-collection evoking the might and grandeur of this ancient empire. The Cameo Imperiale, an impressive secret watch pendant in rose gold exudes royal nobility with the profile of the Cleopatra adorning the cover. But she hides quite the secret; the BVL 208 manually wound Tourbillon Lumière in gold, crafted so that it allows light to shine through, highlighting the intricacies the movement.
Her compatriot is the Octo Roma Secret Watch Cameo Imperiale, a 44mm platinum wristwatch bearing the resemblance of Augustus Caeser, hiding another flying tourbillon, this time the openworked calibre BVL 268.
Of course, the Mediterranean was also historically an important trade route linking the eastern and western worlds, celebrated with the East Meets West sub-collection. The Oriental Buds in rose gold is another secret watch bracelet, this time housing the Piccolissimo manufacture movement. This variation incorporates shapes and coloured gemstones reminiscent of lush exotic gardens and geometric Byzantine architecture.
No expansive high jewellery collection would be complete without a new Serpenti or two, especially on the occasion of the perennially iconic zeitgeist’s 75th birthday. Of course, Cleopatra had a history with snakes so it might just fit in the Mediterranea collection after all. The Serpenti Misteriosi Pallini with a double pass tubogas bracelet in white gold is inspired by a 1955 secret watch and houses the tiny Piccolissimo manual wound movement rather than the quartz of the standard Serpenti collection. The bracelet, designed to wind sinuously around the wrist, is completely gem-set with diamonds, tourmalines and emeralds, quite the feat considering the tubogas construction.
The triple pass tubogas bracelet of the Serpenti Misteroni Dragone, also in white gold articulates like dragon scales and is also gem-set with diamonds and emeralds. This piece also houses the Piccolissimo movement.
The Bulgari Mediterranea collection is limited and prices, as to be expected, are exclusively on demand.