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Icons & Innovators: Bulgari: Acquired Tastes

James D. Malcolmson

Bulgari may be headquartered in Rome, but its watchmaking ambitions rival those of any Swiss brand. Not satisfied with just producing sleek, modern watches that reflect the company’s design ethic, Bulgari CEO Francesco Trapani wants his company to make its own movements for its watches.

Bulgari acquired the framework for this capability with its 2000 purchase of the struggling Gérald Genta and Daniel Roth brands. Then it constructed a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Le Sentier, located in the Vallée de Joux. In addition to renewing original calibers for both the Genta and Roth brands, the manufacture has produced two significant complications for the mother company. The initial Bulgari-Bulgari tourbillon released in 2004 was an adaptation of a caliber developed for Daniel Roth. This year’s $134,000 Assioma 48mm Multi-Complications watch contains a complicated movement, created for Bulgari, which combines a tourbillon with a perpetual calendar and second time zone. The watch’s bold design carries over to the movement, which has PVD-treated plates and an angular winding rotor. Yet underneath these cosmetics, the mechanism itself, while respectable, is conventional, similar to those Bulgari once purchased from complication specialty houses.

From his office overlooking the Tiber, Trapani expresses concerns about the situation in Switzerland, where rival companies control the availability of many base movements. Bulgari still works with well-known industry suppliers Dubois Dépraz and La Joux-Perret for simple complications, including its Diagono GMT and Regatta timer watches. But Bulgari’s own Le Sentier team recently developed another new Assioma with a simpler retrograde-hour movement. “Within the next five or six years,” says Trapani, “we hope to be manufacturing movements for both our complications and our more basic watches.” 

                                                                    

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