The first Bulgari watches were made in the 1920’s, but it was only at the end of the 1970’s that the firm presented its first important collection. In 1982 Bulgari founded the company ‘Bulgari Time’ in Neuchâtel, the heart of Swiss horology. This company now has over 500 employees, who are responsible for overseeing and inspecting the creation and production of all Bulgari watches.
The technological research connected with the production of watch movements was initially carried out in collaboration with Girard Perregaux, one of the oldest and most respected Swiss watchmakers. This partnership triggered a process of continuous technological refinement and sophistication of Bulgari watches until 2000, when the Bulgari Group acquired sole ownership of Gérald Genta, Daniel Roth, and Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie. The first two firms produce high-end Swiss watches, while the third is owner of the production plants. They were all merged into Daniel Roth et Gérald Genta Haute Horlogerie S.A. In 2005 the Bulgari Group acquired 50% of Cadrans Designs, a Swiss firm that makes sophisticated dials, and 51% of Prestige D’Or, a specialized maker of bracelets in steel and precious metals.The craftsmanship:
Bulgari craftsmanship produces complicated mechanisms with exclusive content. It is committed to complete control of the watch-making process, during both design and technological development. To do so, it chose to operate independently during the design and production phases, by centralizing development and production activities at just one atelier. Its staff includes des engineers, prototype makers, CAD specialists, and master watchmakers. Their work becomes an integral part of the watch itself, as in the case of the BVL 347 caliber of the Diagono Phases de Lune, with an exclusive display for tracking moon phases and a retrograde display (150°) of the day and date. The 347 components of its movement, which are hand finished and polished, required over 3,120 different steps during production and 350 quality control stages.The movements:
Bulgari complications perfectly represent the fusion of Swiss watch-making art and unmistakable Italian design. Bulgari can satisfy the most demanding collectors with its characteristic and prestigious high-end watches, created by the passion of master watchmakers. For example, the handcrafted movement and dial and exclusive design of the Multi Complication Squelette case perfectly embody the essence of a Bulgari watch. The movement is the heart of a watch. It is the most complicated part to produce and develop, requiring over 7,360 hours for development and 380 for assembly and adjustment. The extremely delicate assembly phase is overseen from start to finish by the same Master Watchmaker, who guarantees its functionality and accuracy. The Bulgari Group develops and realizes ‘large and small complications’ in-house, at its subsidiaries Daniel Roth and Gérald Genta. Its objective was to continue creating unique movements with innovative ideas analyzed by watchmakers and translated into new technical designs. A prototype is then created and subjected to severe tests that can guarantee the technical feasibility and reliability of the movement.
The case is a key part of the unique design of a Bulgari watch and not just the element that contains and protects the movement. Balancing these different functions renders its creation very complex. For example, a structure with 67 components was developed for the Assioma chronograph. Each individual step in the production process demands total precision, starting from realization of the prototype to definition of all the production phases. After all the components have been meticulously checked by experts to ensure the highest standard of quality, they are assembled by hand with the most delicate care.The dial:
For Bulgari, the dial is not just a simple device that indicates the time but also an important tool for demonstrating its watch-making experience. The incredible attention to detail that result from the combination of exacting skill and traditional Swiss craftsmanship is clearly reflected in the extreme complexity of all Bulgari dials. Cadrans Design of La Chaux-de-Fonds, the Bulgari Group subsidiary that specializes in the production of top-quality dials, has provided Bulgari with the tools and knowledge necessary for development and in-house production of high-end dials. The philosophy of Bulgari designers is to achieve sophisticated results through different combinations of colours on different levels of the dial in order to continue developing exclusive creations. Once the design is finalized, it has to be subjected to a careful technical analysis. Every treatment, colour, or supplemental surface (from 0.1 to 0.3 mm) could interfere with production of the dial. In the Assioma Multi-complication Squelette, the dial is composed of four levels (for a total depth of 0.8 mm) on which four different treatments are carried out. Different decorations can be realized in high-end horology, from the simplest to the most complicated motifs. The most common are: the Soleilé effect, the vertical treatment, Emaillé, Clou de Paris, Côtes de Genève, Azzuré, and Guilloché – the most precious of all.
A watch bracelet complements the case by highlighting the principal features of its design, assuring comfortable wear. This implies a highly complex structure that often entails the use of more than 100 components. Following acquisition of Prestige D’Or, the Group subsidiary located in Saignelégier that specializes in the fabrication of bracelets, Bulgari can develop and produce its own bracelets in-house. The components are then finished by hand in order to obtain the desired level of finish and comfort. Only after this delicate operation is carried out can every single element be assembled in the exact order specified by a professional assembler. Over three hours are needed to polish the bracelet, a step that is carried out entirely by hand, while the delicate and painstaking assembly process takes from 30 minutes to one hour.