Each year the Rome-based jewellery and watch brand springs surprises with its new iterations of its snake-themed watches and 2017 BaselWorld was no different. By Hiren Kumar Bose
Ten years back no one could even imagine of a personalized Serpenti watch. The 2017 offering from Bulgari has taken us all by surprise. A process of democratisation of Serpenti has been laid (Though we still continue to imagine Serpenti with Liz Taylor). From now on, in an ultimate touch of refinement, a buyer will be able to choose her favourite case and dial, so as to entirely personalise her Serpenti. Bulgari has developed an app designed to facilitate the customisation process. It will enable an enthusiast to literally “compose” her personal Serpenti by choosing the case, dial, the gem setting and potentially the strap. The client will also be able to have an engraving of her choice on the caseback.
In all, the palette of combinations and colour variations comprises a total of 312 variations, providing plenty of scope enable each wearer to define her own Serpenti.
The snake’s allure has been kept alive through Bulgari’s sensational Serpenti watch that thankfully just keeps on coming.
It was in 1978 that Bulgari seriously entered the watch market, establishing a factory in Switzerland for the sole purpose of manufacturing watches. Though the serpent-themed jewellery has been around since the 1940s the design immediately took hold, laying the groundwork for the ensuing decades’ serpent-inspired watch designs.
It was during the Eighties that Bulgari witnessed a huge wave of demand. Putting its name twice on jewellery and watches in a way that the name encircled the finger or the bezel resulted in the brand’s astounding popularity. Bulgari Bulgari was born and here to stay.
Serpenti came to be identified with the brand. In fact, the snake has evolved into a creative symbol for the brand. Over the years its offering has transformed, reinventing itself while the basic idea remains the same.
The snake bracelets and watches require a high degree of craftsmanship. Focused attention is paid to authentic detail, and certain species of snakes have inspired certain bracelet colourations. In a touch of fancy, the reptiles’ names have been subtly engraved in Italian on the tails. The enamel snakes were inspired by fashion rather than nature: sunny yellow snakes shone with red scales while white scales glittered against bright turquoise. The gold pentagon-shaped scales were individually enameled then fired before being painstakingly assembled with tiny screws.
After interpreting the figure of the reptile in countless different ways, consistently at the crossroads between goldsmithing and High Jewellery, in 2017 Bulgari reaches beyond its customary universe to propel the eternally youthful Serpenti towards a new field of expression, as the icon adopts double wrap-around straps made from multicolour exotic leathers. These new straps are made from Karung, a non-venomous water snake. On the surface, the colouring with natural pigments, in vivid, luminous shades and beautifully matching the dial colours, is further enhanced by a varnish lending a subtle gloss.
Launched in 2016 and embodying the reptile symbol flirting with the borders of High Jewellery and Haute Horlogerie, Serpenti Incantati testifies to the intensely adaptable nature of this design icon. Through four new 2017 versions, the powerful fascination of this watch shines and sparkles through its tourbillon movement and its jewellery settings. Its impeccable stone-settings naturally make it a gem of time and also charms observers by its fascinating construction. By coiling around the watch dial, rather than forming the case itself, the reptile displays a particularly supple facet of its nature. Visually, this creates the impression that the diamond-studded serpent is actually in motion.
Taking the collection into a whole new dimension, the 41mm Serpenti Incantati Tourbillon Lumière watches bring the magic of two enhancements cherished by Haute Horlogerie: the tourbillon regulator and skeleton-working. The mechanical hand-wound movement crafted in gold has been finely sculpted and open-worked to allow light to pour into the heart of the watch through its sapphire crystals.
The Rome-based jeweller offers a new take on its icon: the sensuality of black clothes the skin of this horological serpent expressed in two variations graced with an all-black or a pink gold bezel. The other surprise is that 35mm Serpenti Spiga is free of any gemsetting. Snaking around her arm, this black ceramic Serpenti watch asserts its mysterious allure and compelling sensuality.
Bulgari has sparked several revolutions in the sedate world of watchmaking and jewellery. It has done so with constant audacity, and never without elegance. In 2017, Serpenti Tubogas (35mm) is up to new tricks. The first is that of materials. The new executions adopt a new finishing in steel or gold and steel, accompanied by new faces. The double-coil steel version features a new dial in a powerful ruby red, while the steel and gold version – available in single or double-coil versions – is distinguished by its elegant and sophisticated gray dial. The big surprise of these new editions is, of course, the new and spectacular quintuple wrap-around interpretation. This five-coil steel version is immediately recognisable by its extremely chic black dial.
The 32mm Serpenti Seduttori’s High Jewellery bracelet and ‘secret’ watch is a truly unique creation. The pink or white bracelet, a first for Bulgari, coils smoothly around the wrist while transcending formal geometry, extending to the head of the reptile from whose emerald or ruby eyes darts a gaze that literally transfixes the observer. Dangerously beautiful with its tourmaline, tanzanite or sapphire cabochon, it opens to reveal the finest ‘sting’ of time: the hours and minutes hands sweeping around a dial paved with brilliant-cut diamonds echoing the setting on the bracelet, paved with brilliant- or baguette-cut diamonds.