- The Bulgari "Octo". Some astute watch followers will recall that the original “Octo” was created by renown Swiss watch designer Gerald Genta, a legend, but Bulgari acquired the brand in 1999 integrating it along with Daniel Roth into its operations. But the Gerald Genta spirit lives on. The understated design is shown here in 41.5mm.
- From preliminary concept to final product, the process of watchmaking is a complex one. Bold ideas require refined tools, which can aid specialists in creating near-zero tolerance parts that are almost invisible to the human eye.
- A case of movements, carryovers from the Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth brands.
- Varying in the complexity of their work, watchmakers are often separated into specific workstations, areas and rooms, as well.
- The complexities of mechanical watchmaking are well-documented across GP's pages, but watching the process in action by expert watchmakers and precision mechanics never fails to impress.
- The Bulgari Magsonic Grande Sonnerie Tourbillon is a feat of engineering at the micro level. Completed entirely in-house the sonnerie, which designates its rare ability in watchmaking to sound a chime at time intervals, is a delightfully complex process to watch. The timepiece, which weighs in at nearly $1,000,000 is a truly rare sight.
- The unique nature of the Daniel Roth Papillon Voyageur is not in its dual time-zone time-telling capabilities, but its patented system of displaying the minutes. The Papillon, which means "butterfly" in French, tells its time in an instantly visible, yet belies its extremely complex process. Local hours are displayed in the large digital window at the top, "8". Second time-zone is indicated by the centrally mounted blue indicator, "18" on a 24-hour subdial. Beneath the subdial, a pair of small hands spins on a central axis simultaneously as they revolve (like planets) indicating individual minutes. Here it is at the top of the hour.
- A quiet moment inside the Atelier. The podium-like stand in the middle of the central table is actually an apparatus for naturally magnifying the sound from chimed timepieces.
- In the creation of a watch, there are hundreds of components, each undergoing a process of machining, milling, turning, and more, followed by countless adjustments and re-adjustments to conform to specific tolerances.
- At 41.5mm the Bulgari Octo, a carry-over from the era of Gerald Genta, showcases a simplified Italian design. Its name, "Octo" designates an 8-sided design that appears in many regards to be quite simple, but its case actually touts 110 facets, which necessitates a complex production method including a meticulous polishing process.
- The Octo's heart is an in-house automatic movement, the Bulgari Caliber BVL 193. The movement, an effort toward a more widely-accessible in-house movement offers time and date functions in addition to its decorative aspects like a Côtes de Genève motif, circular-grained mainplate, and polished pivots.
- Mechanical execution exists in most modern manufacturing processes. The same applies to watchmaking but is reserved for very particular tasks like precision drilling. Even the drills themselves are highly specialized equipment tailored for these purposes.
- A Bulgari artisan at work.
- A wider perspective of one of the automated machines used in the Bulgari Atelier.
- Included in the specialized mechanical equipment of watch manufacturing is a CNC machine. The Robofil from Charmilles Technologies is known for its accuracy and quality, and like many Swiss goods, a long life of operation.
- A quiet moment at a drilling workstation.
- Various drill bits, handled both in automated machines (left) and by hand.
- Loupes, microscopes and other magnifying devices, both analog and digital.
- For more widely produced movements, Bulgari utilizes a specific device that sets individual jewels. However, an extraordinary level of human quality control is still maintained through monitors like these.
- Raw material.
- Though watchmaking is replete with state-of-the-art mechanical processes, it's also a similarly filled with artistic touches like turning.
- On display: a perspective of some, not all, of the various components being handled in this area of the manufacturing process.
- Fastidious processes require fastidious workstations.
- Bulgari calls the Bulgari Tourbillon one of its crowning pieces for 2013. Crafted entirely in Bulgari's le Sentier workshop, the automatic tourbillon carries a 64 hour power-reserve and is visible at the 6 o'clock aperture. It is mounted on a bridge made of sapphire. Bag: Tsatsas.
Foremost Time & Care: A Walk Through the Bulgari Atelier
In 1881, a jeweler named Sotirios Voulgaris moved from his home in Paramythia, Greece to Italy, where he eventually settled in Rome. Several years later, Voulgaris would open his first shop on Via Sistina, where he sold mostly silver ornaments, largely to British and American tourists. With the help of his two sons, Constantino and Giorgio, Bulgari would eventually open a store on the via die Condotti, which still stands as the brand’s flagship. From there, the brand blossomed, selling jewelry, silver ornaments and hand-crafted accessories, eventually on an international scale.
Bulgari’s watchmaking dates back to 1940, when their first timepiece, the daring Serpenti, the snake-watch, was introduced, speaking perfectly to the extravagant epoch of Art Deco with its coils of gold. The watch would eventually become an icon in the world of jewelry, but it wasn’t until 1977, with their namesake timepiece the Bulgari Bulgari, that the brand cemented its future in horology.
Today Bulgari houses a complex network of 300 specialized employees: craftsman, engineers and watchmakers across production sites in Le Sentier, Saignelégier and La Chaux-de-Fonds. Collectively, they make up the Swiss subsidiary of Bulgari Haute Horlogerie SA and handle everything from sketches to highly complicated movements, earning Bulgari the coveted status of an entirely in-house watch production: Manufacture.