E
uropean history is rife with stories of natives and immigrants pursuing passions in the name of business. Eponymous brands that have flourished from single-person outfits into enterprises both small and large — some luxury and other more municipal in nature — tout their victories loudly. Rightly so. Enormously successful brands almost always have traveled a long, meandering and difficult path to gain their current success. Recently, we were invited to peer into the opulent world of Bulgari (or Bvlgari proper), a company whose unique track has led to excellence in a relatively new niche for the brand: watchmaking.

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.

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timekeeping-promo-logo-gear-patrolThis article is part of GP's fresh new face to TIMEKEEPING, a weekly chronicle on the utility, design, tradition and innovation of watches.