From designing cars to designing watches, jewellery and accessories we sit down with Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani - also known as the creative director of Bulgari...
Baselworld always acts as a spark for meeting people with fascinating stories and visions. You may remember we sat down with Romain Gauthier earlier at the show. Today we sit down with Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani the passionate ex-car designer who now steers the design ship at Bulgari. As always, sit back and enjoy!
Firstly Fabrizio how are you this Baselworld 2019?
I’m very well thank you. Baselworld is always a long journey and each time it's the same great opportunity to show our products to customers, press and guests.
Baselworld is going through a lot of changes at the moment, have you felt these changes this year at Bulgari?
For sure, there are many brands that didn’t attend this year, some journalists decided not to come its clearly something that is in the process of change. I don’t know in which direction the show is going, but we definitely had fewer journalists and even fewer clients.
For us, it’s not a major problem. Our agenda is once again fully booked like in previous years.
We’ve felt when you walk around the fairs its less busy with a different atmosphere.
So let’s talk about yourself and Bulgari. What is the main direction for 2019?
The main direction for Bulgari is to continue to develop our main pillars. Octo, Lvcea, Serpenti and other watches. This year we introduced the new chronograph for the Finissimo collection which is the first chronograph fully produced by Bulgari. It’s an ultra-thin chronograph, in fact, it now holds the world record as the thinnest automatic chronograph ever.
It is also has a GMT function as well correct?
It also has a GMT complication yes. Nowadays everyone travels a lot, so it's a very useful feature to have. You can easily jump the hour hand with the push button at 9. For the chronograph, you can start, stop and reset the chronograph hand with the remaining pushers at 3 o’clock. At a glance, these actually look like they could be crown guards.
For the chronograph function, the start, stop and reset pushers remain in conventional 3 o’clock position and, at a glance, these also look like crown guards.
Incredible, and this is fully in house?
The movement, case, bracelet, dial everything is made 100% in house. it's a very very beautiful piece. It's my baby. It’s evidence this piece is a statement in terms of design, craftsmanship and execution. We’re very proud.
I can see why it’s an amazing feat you have achieved here. What’s next for Bulgari this year?
The second product is the automatic Finissimo in the ceramic. We have continued to develop our automatic movement with different execution and different materials. The Finissimo has been a manual winding tourbillon in platinum with rose gold following that. Then it became the thinnest minute repeater in the world also made in titanium.
This was a step change because just one finishing, one material changed the rules in the ultra-thin segment. And then, of course, the titanium automatic movement, another great step.
It’s safe to say Bulgari know how to make a statement.
For sure. When people see these kinds of pieces they may not be to their taste, but its a statement in terms of aesthetics and manufacturing. At Bulgari, we have re-invented and nourished the ultra-thin segment in a different way.
Massively, I think its really amazing what yourself and Bulgari have achieved in the previous few years. So what does your design process look like for models like these and how do you manage it in such a large brand as Bulgari?
Personally, I make many sketches which are my preferred way to imagine the product. After that, I work with my team and we start to develop the design in 3D software. The manufacturing side of the process is then immediately involved. When you have an idea for a movement or you decide to have a new complication you cannot just create the sketch you have to work directly with the manufacturing team from the start.
It can be a long process with a lot of back and forth.
Interesting! So how far ahead is Bulgari in terms of planning and manufacturing releases for the coming years?
When you have this approach you never know where the finish line is. Even for the automatic watch, the movement alone took 5 years to develop. It’s like a car, you have the same time to market. The chronograph was more or less the same time period as well.
We will continue in the future to develop this kind of assess with different movement and different execution. At the moment we’re working on products for the next 2-3 years.
How much of an impact do trends and industry changes have on Bulgari?
Today there are many trends in the market. Bigger military watches, small watches, vintage watches, ultra-thin watches etc. Because of this, you have to choose the right trend for your taste, for your clients and for your brand. In our case we are trendsetters in this segment, we have no competitors.
You can find ultra thin watches on the market sure, but its the design and how the watch is used which results in a different product.
A lot more unique?
Unique exactly, that is why the Finissimo is a statement. The idea of a grand complication watch in a different, cool more elegant way. This is just the beginning as well, sometimes you need just one simple clever idea and you work around the idea with amazing execution. For Bulgari technical features and beauty have the same weight. If a watch like this (the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT) had a common design, it wouldn't be in line with our brand ethos.
What is one of the most important values you have learned since first designing watches that you carry with you every day?
Watches have to be comfortable. They must be able to be worn in a very easy way, whether its a bracelet or a leather strap.
Well just like the Finissimo examples we have here, they’re all very comfortable and a big factor of that is the bracelets construction and design.
Yes very comfortable. A lot of clients say ‘when I saw the watch for the first time I was unsure if I wanted to try it’ But when they do try it and they put it on the wrist it completely changes their perception.
For me personally, I’ve worn the Octo Finnismo titanium for 2 years and I simply cannot wear another watch now. I will try to wear another watch, and after 2 hours I change back to the Octo Finnisimo because it's very smooth and can be hidden under the shirt.
It’s very elegant and almost becomes apart of you once you wear it.
Yes, Yes it does. When I wear the Carbon one sometimes I have to shake my wrist to check I’m even wearing it because I don’t have any perception of having a watch on. For some clients however, this isn’t a positive feature. When you start to wear the Octo Finissimo, it's not easy to go back to other watches.
It’s an experience in itself?
It would be great to talk about your career at Bulgari - What have been some of your personal highlights?
During my career at Bulgari, I’ve designed many different things from jewellery, watches and accessories. But for me, the Octo Finissimo and Serpenti are both big highlights. The new Serpenti is the evolution of our icon. For more than 10 years we have had this watch in our lineup. For 2019 we have changed the bracelet and the way you use it. I believe its really important to play with the iconic elements of the brand, each time re-inventing them.
Is there one creation from your time at Bulgari that is your favourite?
I find it impossible to say which is my favourite, maybe it is always the next one. For us, as a team, these designs here are the past. We’re talking about them today but we’re thinking about the future of our collections and assets. The Finissimo is an asset. The Serpenti is a great asset and we will continue to develop and evolve these pieces.
Bringing it outside of Bulgari for a moment, What are your personal favourite watch designs and where do you draw inspiration from?
I’m more inspired by designers as a whole rather than specific watch designs. Of course, I admire some great watch designers but I don’t focus on them. I love cars, I’m a former car designer so the likes of Giugiaro, Bertone, Gandini, Zagato inspire me.
Cars are very difficult to design and very difficult to produce. You have many constraints so it's not easy.
In terms of designer, Italian designer such as Castiglioni, Zanuso, Bellini. Italian design is different, we take opportunities to discover different ways to work with common materials. In watchmaking, everyone knows materials such as titanium, gold, steel and ceramic. But here at Bulgari, we can play with rose gold on the Octo Finnisimo to result in a brushed finish. Everyone knows titanium, but Bulgari has the ability to produce a minute repeater which is one of the most iconic movements in watchmaking history with a titanium case and with our design language.
Let’s talk a little more about current events and the state of Baselworld with it’s recent, ongoing changes. What are your thoughts on Baselworld this year?
Honestly, I don’t know. Attending Baselworld 2020 will be a strategic decision for the brand and for the group. With social media today you can have the watch showcased in the windows and after 30 seconds the picture of the watch has travelled the world three times over. So it’s a different way to communicate. The format of the fair is something they have to think about.
For Bulgari, we meet our clients, we meet our guests and we meet out journalists but for smaller brands, the situation may be very different.
(Since meeting and chatting to Fabrizio, Bulgari and the whole of LVMH has confirmed their attendance at Baselworld 2020)
And finally, out of the whole Bulgari lineup, if you could only pick one watch to wear which would be your pick?
If I have to pick one maybe the chronograph or the ceramic automatic Finissimo. As I’m a man it would have to be them, but if I was a woman the Serpenti of course.
Thank you to Fabrizio and the Bulgari team for discussing the latest watches and for giving us a little insight into the development process behind Bulgari.
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