AS THE ROMANS DO. Bulgari Watches has grown by leaps and bounds in the last five years. Guido Terreni, the brand’s managing director, talks about Bulgari’s future direction and how the luxury Roman house does it
Who could have thought that Bulgari Watches would be the one to create the world’s thinnest tourbillon with the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon?
And a year before that, when the Messe Basel building of the Baselworld Fair first opened in 2013 after major renovations, Bulgari showed up to the surprise of many, occupying a front row location at the top-class hall 1. Back in 2010, the luxury Italian house also stirred up quite a buzz following its reinterpretation of the Serpenti watch with the incorporation of the Tubogas bracelet design. If aesthetics was the brand’s forte in the past, now it has finally struck a balance between inimitable Roman design extravagance and Swiss high-tech watchmaking technology.
As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this is absolutely true for Bulgari Watches. Guido Terreni, the brand’s managing director, joined the company in 2000 and has been part of the progressive changes taking place within the venerable Roman house. He was, as a matter of fact, involved in the seminal merger of Daniel Roth and Gérald Genta into Bulgari back in the millennial year of 2000. Now he is more than excited to give a little preview of how Bulgari preps itself to enter the top five fine watch brands worldwide in near future.
DA MAN Caliber: Bulgari Watches has grown rapidly in recent years with innovative as well as iconic creations. In terms of market positioning, do you think it has finally come to where it deserves to be?
Guido Terreni: I think our sales turnover could be a little better. This goes to show that there’s a huge potential before us and room for growth. I think we can easily be among the top ten watch brands in three years. And among the top five in seven or eight years.
DA MAN Caliber: So where is Bulgari Watches now?
Guido Terreni: I would say between ten and 15. The watch industry has grown tremendously in the 2000s, in particular for the high-end category. This is something that Bulgari caught on to a little late than the rest. We also didn’t pick up the Chinese market as quickly in the beginning. You must understand that Bulgari is quite a diverse luxury house, and the priority for watches was not as central as it is today under the management of the LVMH group. It is true that LVMH is pushing the watch sector to be one of its main business pillars.
“Roman history is a story of power and personality. You don’t come to Bulgari if you don’t have the guts to wear a Bulgari watch”
DA MAN Caliber: What does it take to be in the top ten?
Guido Terreni: I think we need to boost what we’ve done so far. The Octo Finissimo has only been around for a year or so, while the current Serpenti has been around five years. For years we have been pretty behind some of the most iconic timepieces from other Swiss high-end brands in the industry. Speaking of which, it is often about long journeys, and not so much about trends. In other words, watches are unlike fashion where one successful season can immediately double sales.
First and foremost, you need to build reputation. Most people buy only three to five watches in their lifetime, and they are not really well versed in regard to watch novelties and so on. That is why we aim to be on top in the minds of the consumers as far as fine watches are concerned. Such a goal requires time, consistency, long-term vision and investment in communications.
Most importantly, we have to understand who we are as a brand. That’s why in the last five years we are going back to the core of the brands, as encapsulated in the designs of Fabrizio [the senior director of Bulgari’s Watches Design Center].
DA MAN Caliber: You mentioned that communication is key. Will there be changes to the design of Bulgari stores, considering that fine watches are often associated with men rather than women?
Guido Terreni: In ladies’ watches, we are in the top five. This means that we’ve done a good job for the jewelry watches, especially considering our price range. Our Diva watches, for example, are so sexy, attractive and much different from the conservative style of Swiss timepieces. And we want to cultivate our growth in this direction further in order to carve a very strong niche and brand identity that’s apart from other fine watch players in the competition.
I believe that that people also began to understand the direction of Bulgari since last year’s Baselworld Fair with the launch of the Bulgari Finissimo, the world’s thinnest tourbillon watch. We had been working under the radar previously, but now the Octo has become a statement that expresses high watchmaking and contemporary styling.
And contemporary styling is very important. Take the Octo and the Bulgari Bulgari watches, for instance. To make them relevant even after many, many years requires a certain talent. We [Bulgari] are also Roman, and we have our own style. Look at the Diva watches, there’s nothing subtle about it—the petals look they’re dancing and the bezel is extravagant. Every woman can feel the interaction between the dynamic design and its attraction to the senses. In the case of Serpenti, you can touch the sculptural bracelet and have fun coiling it around the wrist.
DA MAN Caliber: So you stick with the DNA of the brand despite the fact that the Bulgari Watches is based in Switzerland?
Guido Terreni: Roman history is a story of power and personality. You don’t come to Bulgari if you don’t have the guts to wear a Bulgari watch. Not because it’s vulgar, but because it’s extremely elegant and different—to have these two styles in one product is not an easy thing to achieve. And the technical aspect of the [Swiss watchmaking] should be at the service of the aesthetics. Technique by itself doesn’t render any evocative impression or emotion for the consumers. This remains the same for the jewelry watches. Another important thing is that in Bulgari we would never downsize men’s watches to address female clients. It’s the same as dressing up a woman with a smaller version of my suit jacket. [Laughs]
DA MAN Caliber: You’ve been with the company for 15 years. How’s the journey been like?
Guido Terreni: I joined Bulgari in the year 2000. I was a product manager for watches, and I was a different person—almost half of my age and my weight [chuckles]. But I had a lot to learn. In the world of watches, you have to have passion. It took easily five to six years to really understand all the aspects of the business. If I look back now, I would love to have learned all that in a much shorter time. But you can’t go quicker than the music, as you say in French.
I have to say that when I first took the managing director position, I wasn’t as confident as I am today. I also thought it was enough to have a nice and catchy design for the watches. Now, it’s not enough anymore. You have to have credibility and competency, even for women’s watches. So, it is something that evolves very quickly in the market. I have had the privilege to go through two revolutions as well throughout my time in Bulgari. The first was the merger with Daniel Roth and Gérald Genta, which was quite a tough job to do and very challenging. The second was the launch of the Serpenti for women and the Octo for men. This was done with great success. Now, I’m hoping the same for the Lucea watches.
“I think we can easily be among the top ten watch brands in three years. And among the top five in seven years”
DA MAN Caliber: What is the most important thing you’ve learned from Bulgari?
Guido Terreni: I think the most important you’d learn from a brand like this is to be humble toward the brand. You have to put the brand first before everything, before your personal ambition, your own interpretation. The brand will survive me, so I will have to keep it in a better shape than when I was first entrusted with it. It is also a huge responsibility, knowing that reputation is hard to improve but easy to go down. So, you have to do things that truly respect the brand, that Bulgari should truly be nothing else but Bulgari. Authenticity is what everybody is looking for in the end.
This article first appeared in DA MAN Caliber 2015. Click here to get a copy of our back issues.