Watch Insider: Bvlgari

Antoine Pin, Managing Director of Bvlgari’s Watch Business Unit, chats with Riga Ramadhan about the current state of Bvlgari, the red lines that the brand wouldn’t cross, and more.

With Italian values and Swiss expertise as its basic foundations, Bvlgari has made its mark in 21st century watchmaking through five records set in just a few years. These five achievements all stem from the now-iconic Octo Finissimo line and each holds the title of “thinnest in the world” in their respective categories.

Bvlgari’s first world record was set by a Tourbillon watch launched in 2014, followed in 2016 by a Minute Repeater, then an Automatic movement in 2017 and the world’s thinnest Automatic Tourbillon model in 2018. Of course, 2019 also saw yet another impressive accomplishment by Bvlgari.

At Baselworld 2019, the LVMH-owned Roman brand established a new world record for the thinnest ever chronograph movement with the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic. As the cherry on top of this achievement, the brand has also launched the Serpenti Seduttori, marking a bold new beginning for the world of Serpenti timepieces.

In short, within the rich landscape of contemporary watchmaking, it’s safe to say that Bvlgari has successfully broken the mold with its drastically different approach to creativity, technology, design—in addition to its Swiss watch expertise, the Roman jeweler is also known for its magnificent design sensibility—and craftsmanship.

To learn more about the current state of Bvlgari as well as the key landmarks that have defined the direction of the brand in the world of haute horlogerie, I spoke to the man at the forefront of the brand’s watchmaking ventures: Antoine Pin.

DA MAN: Hi Antoine, thanks for having us! First of all, we are almost at the end of 2019. What are the brand’s strategic objectives for the rest of 2019 and also for 2020?
Antoine Pin: The objectives are quite simple. For the closure of 2019, we will continue on the successful trend we face since several months ago with Octo Finissimo and Serpenti, reinforced by the recent launch of the brand new Serpenti Seduttori. Those two collections are delivering excellent results. On the other hand, for next year, we seek, of course, to sustain the constant growth of our watch business for several years, but we must remain cautious at the same time. My main objectives will be to re-enforce the visibility of our main collections, to improve the time to market deliveries of the new products, and to maintain the spirit of innovation and groundbreaking approach in our future product developments, but keeping up with our key collections.

DA: You left Bvlgari for a couple of years and now you are back with the brand, taking on even more responsibilities. From your point of view, what has been the key hallmarks that have defined the direction of Bvlgari?
AP: Bvlgari watches has faced a global and in-depth reconstruction. The Maison integrated the whole processes of production—movements, cases and dials. Our industrial tools rank among the most complete on the market today. This move has offered Bvlgari an outstanding capacity to innovate both in terms of creativity and product development. This approach is also associated to the strong assertion of our Italian roots that allows us to create unique timepieces which have become milestones in our industry.

Managing Director of Bvlgari’s Watch Business Unit Antoine Pin

DA: Having said that, what is the current state of Bvlgari and where do you think is the brand heading right now?
AP: As you know, Bvlgari is a global luxury brand encompassing jewelry, watches, accessories, perfumes as well as hotels and resorts. Bvlgari continues on those five pillars with well-established businesses—jewelry, watches, accessories and perfumes. For the hotels and resorts, the company aims to progressively expand its presence in the mid-term since they allow us to offer a genuine experience to our clients. We welcome them in our “casa”! No other brand can do this and it is definitely a significant asset for us. So, to recap: Bvlgari is offering one of the best global experiential universes a luxury brand can offer! As for watches, we will continue to rely on our strong iconic collections: Serpenti, Octo, Lvcea and Diva.

DA: Moving on to the brand’s latest watch collection, this year, Bvlgari announced its fifth world record-setting timepiece with the new Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT. What is the creative process behind its creation and how long did Bvlgari take to come up behind this spectacular piece?
AP: The genesis of such a development is a long story, from the concept to the final completed watch. It took three years to conceive and develop the movement. The creative process was in fact simple: Innovate within the Finissimo line with a “useful” complication—and for today that would be the GMT function, since we all are travelling non-stop. We combined that function to the Chronograph with a peripheral oscillating mass that we already use with the Automatic Tourbillon. The obsession was not primarily to launch a new world record, even if we are proud of it, of course. Our goal was to continue on the extra-thin concept since we firmly believe that the Octo Finissimo is the quintessence of contemporary High Horology in its capacity to offer sophisticated elegance, modernity in design and exceptional horological technology.

DA: The new Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT is truly an exciting blend of technical sophistication and aesthetic refinement. What were the design goals set by Bvlgari during the design process of this watch and what were the biggest challenges that came up during the development phase?
AP: We developed that piece following the extra-thin concept we launched back in 2014. We think that Bvlgari has found its trademark with this collection as Octo is clearly becoming a cult watch within the industry landscape. As for the challenges, they have been numerous. Imagine when you produce a watch including the chronograph function, the automatic function and additionally—the cherry on top of the cake—the GMT function inside such a thin space. This sums up what our engineers have had to solve: find technical solutions so that all those functions are accurate without thickening the watch.

DA: After the minute repeater, the tourbillon and the automatic watch, it is the chronograph’s turn to show off this year for the world record. Is there another complication that the brand is looking forward to create?
AP: We have a wide portfolio of complicated watches already, but I would say that we have even more ideas in the pipeline. Wait and see….

DA: On the flip side, are there have any red lines that Bvlgari would not cross in terms of movements or materials?
AP: The red line for us would be falling into the trap of complacency and arrogance. I would associate this to the idea of losing the sense of our mission. We are committed to engage our clients in an exceptional journey, to deliver extraordinary moments and to propose items celebrating beauty, creativity, knowhow of exceptional people. This means always going the extra mile to deliver the unexpected.

DA: From a product development point of view, what advantages does your heritage and strength in jewelry bring to the watch business?
AP: Jewelry and watches relate to different products but have many connecting points. Its expertise and crafts are very similar. At Bvlgari, we are proud to be able to cultivate this neighborhood in a transversal approach combining both: Italian jewelry skills and Swiss watch expertise. It allows us to offer products that are full of added value in terms of creativity; meanwhile our signs such as Serpenti are reinforced as strong icons.

DA: Aside from the new Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT, Bvlgari also released an anniversary timepiece—the Bvlgari Gérald Genta 50th Anniversary Watch—that brings one of his classic designs back to life. How did Bvlgari decided to focus on these specific models?
AP: We simply chose one of the most iconic models that made Genta famous at the time. This limited edition has been launched to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Genta brand that is today Bvlgari’s group property.

DA: Digitally speaking, how are you planning on bringing Bvlgari into the 21st century?
AP: Planning has started years ago. The company is hyperactive on the digital side through a constant presence on social media and dedicated websites. Digital is today mandatory and we constantly increase our investments to raise our visibility on those channels.

DA: Do you have any special plans or strategies to approach today’s new generation of potential watch owners?
AP: The plans remain to enchant this population like their parents and children. The challenge resides probably more in the ways we can connect than in the nature of our activities. Using digital channels, which are by essence the norm today, is crucial.

DA: How do you engage the next generation of Bvlgari enthusiasts?
AP: Engagement of the next generation of clients is a daily task, which requires time and patience. But we are not in a hurry since we are confident in our nature and we do have some experience in this field. We make Bvlgari desirable and we continue to develop multiple access to the brand: Perfume, jewelry, accessories, hotels and resorts and, of course, watches. And one more time, digital channels are key in this process.

DA: Finally, what is next for Bvlgari?
AP: Very impactful creations, both for women and men. You can trust me.