His more than 20 years of experience in the watch and jewellery industry have taken Antoine Pin around the world for Boucheron, Zenith, TAG Heuer and Bvlgari. On the occasion of the inauguration of brand’s newest production site, the Bvlgari Manufacture d’Habillage, we sat down with the newly appointed Managing Director of the Bvlgari Watch Division to discuss his perspective on the brand’s present and future.
The Manufacture d’Habillage is where all the exterior components of a watch (cases, bracelets and dials) are produced under the same roof in Saignelégier in the Swiss Jura. This production site employs 125 people. The existing building has been completely refurbished and extended. The approach, which is quite uncommon in an industry that is often fragmented by trade typology, aims at bringing together closely related activities.
Xavier Markl, MONOCHROME – You have taken this new role as the head of the brand’s watch division recently. What have you discovered?
Antoine Pin – As I was managing Bvlgari in China, I had a certain vision of the organization. But I discovered quite a lot arriving here. First and foremost, and this is really pleasing, the vitality and openness of people; their willingness to improve and take on new challenges.
We are inaugurating the new dial and case manufacture today. This is something that would not happen in any watch company. Today we are reaping the fruits of this investment, although traditionally these are distinct activities. The industry is usually fragmented by trade. We had to convince people that one can machine dials and cases in the same workshop. To improve, you need to be ready to ignore conventions and ask ‘what if’? You need this commitment to stay sharp and not fall into complacency. At Bvlgari, there is this ambition, this desire to push boundaries without losing touch with reality.
Luxury is an expression of humanity. This is our raison d’être here at Bvlgari: the belief in human intelligence, the need to create things with our hands, with our minds. The process to create a masterpiece, to create art is a complex alchemy. You need enthusiasm and passion. The product is not just the product itself. There are emotions, a meaning and a culture attached to it. The relationship between the product and the client is something extraordinary. You need enthusiasm to generate imagination and creation.
What are the priorities, areas of development or improvement that you have identified?
Our DNA is rich. Being both Italian and Swiss, jewellers and watchmakers, we have a vast territory of expression. The challenge is more about achieving focus and coherence. We can create baroque, exuberant, typically Italian products. But what we call the aesthetics of technology, modern, pure, is also in our genes and very Italian too.
We have to find our way. We have fantastic ideas and projects. Interestingly, these can be different for ladies’ and men’s watches. What could be the Bvlgari expressions of complications for ladies? What could be the Bvlgari expressions of specific know-how or métiers d’art such as marquetry? And naturally, we are trying to push boundaries in the field of mechanical engineering.
What are the next steps for Finissimo? What’s the limit? What is the next record to break? But beyond records, extra-thin watches are an expression of style. Octo Finissimo is a powerful design. Its comfort and its wearability are extraordinary. With Finissimo, we have created a real trend and style. Fabrizio Buonamassa (Creative Director of Bvulgari Watches) talks about the ‘aesthetics of mechanics’, creating an extra-flat movement and integrating it into a watch that is both extra-thin and architectural. With Fabrizio, we have a designer that has a culture of Italian engineering design, of Italian automotive design. There is a sense of beauty in technical functionality. This is Octo Finissimo. This is Bvlgari.
Indeed, the Octo Finissimo saga did not happen by accident. It is the fruit of a vision to create an industrial organization. Can you tell us about this?
The industrial organization of Bvlgari watches started in the 1990s. The acquisition of Daniel Roth and Gerald Genta was instrumental in laying the foundations of our watchmaking expertise. This was complemented by the progressive acquisition of production entities for cases, bracelets and dials. Today we have a fully integrated manufacturing organization with a staff of 400 across three production sites in Switzerland: Le Sentier for movements, Saignelégier for ‘habillage’ (case and dials), and Neuchâtel for final assembly. We master over 30 crafts in-house. That’s quite unique. This allows us to create ‘serial production’ watches but also unique pieces. This requires know-how and flexibility. This is obtained through investment in facilities, in tooling but also in people. To enhance skill and knowledge, you need to invest in people, help them improve their strengths and acquire new competences.
This is the reason behind the new Bvlgari Manufacture d’Habillgae in Saignelégier. You need to be convinced that someone working on case surfaces can also work on dials. This drives flexibility. And by retraining and giving multiple skills to our staff, we develop curiosity and innovation!
This new manufacture in Saignelégier also allows us to work in batches for dials and cases. Together with our Le Sentier movement manufacture and our network of partner suppliers we manage our production in an efficient way. Again, this drives more flexibility and improves our time-to-market.
For more information, please visit www.bulgari.com