Last week, during an event on the island of Capri, watchmaker/jeweller Bvlgari unveiled a collection of impressive high-end jewellery watches, including an extraordinary and unique Serpenti Romani secret cuff watch. A glamorous exhibition of the brand’s incredible designs and savoir-faire, there were some other watches that caught MONOCHROME’s eye. As part of the “High-End Watches” sub-collection was a pair of Monete men’s watches.
The watch industry is, as you know, quite conservative and traditional. But it also has its quirks, its eccentricities that many don’t understand but which some collectors love. Among them are erotic watches and automata (or both combined in one). And then there are “coin watches”, a niche species that appeals to a niche market, once a speciality of Corum. Bvlgari is no newcomer to “coin” jewellery and Nicola Bvlgari, great-grandson of founder Sotirios Bvlgari, began mounting ancient coins in jewellery in the late 1960s to create the iconic Monete collection. Using coins in watches was a natural evolution but had to be interpreted in Bvlgari’s Italian, high-end style, so don’t expect any silver dollar coins on the dial. In 2017, we covered the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete secret watch, a rare marriage of an ancient Roman coin with the vanguard lines of the Octo.
The Bvlgari Octo Roma Monete
What you’re about to see is special, unique, bold and won’t appeal to everybody. And that’s just perfect. Today, a new series of Monete watches have been manufactured, based on the Octo Roma case, with a superb ultra-thin, tourbillon movement inside.
The base of the watch is the iconic Octo case, already itself a reference to Ancient Roman culture; the octagon is a recurring motif in antique architecture and art, which can still be seen in many of Rome’s most beautiful monuments. The case measures 44mm in diameter – it had to expand somewhat to accommodate the large coin resting on top – and is the Roma model, meaning a slightly less angular version of the Octo Finissimo.
Inside the case, and hidden by the coin when the hinged cover is closed, is the Finissimo Skeleton Hand-Wound Tourbillon movement, the thinnest of its kind on the market, with a 1.95mm profile. Just like other models equipped with this movement, you can see the same technical and modern decoration, as well as the flying tourbillon positioned at 6 o’clock. Time is indicated with hour and minute hands matching the case material.
The pièce de résistance is, of course, the coin and its cover. As mentioned, most coin watches have relied on silver dollar coins or gold pieces. But at Bvlgari, Italian culture and Ancient Rome are the fountains of inspiration. The concept, explained by Nicola Bvlgari, was to “do something contemporary with what is immortal “.
For these latest coin watches, Bvlgari uses coins that are almost 2,000 years old – circa 340-350 AD – and both feature a relief of the Emperor Constans, one of the three sons of Constantine the Great, who ruled Rome and the Western provinces of the Empire. The reverse features the Concordia, or harmony, of the three brothers, who were able to rule together peacefully for many years. This is a real slice of history that can be worn on the wrist. Roman heritage to the max!
Price and availability
Once again, these new Bvlgari Octo Roma Monete are truly special pieces that few will appreciate or understand. However, congrats to Bvlgari for merging modern and high-end watchmaking with ancient coins. Two unique pieces will be made, one in 18k rose gold and one in 950 platinum, priced at CHF 530,000 and CHF 550,000.