If you are a fan of Bvlgari’s Serpenti watch and passionate about mechanical movements, we have news for you. The Italian brand renowned for its ultra-thin movements is shifting gear and using the formidable know-how obtained with its Octo Finissimo collection to create the new Piccolissimo watch movement, a teeny-weeny micro-mechanical calibre designed to fit inside the head of its legendary Serpenti watch. Marrying the two most resplendent facets of Bvlgari as a celebrated contemporary watchmaker and a lifelong master of high jewellery, four new Serpenti Misteriosi secret high jewellery watches snake their way into the limelight beating to the new Piccolissimo calibre BVL 100. Just ahead of the launch, MONOCHROME interviewed Bvlgari’s gifted creative director, Fabrizio Buonamassa, to understand why the brand considered it was high time to dedicate the same “attention and obsession” to women’s watches as it has lavished on its men’s Octo Finissimo collection. After all, adds Buonamassa, “the Serpenti is more than an icon; it is our signature.” Please click on the play button in the image above to watch our exclusive video interview with Buonamassa.
Seductive Secret Snake Watches
Most high jewellery brands have an in-house mascot, but few have the seductive and transformative power of Bvlgari’s Serpenti. Charming women with their sensuous coils since the late 1940s, the Serpenti sheds its skin once again and returns with a mechanical movement that will delight many Serpenti fans. Bvlgari’s choice of adopting a snake as a leitmotif in some of its jewellery designs taps into ancient references, from Eve’s Biblical temptation to Greco-Roman bracelets and rings made from gold coils with precious stone eyes.
Snake-inspired watches appeared in Bvlgari’s repertoire in the late 1940s, and secret Serpenti watches were introduced in the late 1950s with a hidden compartment in the head cavity to house the outsourced miniature movement. However, over time, mechanical movements were replaced with thinner quartz movement in the 1970s.
Providing a fascinating playground for Bvlgari’s gem setters, Serpenti watches have appeared in countless guises. True to its audacious high jewellery aesthetic, where bold coloured gemstones and daring volumes established the Bvlgari style, the scales and heads of the Serpenti have flashed with every conceivable gemstone coupled with vivid polychromatic enamel details and diamonds.
While filming Cleopatra in Rome’s Cinecittà studios in 1962, Bvlgari created a Serpenti for Elizabeth Taylor, whose love of jewellery was only matched by her passion for Richard Burton. “I used to get so excited“, confessed Taylor, “that I would jump on top of him and practically make love to him in Bvlgari“.
Marvel of miniaturisation
The Piccolissimo is indebted to the experience obtained during the development of Bvlgari’s Finissimo movements, watches that started to collect ultra-thin trophies since their debut in 2014. Although Xavier is covering the technical details of the new BVL 100 calibre in a separate article, a few words on this micro-mechanical marvel are in order. Measuring just 12.30mm across, 2.50mm thick and weighing 1.30 grams, the BVL 100 is very, very small. One of the smallest mechanical movements available today, the calibre was entirely conceived and produced at Bvlgari’s Manufacture in Le Sentier.
To ensure good inertia, the balance wheel is made of white gold and to save space, the anchor is positioned laterally. With no stem for the crown, the winding and setting are done directly with the bidirectional crown on the caseback. The extreme miniaturisation of its 102 components is illustrated by the tiny barrel with its 5mm diameter and 170mm-long spring that can deliver 30 hours of power reserve.
As Fabrizio Buonamassa points out, the movement case is not attached to the snake’s head; it is a separate, detachable entity that can be twisted to face the wearer (meaning it can be worn on either arm) and removed for service.
Four Secret Serpenti misteriosi
The double-tour bodies of the four Serpenti Misteriosi are crafted in gold and sheathed in gemstones or a combination of lacquer and gemstones. Each Serpenti Misteriosi is a masterpiece of goldsmithing as every scale is shaped before being decorated, gem-set and attached to the next scale, ensuring flexibility and comfort.
Starting with the most opulent Serpenti models that we were able to photograph, we have the double-tour rose gold bracelet set with brilliant-cut diamonds and turquoise inserts, two pear-cut rubellites for the eyes and a diamond-paved dial (total 724 diamonds/18.05 cts). The second model is this double-tour yellow gold bracelet set with brilliant-cut diamonds, two pear-cut emeralds for the eyes and a diamond-paved dial (795 diamonds/16.95 cts). The other two models feature either green or black-lacquered gold cases. The green-lacquered model has a white gold double-tour bracelet set with brilliant-cut diamonds, pear-cut emeralds for the eyes and a diamond-paved dial (369 diamonds). The mysterious black-lacquered model has a rose gold double-tour bracelet with diamond eyes and a diamond-paved dial.
Now that Bvlgari has staged the debut of its Piccolissimo movement inside one of the most dangerously tempting Serpenti watches, you can be sure it will be turning up in other collections. Any wagers as to which collection?
And yes, if I were in the Garden of Eden and a Bvlgari Serpenti Misteriosi flashed its seductive eyes and gem-encrusted coils at me, I’d have no qualms whatsoever about succumbing to its tempting proposal.
More information at Bvlgari.com.