It will be hard to hide the fact that, since a few years, the brand Bulgari has become a major actor in the field of watchmaking. What has long been a superb jeweler and a manufacturer of jewelry-oriented watches is now recognized as a proper innovator and a respected high-end watch brand, showing to the world an great expertise in ultra-thin movements (in-house developed and produced) mixed with a unique design inspired by Roma. In order to understand the changes operated by Bulgari and to see what will be the coming developments of the brand, we sat down with Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari, talking about his nearly 4 years as CEO, about the iconic Octo design and about the new models for 2017.
Since his arrival at the head of Bulgari in May 2013, Jean-Christophe Babin has operated an impressive move in the strategy of the brand. For long, Bulgari has been (and still is) one of the most respected jewelers, which also happened to have in the collection some watches, most of them based on the design rather than on technological prowesses (to the exception of a few complicated pieces). Still, some were icons, such as the Serpenti or the Bulgari-Bulgari. Yet, in the past few years, under the guidance of Jean-Christophe Babin, the brand has developed considerably the iconic Octo range, introducing in-house movements and complex features. The hallmark of this strategy was of course the Finissimo collection, with no less than the slimmest tourbillon movement and the slimmest minute repeater watch. Impressive.
For 2017, Bulgari continues its evolution and introduces a new timepiece in the Octo collection, the Bulgari Octo Roma, still relying on the 8-facet design, however with a more urban and subtle design, probably easier to wear than the bold and very sharp existing Octo watches. Still relying on the in-house Solotempo movement, it again shows a great design, a perfect execution for a competitive price (starting under 6,000 Euro). We’ll come back on this new Octo Roma collection soon.
Finally, there is the business side. No one can deny the fact that industry is in a relatively difficult situation, with Swiss watch exports down 9.9% in 2016 compared with 2015 exports. Of course, we asked Jean-Christophe Babin about Bulgari’s situation, which we already knew to be rather positive. At the moment we recorded this video, LVMH (the luxury group that owns Bulgari) was still working on the official results, which are now available. Overall, the watches and jewelry division of the group is increasing its revenues of 5% and operational result of 6%. Inside the branch, Bulgari makes a record year, surpassing 2015 (which was already a record year for the brand), with a specific mention about the Octo range, which again gains market shares in the difficult context of the men watches segment – source: LVMH (see here).