To gaze upon Bulgari‘s glimmering five-piece Eden The Garden of Wonders watch collection is to observe the precise point where fine art, rarified jewelry craftsmanship and Swiss technical watchmaking mastery converge. Each timepiece, and its unique firework-display of precious stones, offers an impressionist glimpse of flora and fauna as only Bulgari can imagine. Tucked within all of these spectacular creations is a functional watch face, with some of the new pieces powered by a petite mechanical movement that’s a milestone step for the luxury brand. These five timepieces are of note not for the literal value of their crystalline components, but because they are design masterpieces from the historic maison.
To move forward, Bulgari looked backward. “We are very well known for different renditions of snakes in our watches and jewelry,” Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, Bulgari’s product creation executive director, tells COOL HUNTING during a private viewing of the watches in the brand’s Peter Marino-designed Paris flagship on Place Vendôme. “The concept of Eden’s gardens, for us, those are the richest gardens you can imagine—and so with that in mind, we started to sketch.”
In his drawings, Stigliani referenced flowers and butterflies from the Bulgari archives. He transformed their dimensions and proportions, though the aesthetics are still aligned with the historic inspiration. “The project really started after the sketches,” he continues, “because this is when you begin to figure out how to turn these visions into a reality.” Working with Bulgari’s jewelry division, he began to plot out every flower petal and leaf, carefully selecting the ideal gems for color and quality.
“The idea was to present a very luxurious, very unique garden where you have flowers wrapping the bracelet, covering your arm,” he continues. “You are part of the garden.” Two of the five watches—Giardino Dell’Eden Piccolissimo and Giardino Dell’Eden Tourbillon—epitomize this desire. The former took 2,000 hours to be completed and incorporates more than 1,500 stones; the latter features more than 6,500 gems and took a staggering 4,000 hours to assemble. “Five people were involved in this process from the beginning to the end,” Stigliani says.
Two other watches from the collection—the Blooming Beauty and Emerald Venus—were designed in collaboration with matching necklaces that are just as explosive with color. The final piece, Serpenti Misteriosi Riviera, plays upon the brand’s most beloved iconography. This interpretation, however finds the sculptural serpent floating in a river of rubellites. Enchantingly, the dial is hidden in the head of the snake.
These spectacular wrist-sculptures are another breakthrough in a milestone year for Bulgari who set a record for the world’s thinnest wristwatch, known as the Octo Finissimo Ultra, this March. We were able to observe that timepiece in Geneva earlier in the year and unsurprisingly the innovations that factor into its creation have already begun to influence what the watchmaker is doing elsewhere.
“After 10 years of world records and more or less 15 years of the Finissimo movement, we said we have to put the same amount of attention on the women’s watch side,” Stigliani says. “The idea for Eden gardens was to use a mechanical movement and we are very proud of our Piccolissimo movement, which we launched at the beginning of this year.” This is the second smallest circular movement ever made.
Both the Giardino Dell’Eden Piccolissimo and Serpenti Misteriosi Riviera draw power from the Piccolissimo movement. “We completely redesigned the Serpenti thanks to the Piccolissimo,” Stigliani explains. “We now have the smallest snake head possible. This is part of our evolution. The first Bulgari watch was a jewelry watch. Until the ’70s we used mechanical movements. They were easy to find. At that time, Bulgari made the bracelet and encrusted the jewels but a supplier made the movement. Then it became impossible to find a mechanical movement in the size we needed because of the dominance of quartz. We became obliged to use quartz.” After years of requests to include mechanical movements in their high-end jewelry watches, they developed their own in-house.
The multicolored botanic and butterfly embellishments on the Giardino Dell’Eden Piccolissimo and Giardino Dell’Eden Tourbillon are affixed in a way that allows them to oscillate; their petals and wings move gently as the watch changes position. The Giardino Dell’Eden Tourbillon interlaces a detachable brooch that can be pinned to a lapel or simply worn while attached to the wristwatch cuff. “It was very important to us that this watch be crowded with gems,” Stigliani says, “but that it had an in-house tourbillion skeleton movement, as well.” The mechanical inner workings of the watch are arguably as mesmerizing as the blanket of gems.
“Jewelry watches are a big asset for us,” Stigliani says. “We raise the bar. Each time we set a new standard.” And, as we’ve observed, technical innovation at this level isn’t reserved for a handful of pieces from Bulgari each year. “It becomes infused into the rest of our watchmaking. I have to say that we had one type of watch business unit before Finissimo and a watch business unit after Finissimo. Similarly, we had a type of watch business unit before and after Ultra. With Piccolissimo, I can’t wait to see where we go next.”
Images courtesy of Bulgari