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iW Interview: Fabrizio Buonamassa and Bulgari Watch Design

Bulgari garnered considerable attention when it debuted the Octo Finissimo Automatic at Baselworld 2017. The sleek titanium timepiece is the firm’s third ultra-thin debut within just a few years. It arrived on the heels of the 2014 Octo Finissimo Tourbillon and just a year after Bulgari debuted the world’s thinnest minute repeater (the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater).

Octo Finissimo Automatic

A back view of Bulgari's Octo Finissimo Automatic

Leading the charge for Bulgari’s relatively newfound supremacy within the ultra-thin watch category is Fabrizio Buonamassa, Bulgari’s Head of Watch Design. iW spoke with Buonamassa recently about Bulgari’s focus on this very specific watch category. He explains below and also weighs in on creating skeleton watches, designing watches for women and what to expect in the future from Bulgari.

Fabrizio Buonamassa

What distinguishes a Bulgari design from others?

We put shapes together in new ways to generate a new aesthetic. As you can see, our watches are based on very pure shapes. This comes from our Roman background. You can see a portion of a column for example. And we love bold proportions.

A new Bulgari Octo Americas

Are there differences in Italian watch design and Swiss watch design?

We combine Italian design and Swiss watchmaking know-how. Just the watches come from Switzerland and the jewelry comes from Italy. But the Serpenti body comes from our Italian atelier and just the head of the Serpenti comes from Switzerland. We try to convey all of our different skills in these products. For Octo, in terms of shapes and proportions we are talking about pure Italian design. Pure and simple without any added elements. Luxury products have to be timeless. That’s why I’m trying to work just with pure shapes.

New Bulgari Serpenti designs

Did you envision creating all three ultra-thin timepieces when you started the first one several years ago?

When you make these kinds of watches you need to have a precise production schedule. We needed more than five years to develop the Finissimo Automatic. When we started to imagine this type of series we needed to develop a long timeframe, otherwise you can’t create this high level of watches.

Octo Finissimo and three world records

Were there any technical changes needed to skeletonize the existing Octo Finissimo Tourbillon?

It was a challenge. For us it is important to have this kind of timepiece. When you skeletonized a movement it has to be a strong one. The plate on the tourbillon beyond is strong enough. The entire family Finissimo family is a strong one—in fact I wear my Finissimo Automatic as my everyday watch.

Bulgari's Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Skeleton

The Finissimo family is made somewhat like a Formula one car. No space for decoration, and just enough for it to work. Our idea was to have a wearable complication. And for the first time, the minute repeater was a solid piece of titanium. We needed enough space to have a great sound for the repeater. When we discovered that titanium gave a crisp sound, we decided to use it for the case and the dial. We liked it so much we decided to use it for the new Automatic.

Placing the hands on the minute repeater dial

The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic on a strap and a titanium bracelet

How different –or the same--is your approach to designing ladies and men’s watches?

These are absolutely two different worlds. For men we talk about the movement, the finishing, the materials, the complication. For ladies watches it’s more emotional– and more difficult to understand. It’s more in terms of taste and also more in terms of surfaces and finishing. Yes there is more emphasis now on technical features, but our approach is still different, still less mechanical and more about passion. We already make beautiful jewels, so it is easier for a company like us to make beautiful watches for ladies.

Two Bulgari Octo Roma models

What prompted you to make the moonphase display so large for the new Lvcea Moonphases?

So many of the moonphases you find on the market have a very small moon display. Since this is the primary element on this model, we wanted to emphasize it.

Lvcea Moonphase

Can you offer our readers and teaser to an upcoming new Bulgari watch you’re working on?

We will continue to work on our main categories, or pillars, but it’s not possible to tell you what those will be. The ultrathin watches are a great asset for us, so we will continue to work in this segment. We will continue to work on Octo, Finissimo, Serpenti and Lvcea.

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