A Bulgari icon since the 1940s, the Serpenti Tubogas has been realised in every shape, size, material and style imaginable. Indeed, the pieces made between the 1960s and 1980s were especially creative whilst also proffering incredible goldsmithing craftsmanship. But for all the watch’s breadth and depth of creativity, there is one glaring omission: the diamond pavé bracelet.
Common throughout the luxury industry, diamond pavé bracelets is a staple for various watchmakers but for decades remained elusive at Bulgari, because the Tubogas construction simply wasn’t designed to be set with stones. Made by enrobing flat strips of steel or gold around a coiled spring, which is what gives the watch’s curvaceous form a unique suppleness, it was created during the post-war era and its design exuded minimalism and sobriety, rather than opulence and excess.
The fact that Tubogas was a watch, not a jewel, resonated with women of the time, who were looking for practicality in addition to style—although this has not stopped Bulgari from thinking up ever more innovative ideas for this extraordinary timepiece. In 2009, the brand pulled back the covers on its first major evolution, the Serpenti Scaglie, inspired by the spiny scales of a bush viper.
Then came the Serpenti Tubogas in 2010, which fused the two Bulgari icons in one timepiece, where the snake motif became decidedly more abstract than realistic. Next, Bulgari redesigned the bracelet by using individually assembled links rather than a single continuous strip of metal, resulting in the 2014 Serpenti Spiga, with crinkled links inspired by stalks of wheat. The construction is radically different and yet the aesthetics cleverly and quietly retained the quintessence of the Tubogas, setting the scene for what was to come in 2021: the Serpenti Spiga with matelassé bracelet.
Says chief watch designer of Bulgari, Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, “This is a very important introduction for us because for the first time we have on the Serpenti Tubogas family, a jewellery bracelet that plays with gold and diamonds together. As you can see on Tubogas and even Spiga, we won’t have diamonds on the bracelet, just on the bezel and dial.”
The latest wrapping bracelet debuts a bold new design from Bulgari identified by an intricate matelassé pattern that recalls the Italian luxury giant’s exceptional jewellery making savoir-faire. Inspiration for this new line came from a 1957s heritage watch which had a square-shaped face and dial, plus a modular construction bracelet, but that’s where the similarity ends.
Says Buonamassa Stigliani, “The heritage watch was straight, it was not coiled like this bracelet, with different sections, and the head and with the tail [sic]. This was the most difficult thing to do because as you can see we have two different textures. At the head, we have big squares and they get smaller closer to the tail. This kind of difference in terms of design was not so easy to manage because the idea was to have diamonds inside. If you change the dimension of the squares, it becomes difficult to have a certain size of diamonds.”
“For the first time, we have on the Serpenti Tubogas family a jewellery bracelet that plays with gold and diamonds together.” Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, chief watch designer of Bulgari
Each Spiga link is manually assembled piece by piece, with over 70 individual pieces for the double-row bracelet and 40 for the single-row one. Each of these links were cast from individual moulds. After rounds of finishing and polishing, they interlock seamlessly, requiring no soldering and external joints, creating a flexible band that fits perfectly around the wrist. It may look simple, but the processes involved in this design took Buonamassa Stigliani and team two whole years to standardise.
He explains, “It was not so easy. We made several trials, three or four metal trials, because at the beginning I was not satisfied with the effect and the thickness of the bracelet while having the right size of diamonds.”
With Spiga links crafted in this matelassé pattern, the Serpenti can finally explore the dazzling world of diamonds and—perhaps eventually—coloured gemstones too, since they form a key area of expertise for Bulgari. For a start though, the watchmaker has presented an exquisite high jewellery Serpenti Spiga double tour fully paved with more than 800 diamonds plus one cabochon-cut blue sapphire set into the crown, in addition to classic pink gold models with alternating brilliant-cut diamonds and matelassé gold embossing, and that’s enough for now.
Buonamassa Stigliani adds, “It’s very important for us to have a gold-and-diamonds Serpenti because diamond-set timepieces are a big part of the ladies segment. For sure Bulgari is a master of coloured gemstones, this is very important to us, but we like to play with coloured gemstones for certain collections, and of certain dimensions. At the moment, the idea is to have diamond setting on the Serpenti, and we are very happy with the results.”