PuristSPro would like to thank Mr. Trapani for taking the time to answer our questions for this extensive e-interview. We hope it will allow members of the PuristSPro community to gain a better understanding of Bulgari as a company, from the continued stance to honor Daniel Roth and Gerald Genta’s long standing histories as well as their visions to embark on the world of haute horologerie. From the looks of Bulgari's recent achievements, Bulgari is certainly headed in the right direction.
Francesco Trapani, CEO of the Bulgari Group
A PuristSPro Exclusive Interview
By Ed Woo & Ping Tsai
© April 2010
Mr. Francesco Trapani, CEO of the Bulgari Group
1. How have Bulgari watches evolved since their launch in the 80s?
Bulgari’s watch activities grew progressively on a constant pace since the late 70’s when we launched the Bulgari Bulgari line. At that time we were a jeweller making watches. Today, Bulgari is an international and diversified luxury Group which is also a watchmaker. This evolution is particularly underlined from this year, on one hand by the cross-operation we achieved with Roth & Genta, and on the other hand by the launch of our first in-house base caliber. This demonstrates our evolution and our ambitions.
2. Bulgari is very well known as a jeweler. What are your plans or strategy to integrate your long history of jewelry to your watches? Will we see high jewelry pieces that are also high complications?
We are historically a jeweller, you are right. But I have to say that jewelry and watchmaking share obvious and common values, skills and know-how: taste for precision, sharp-edged craftsmanship, high-technology and traditional tools. So both are very close. As a reminder, I would add that Bulgari crafted in the past unique high-jewellery watches for ladies such as Serpenti. Even if they were not complicated watches, they were real timepieces. As years went by, clients’ queries and needs have changed as well as the watch environment, so we can perfectly imagine crafting highly complicated watches which could be pieces of art like high jewellery.
3. Bulgari seems focused with establishing itself as a legitimate watchmaker, beginning a few years ago with acquiring Cadrans Design, Prestige D’Or, Crova and Finger within a few short years. Do you see watch production overtaking sales in other Bulgari products typologies (i.e. fragrances, leather goods, eyewear etc.)?
We want to be among the top brands for all categories in our product portfolio, developing the potentialities of each business. And we drive professionally each business step by step developing our know-how. First of all it entails being recognized as an authoritative and prestigious brand in terms of quality, design, innovation. We have invested in the watch segment to evolve from a jeweler making watches into a watch manufacture. At the same time, we have verticalised also in the business of accessories to better control each step, from design to production and distribution. It is a more recent business for us, and therefore in light of the investments made we aim to increase its percentage ratio on turnover over the next three to five years. Anyway we do not want a product category to cannibalize another. We just want to offer products of quality which are expression of the Bulgari style and values thus giving more choice whether our customers want to buy a jewel, a watch, an accessory or a perfume. But basically, while the accessories business is very young and still growing, it remains far from the professional dimension of our watchmaking activities.
4. Who is the typical Bulgari watch customer and do they seem concentrated in a particular geographical area?
Bulgari is not a “typical” company, so our client is not typical. Bulgari is one the world’s most prestigious luxury Brand. Through a wide range of creations we offer emotion, pleasure and beauty. These values combined with our products – jewellery, timepieces, accessories, fragrances which highlight our Italian contemporary and creative “touch”– contribute to offer a stylish lifestyle which cater to fine watches collectors and aficionados, as well as to clients who look for uniqueness and distinctiveness. Geographically, Bulgari’s watch “language” is spoken worldwide without frontiers.
5. The Sotirio Bulgari line is an exciting new line of watches, some with impressive complications in your collection. How did the initial concept for this watch first arise and what does Bulgari hope to achieve with this line?
The Sotirio Bulgari line has been conceived as a tribute to the founder of our company.
In the mid 19th century, Sotirio Bulgari articulated a vision of elegance that has since proven capable of transcending the boundaries of both time and space. The young Sotirio sensed the new spirit of his time and, assembling his formidable arsenal of artistic and artisanal skills, left Greece for Corfu and then went on to the recently unified Italy. His enterprising spirit upset many existing schemes, anticipating practises that would become standard only much later. It is to this remarkable man – multicultural voyager ahead of his time, entrepreneur, aesthete and founder of one of the world’s most respected jewellers and watchmakers - that Bulgari dedicates, on the occasion of its 125th anniversary this model to our history that began with Sotirio Bulgari. Regarding its design, we wanted to create a model which would be simple, sober and classical to enrich and strengthen our collection. This year, Sotirio Bulgari has evolved through a slightly increased diameter (43mm rather than 2009 model’s 42mm) complemented by our first in-house mechanical base movement, the Caliber 168. This is a first step for this very pure shape line which should face new developments in the future.
Sotirio Bulgari, 43mm 18 ct pink gold case, alligator strap
6. Just about every high-end luxury watch brand has chosen to not sell their watches through a brand website for various reasons, whether being the negative sentiments toward internet selling or unwillingness to stray from existing channels of distribution. What are Bulgari’s feelings on internet selling of watches and why has Bulgari decided to go against this trend and sell a number of their watches though its e-commerce website?
Historically there were two main reasons why watch brands did not enter into e-commerce: reluctance to potentially cannibalize and upset multi-brand retailer distributor sales and a feared potential reluctance of consumers to purchase high-value products online since internet did not permit a luxurious shopping experience. Bulgari started selling online during the 2007 Christmas season. We made the decision to open this distribution channel in the US due to the growing willingness of US consumers to buy a wide variety of products online, even at relatively high price points. We did not expect watches to be a high-volume seller given the average price point. However, we decided to win reluctance and to launch e-commerce with our core offer of jewellery, watches and accessories to give customers access to the range of products they might expect to find in our own-brand stores.
Making products available for purchase online is a branding and customer service decision, as well as a commercial one: the internet is an integral part of customers’ lives, yet watch selling online is highly fragmented, dominated by many small discounters and replica sellers rather than by off-line multi-brand retailer partners. By selling online, Bulgari is able to better control the brand message and product presentation and offer customers a guarantee of authenticity.
7. Has this proved successful and worthwhile for Bulgari and do you see other brands following suit in the future?
E-commerce represents a very small percentage of our overall watch sales. However, we believe that the endeavour is worthwhile for the reasons stated. In fact, we believe e-commerce will become an increasingly expected norm.
Perceptions and use of the internet have changed significantly in the past decade. Facebook, which did not exist ten years ago, is the most visited website in the US, passing even Google. Today e-commerce is a retail standard rather than daring distribution channel. Customers have moved faster than most watch brands. With technological advances and widespread broadband availability mobile and video commerce are the new revolutionary buying experiences.
In the rapidly developing internet environment, we anticipate other watch brands to begin e-commerce selling and to seize all the opportunities offered by this tool.
8. How is the merge of Daniel Roth/Gerald Genta with Bulgari going to impact or benefit Bulgari’s existing line of watches, technically, aesthetically, if at all?
The combination of skills and expertise benefit both to Le Sentier Workshop (La Manufacture de mouvements de Haute Horlogerie) and to Bulgari. Through this operation, our contribution is to offer definitely both names the awareness and recognition they deserve while they offer a new dimension to Bulgari. This process will impact at all levels as Bulgari offers from now a brand new range of very high-end and sophisticated products. Last but not least, we offer a worldwide established network of distribution as well.
9. How will the design of the new Bulgari branded Daniel Roth and Gerald Genta watches change with the new partnership? How will you manage to preserve the essence and history of Daniel Roth/Gerald Genta as well as infusing a bit of Bulgari spirit into the pieces in a balanced manner?
As formerly stated, Bulgari will preserve the DNA of both names retaining their distinctive shapes and designs which are clearly in both cases a strong identitary signature symbolizing definitely their essence and their history. The Bulgari spirit will bring them also our own style through re-designed dials such as those we introduced this year at Basel. Furthermore, we will keep on to develop strong added-value contents in terms of creative high-end manufactured mechanical movements respecting what they basically did in the past and respecting what we intend to do in the future.
10. There is already a strong public reaction to this new partnership within the watch enthusiast community, specifically the hard-core Daniel Roth and Gerald Genta fans. Were you prepared for this and what would you like to say to these individuals to ease their sentiments?
First of all, yes we were prepared and expecting such reactions which are quite normal. I would add that the absence of reactions and comments would have been abnormal in such a case. Now I would tell to all these fans of Roth and Genta that Bulgari will fully respect both names values and identity such as previously stated and demonstrated during Basel 2010. Out of any emotional or romantic perception of this daring operation, I must say that it has raised a huge majority of positive reactions worldwide since my announcement last January: many said that we should have done it earlier; some others said that it helps and boosts strongly Roth and Genta. I give you one interesting example: all the employees in Le Sentier Manufacture have been enthusiastic when they saw the Bulgari Roth & Genta new Collections. They even commented that it was time to do it for these 2 names as their products were static since too long! It demonstrates that we have been right, and Basel 2010 testifies of a 99% positive reaction both on press and distribution levels.
11. How many watches do you produce each year? With the acquisition of Daniel Roth and Gerald Genta, do you have plans to increase the production numbers of these lines at all from what they were in the past?
The objectives of the integration are clearly to develop our high-end male offer, but preserving the exclusivity of our creations while exciting the extreme niche and strong added-value dimension.
12. How will after-sales service be handled for the Sotirio line and especially the existing Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth watches?
After-sales service is a key element for us. We keep on developing it worldwide as well as centrally in Neuchâtel which is the heart of our watch related activities. For Roth & Genta watches previously sold before the operation, the proud owners may be safe and quiet: there will be in the long-term future a caring service for their watches. For Sotirio Bulgari line, we also offer obviously our regular after-sales service expertise through our different centers. Globally and to sum-up, the after-sales service for previous Roth & Genta watches has been integrated in our global ASS center.
13. What is your average price-point for current Bulgari watches?
Thanks to the verticalization process we drove during the recent past, I can say that our average price-point has faced a 50% growth during the last four years. The average price-point of our best-seller is at 9000 + Euros.
14. What are some strengths and weaknesses of Bulgari when it comes to watches?
Bulgari is a strong brand in the luxury market renowned for its quality and design. Anyway, as for the watch segment our products are more renowned for design than for their technical equipment. During the last ten years we have worked hard to become a watch manufacture and we managed to do it. Today we offer creations which feature a very distinctive design and are technically at the cutting edge. Now it is just a matter of communicating this in an effective way.
15. Are there plans for continued expansion of Bulgari themed hotels? Why hospitality and are there any other new and interesting areas of expansion planned for the future?
We started the Bulgari Hotels & Resorts project because we believed it was an innovative yet legitimate way of leveraging our brand enhancing its awareness in the luxury market. A hotel, in fact, gives us the opportunity to serve better and widely our clientele with a complete lifestyle experience. After the opening of the Bulgari Hotel in Milan and the Bulgari Resort in Bali, we are currently scouting other prestigious and exclusive locations such as in London, Rome, Paris, New York, Tokyo and other resort destinations. Anyway, we do not want to create “another” luxury hotel, but a unique hotel in a unique location, and this is the reason why we invest so much time to find the only place that can really guarantee an extraordinary experience.
We do not care about how long the whole process will take, but the final result we want to achieve.
Bulgari Hotel Bali
16. Can you describe your management style? How does this style affect and funnel down to the various product offerings from Bulgari?
Personally, I never rest on my laurels, always looking to the top. I also try to pay attention to details while never losing the big picture. With my reports, I believe in meritocracy, and, consequently, in delegation when I see people deserve my trust. As for business in general, I want the Company to go straight to its business targets keeping consistency with its history: it means pursuing the excellence, while always innovating and following or, even better, anticipating market trends.
17. What is your current favorite Bulgari watch and why?
It is like to ask me who is my favorite son! But if you force me… I would say that my favorite watches are connected to my various and numerous daily activities. I wear the Bulgari Endurer Chronosprint, Collection Roth, within an elegant and sporty mood. The Bulgari Octo Bi-Retro in pink gold is dedicated to my pure business activities while I do not forget the Diagono Calibro 303: its double branding on the bezel belongs to the full symbolic DNA of BVLGARI!
Bulgari Collection Daniel Roth Endurer Chronosprint
Bulgari Collection Gerald Genta Octo Bi-Retro Steel Ceramic
Trapani wearing pink gold version of Bulgari Gerald Genta Octo Bi-retro
Bulgari Diagono Calibro 303
18. What is the most rewarding aspect of working for a company like Bulgari?
Bulgari is a Company with a more than a century history, born as a single jewellery shop in Rome and become a global player thanks to the capabilities of the founder Sotirio and to the firmness of my grandfather Giorgio first and of my uncles Paolo and Nicola in the following years. Since 1984 I have been giving my contribution as CEO. Therefore, I think that the most rewarding aspect is looking today what the Company has become: one of the most prestigious and coveted brands in the luxury market.
This message has been edited by AnthonyTsai on 2010-04-30 08:33:22 This message has been edited by AnthonyTsai on 2010-05-05 08:03:38