A magic moment: the visit of the Bulgari Boutique, 10 via dei Condotti
As usual and it is a tradition for me, I spent my 2013 Summer Holidays in Rome. But this year, I wished to do something really special: to have a detailed visit with comments of the Bulgari Flagship Boutique located via dei Condotti in the most prestigious area of the city. Why this boutique is so special? It can be explained easily: it is the place where the Bulgari story has begun and where the brand became so famous. Well, it is not exactly the truth. Actually, Sotirio Bulgari opened his first main boutique in Rome via Sistina at the top of the Spanish Steps in 1884, the year he founded the company. 20 years later, Sotirio and his sons moved to a first location via dei Condotti before finding in 1905 the definitive location of the Boutique at the number 10.
A few meters from Piazza di Spagna, located via dei Condotti, here is the Bugatti flagship Boutique in Rome:
The question you may have is to understand why this visit is so important for me. I'm a Rome lover and I calculated that I spent more than 6 months of my life in this fantastic city. And Bulgari is one of its symbols. A visit of the Boutique is mandatory since it belongs to the history of Rome.
Don't be wrong: Bulgari is not an Italian company, Bulgari is a Roman one. You understand it when you carefully look at the colours, the style of the jewels. It is also the reason why the history of Bulgari is so connected to the city life, it explains why the expansion and growth of the company took place abroad directly after the first period in Rome and not an Italy. When I visited some rooms of the Boutique, I had the feeling to be back to the 50s in the golden age of the Eternal City, when all the movies stars were coming to Rome to play in large budget movies shot at Cinecitta. You really feel this atmosphere and I was very happy to have this journey to the the glorious past of the company. But at the same time, Bulgari is a very living company with a lot of projects and a big ambition for the future. Nicolas and Paolo Bulgari's close presences can be felt too.
I propose you to follow me, to enter the Boutique and to discover the main rooms. It was a great opportunity for me to do this visit with Paolo Piacitelli, a perfect connoisseur of the Bulgari history. Having such a guide with me was a privilege and thanks to him, I understood better how the growth of the company took place, I learnt which were the iconic jewels of the past, how the evolution of the activities took place... and I could listen to him telling me some anecdotes!
So ready to enter the Boutique?The main door is located on the right side of the picture, just after the entrance you get into the lobby with the ability to go to the left, to the right and forward:
On the right of the lobby, we enter a very special room. Actually, it is a bit the craddle of Bulgari, the first room at the 10 via dei Condotti where the legend has started. Nowadays, this room is dedicated to display the most prestigious and historical jewels of the company. Sadly, they were not on the displays when I visited the Boutique due to the preparation of the further exhibition "The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita and Beyond: 1950-1990" which will take place in San Francisco from the 21st of September.
The main part of the charm of the room comes from the furnitures of the 30s which manage to create this elegant and quiet atmosphere. We have the feeling to be very far from the crowd of the street just behind the window!
The superb furnitures of the 30s:
Hung on the wall, the beautiful clock from Flanders brings its more sophisticated style to break the very peaceful design of the room while keeping the refinement of the room. Obviously, its high-end craftsmanship is totally in coherence with the image of Bulgari and it also gives a hint about the strategy to develop and reinforce the watchmaking activity.A typical display case of the Boutique:
We are now entering a room which has a special feature: it is the only one which can be totally closed to become a "salon privé", a private parlour. By entering the room, we can imagine all the famous people who bought the most incredible jewels of the Bulgari collection, the unique pieces at this table. Of course, the example which comes to my mind is Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Elizabeth Taylor was a huge fan of Bulgari as you know. And as Richard Burton said:
"I introduced Liz Taylor to beer and she introduced me to Bulgari"This room is the only one in the Boutique which can be totally closed to become a "salon privé":
Famous clients purchased the most prestigious jewels at this table:
You may notice some stars on the walls. Actually, it is quite difficult to have a clear explanation of the presence of these stars. The idea is that Sotirio Bulgari followed his lucky star to choose this location at the 10 via dei Condotti.Sotirio Bulgari followed his lucky star:
We are going now on the other side of the central corridor which starts at the entrance. We enter the largest room of the Boutique. This room was dedicated previously to silverware and silver gifts. We don't have to forget that at the beginning Sotirio Bulgari was a silversmith specialized in engraving. So, silverware was a key pillar of the activity of the company during almost all its history. But things have changed recently and customers are less and less interested in full precious and high-end silverware sets. This line of business is decreasing and we can feel this change in the room which is not dedicated to silverware anymore. Now the most exclusive leather goods and jewels are displayed here and we have the feeling that it is a page of Bulgari which is being turned. Of course, there are still clients, mainly big collectors of silverware sets which can be ordered. The largest room of the Boutique, previously dedicated to silverware: High-end handbags displayed in this specific room, when jewellery meets leather craftsmanship:
Some jewels are displayed too in the same room:
Time is coming to browse the central corridor before discovering the last two rooms at the back.
This central corridor gives the opportunity to display a wide range of jewels and it clearly helps to understand why Bulgari jewels are so special. I would like to highlight two main ideas:
- the colours. In a Bulgari necklace, we discover a true rainbow of colours even some unexpected ones due to the precious stones used for it (like sapphire).
- the mix of precious and of semi-precious stones. Bulgari has started to do it in the 50s and at that time, it was something strictly forbidden in the puristic approach of the jewellers. Thanks to this mix, Bulgari has managed to create a new jewellery style which is still one of the main features of the current collection.
Two impressive vases are set on the marble table in the central corridor:
The jewels displayed in the central corridor, it is a true rainbow even with some unexpected stones:
Liz Taylor was a famous Bulgari client:
Paolo Bulgari still works on jewellery projects and draws sketches. We can feel his influence in the design of pieces which combine colours, different types of stones: This necklace is inspired by the necklace worn by the model of the first Bulgari BLU ad. Actually, it was a "piece unique". But the customers were so seduced by it that they asked to Bulgari to produce other copies for them. Since the concept of "piece unique" had to be preserved, the various necklaces which were produced then used the same stones but they were all different. It is very funny to consider that a fragrance advertisement led to a jewellery success. How many "BLU" necklaces were produced? It is difficult to know, maybe around 50, each of them being unique. We are now in the back side of the Boutique. We still have to visit two more rooms located around this part of the corridor:
The right room is dedicated to the more affordable jewellery lines. It is the former Paolo Bulgari's office converted into a selling room. The paintings on the wall highlight the involvement of the company in contemporary art. It is the room where to buy the Serpenti! Luca Pignatelli's paintings decorate the room:
The left room is dedicated to the watches. But this time, I will not speak about the room itself but about its contents. This visit gave me a great opportunity to browse the current Bulgari collection. I asked to Paolo to see several highly representative watches of this collection and thanks to him, I could appreciate the wide range of styles and complications.The displays of the room dedicated to watches:
Let's have a closer look to the watches now!
Of course, due to the location of the Boutique, due to the history of the company, I only could start with the Bulgari Roma!
It is a true pleasure for me to see the reedition of this watch. It is very elegant and it embodies the Bulgari style with the very specific bezel created in 1977 with the Bulgari Bulgari designed by Gérald Genta. I appreciate a lot the shape and the finishings of the case, the beauty of the dial...
So is it a perfect watch? Sadly no! It would have been perfect without the date window. What a pity to have put this date window on the pure dial of this limited edition (250 pieces)! Without it, the watch would have been more faithful to the spirit of the original watch I have in mind (2 hands, no date window, of course I don't speak about the first Bulgari Roma which was a quartz powered watch with digital display). This one is obviously much larger but its diameter (39mm) remains appropriate in this context due to the rather thick bezel.
The Bulgari Roma is powered by the in-house movement BVL 191 (4hz, 42 hours of power reserve). It is not a spectacular movement in terms of decorative finishings but I like its regulating organ. A more elaborate winding rotor would have been welcome howerer.
The watch has a good presence on the wrist without being bulky to preserve the elegance. I found it very balanced but my point of concern is still this date window... it is useless and in addition, it is too small. I don't understand why some risks are not taken in a context of a LE of 250 pieces while the pieces of the permanent collection have the date. Anyway, the Bulgari Roma is a beautiful watch and for whose who are not disturbed by the tricky detail, it is a watch to really consider in the Bulgari collection.
The Octo is not a novelty... but its bracelet yes!
I'm usually not a fan of watches with bracelet... but this time, Bulgari managed to design a perfect bracelet.
It is at the same time well integrated into the whole design of the watch and comfortable.
Is this Octo Steel the best way to enter Bulgari watchmaking world? Maybe!
The watch is powered by in-house movement BVL 193 (4hz, 50 hours of power reserve thanks to a twin-barrel).
The case diameter is 41,5mm. Look at the way the bracelet matches with the lugs and the case. An excellent surprise for me.
This Diagono Calibro 303 features a very nice blue dial.
I think that the dial is its main asset... along with the lugs as pointed out by Ping in her article.
The case diameter is 42mm. I find the watch balanced and the date window nicely put on the dial. Finishings of the case are excellent.
The name of the watch partially comes from the number of parts of the movement. Actually, the base is a FP 1185, we recognize it at first glance.
The lugs and the leather strap give a lot of character to the design:
A nice watch at the same time classic and original:
We stay in a similar atmosphere with the new Bulgari Bulgari Chronograph. It offers a more classic alternative to the Diagono. Case diameter is 41mm.
The 41mm case is a bit too large for the movement because the sub-dials are quite close to the center of the dial. Hopefully, the designers have worked well to reduce this feeling (large indexes, figures etc...).
The movement which powers the watch is the BVL 328... aka the El Primero from Zenith, easily recognizable:
So, logically, the watch has a 5hz movement and a power reserve of 50 hours. This movement is symbol of collaboration between two LVMH companies.
An elegant chronograph and a good way to enjoy an iconic movement in a different context:
We jump into another world with the Endurer Chronosprint All Blacks:
This watch takes advantage of its unusal dial lay-out and of the style of the docoration.
The movement is the DR1306 based on a GP3100 + an in-house module. The power reserve is 45 hours while the frequency is 4hz.
Frankly speaking, I'm not a great fan of this watch but it has a lot of character and the All Blacks context is well used.
When I saw the Tourbillon Lumiere in the display, I asked to Paolo if I could handle it. I first saw this watch at Basel 2009 if I remember well. I was seduced, charmed by the beauty of the skeletonized movement.
Several years later, the power of seduction remains the same.
The watch is pure illumination, pure poetry... a mix of horological contents with perfect craftsmanship.
The aerial design of the back:
Do you notice the sober power reserve display? The power reserve is 64 hours.
Pure magic on the wrist...
After this dream watch, I propose you to land... not on the Earth but on the Moon with the Daniel Roth Grande Lune.
The large 46mm case allows us to enjoy the large moonphase display and the three-bladed second hand.
An original dial lay-out... like the Tourbillon Lumière, it is a watch I discovered at Basel several years ago and I'm still seduced by its dial. Here the specific Daniel Roth case shape works well.
The movement DR 2300 is based on the Frederic Piguet 151 with a 40 hours power reserve. It is still a bit unusal for me to see this movement in such case shape.
This watch is maybe my fav of the Daniel Roth collection, if I forget the Tourbillon Lumiere. Its slender case and the charming dial make it very attractive.
This watch is the last of the selection. I do believe that this selection gives you a good idea of what are the main features of the Bulgari collection.
I also hope that you enjoyed the visit of the Boutique as I did. It was a pure pleasure for me to discover all these details, this history, these anecdotes.
Before leaving the Boutique, I had a last glance to the entrance, to the stars, to the refined door frames and furnitures... there is really an unique atmosphere in this boutique and I give you the advice to visit it when you go to Rome. It is always interesting to discover the craddle of a luxury prestigious company.
And after the visit, you can have a nice coffee on the other side of the street, at the Caffe Greco...
I would like to thank a lot Paolo Piacitelli for the time he dedicated to me, for his clear explanations, his knowledge. Thanks also to Pascal Brandt.
This message has been edited by MTF on 2013-08-26 12:22:55