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Beautiful Objects and How to Create Them

Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani of Bulgari Watches Design Center on the challenges of melding Swiss techniques with Italian design

Images courtesy of Bulgari

Watch design is a fascinating topic, bound by constraints and so small compared to cars or even furniture. To get more insight into creating beautiful watches, I recently sat down with Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, director of Bulgari Watches Design Center.

What role does beauty have in design?

Beauty is a matter of taste and a matter of sensibility. The things I have seen, the books that I have read, all come together in my designs. My idea is to produce and design simple objects: pure forms with rich details. When you create luxury products, it’s a different mix, because luxury products have to have a long life, longer than our lives.

Is your approach, as an Italian, different from the Swiss?

Completely different. Italy was the center of trade for the world, so we have a multilayered culture, it’s a very faceted history. That’s why our aesthetic is so rich and so different. Italian design is more ironic, funnier—we love to play with constraints. Only Bulgari could turn a gas pipe into a luxury item, which is the Serpenti Tubogas ($23,700). The constraints make the aesthetics.

Serpenti Tubogas: 35mm steel curved case with 18kt gold bezel set with diamonds. 18kt gold crown set with a cabochon-cut rubellite. Pavé diamond dial. Single-spiral steel and gold bracelet.

What inspires you?

Inspiration is everywhere. It’s cars, motorcycles, boats, airplanes, trains and even common objects like furniture. The most difficult challenge is to turn this inspiration into something that makes sense in a watch. Our inspiration is Rome but I love to travel, and I see the differences in light in Miami, London, Tokyo and other cities. I have to find a way to turn the image in my head into an object.

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How challenging are the constraints of designing watches?

There are big constraints in terms of thickness, materials, mechanical features and more. We are Italian, so our challenge and our biggest constraint is to find the right mix between Swiss watchmaking and Italian design. Sometimes the easiest things are almost impossible to do, so it’s a huge challenge, but it forces us to find different ways. Without constraints, you are an artist, you are not a designer.

Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Carbon: Manufacture mechanical skeleton movement with automatic winding, world’s thinnest tourbillon caliber BVL 288 with ultra-thin flying tourbillon and special ball-bearing system (1.95 mm thin). High-end finishing. 52-hour power reserve. 42 mm ultra-thin carbon CTP case with transparent case back. Skeletonized dial with black finishing. Carbon bracelet with three-blade folding buckle.

What two watches embody your design ethos?

The Serpenti and the Octo Finissimo. These are iconic expressions of the Bulgari brand today. With Serpenti, we rediscovered the category. It’s not just a copy and paste from our archive, it’s a reinvention of the brand through our iconic designs. It’s something unique.

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With the Octo Finissimo (limited to 50 pieces; price upon request), we have reinvented how to wear a grand complication. We have introduced the thinnest watches on the planet and made them wearable everyday, with a unique mix of monochromatic materials.

Why is sketching so important to you?

I love to sketch. I particularly love to sketch cars, because they are such a mix of different objects—they are emotional, powerful and they are about space. I make sketches of watches, cars, sunglasses, bags, three-dimensional objects. It’s my great passion. I am obsessed by pens, the stroke is very important when I sketch. The quality of the stroke helps make a beautiful sketch. For me, a sketch is like art, even if it is a tool, because it helps explain my idea.

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When I use a ballpoint pen, I am obliged to think about the image in my head before I draw, because you can’t remove the lines. When I make a sketch, I have to have in mind something that doesn’t exist. The paper is also very important. I am never satisfied. I am always looking for ballpoint pens and fountains pens all over the world, and I am always looking for new papers.

Contact: Customer service representative Maisha Surgeon-Babatunde, 646.367.7758, bulgari.com

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