Bulgari’s hallmark brand identity was founded on a cocktail of motifs from the classical world mixed with voluptuous, vibrant-coloured stones. Incorporating features of Rome’s Imperial architecture and even ancient coins, Bulgari’s creations are as distinctive as they are daring.
Passionate about the narrative potential of ancient coins and the rich historic patina of these vestiges of empire, Nicola Bulgari - great grandson of founder Sotirios Bulgari - began mounting coins in jewellery. “Why not do something contemporary with what is immortal?” he asked, and in 1966 introduced the iconic Monete collection showing women how sexy a 2,000-year-old coin can look when married with a bold, contemporary setting. Today the concept of Monete expands its scope and embraces the world of high watchmaking with the presentation of two very special secret watches.
Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete
The Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete is a secret watch for men emblazoned with a rare coin depicting Emperor Constantine I. A ruler of immense influence who reunited the empire, Constantine the Great was also responsible for finishing the grandiose Basilica of Maxentius in Rome’s Forum, a key source of inspiration behind Bulgari’s Octo collection.
Ancient architectural solutions inspire watchmaking firsts
To lighten the weight of the colossal barrel vaults of the Basilica - the largest architectural structure of its day - engineers used weight-saving techniques in the form of coffering. Embellished with two octagons overlaid with a circle, the coffering is faithfully reproduced in the shape of the Octo case.
Bulgari’s Octo collection currently holds three world record breaking watch firsts in the ultra-thin department with records for the thinnest automatic watch, the thinnest tourbillon and the thinnest minute repeater.
Coin of Constantine the Great shields a world first
The distinctive 40mm pink gold octagonal case of the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete is crowned by a very rare and ancient silver Roman coin with a portrait of Constantine the Great, minted by his son Constantine II in 336AD. Above and beyond the complexity involved in devising the opening system, and in fitting the coin on the watch bezel, Octo Monete draws a symbolic line between the power of an octagonal design and the architectural heritage bequeathed by the emperor Constantine the Great, the man behind the construction of the Basilica of Maxentius in Rome with its distinctive octagonal ceiling coffers.
The thinnest tourbillon movement in the world
In the same manner as a pocket watch, the coin cover can be lifted by depressing the crown to reveal the world’s thinnest tourbillon calibre hidden beneath, revealed in all its glory in this openworked version. Packing 253 components into a height of just 1.95mm, Bulgari’s Finissimo Skeleton Flying Tourbillon movement is a prodigy of leanness.
The Monete Pendant Secret watch
Faithful to the Greek roots of founder Sotirios Bulgari, the Monete Pendant watch hides under an ancient coin - a silver tetradrachm - depicting Alexander the Great. Like a custodian from the past, the King of Macedonia guards the inner sanctum of this high jewellery creation, beating to the rhythm of a sophisticated tourbillon movement.
Once again, Rome’s Basilica of Maxentius is the source of inspiration for the 41mm octagonal-shaped pink gold case. Covered in diamonds and rubies, the cover of the watch features an ancient Greek silver coin with the profile of Alexander the Great, the King of Macedonia and Conqueror of the Persian Empire.
By lifting the coin, an entirely skeletonised manual-winding gold tourbillon movement is revealed (see top of article). Beautifully crafted by Bulgari’s goldsmiths and gemsetters, the secret watch dangles from an impressive 90cm chain made of hexagonal diamond links, interspersed with solid links studded with rubies and diamonds.
Like the famous rulers depicted on the coins, Bulgari’s Monete Secret watches are unique, one-off creations that will be admired for time immemorial.