Basel is mostly known for its art fair in which A-list buyers from around the globe meet with the most talented and promising names in art. But Basel is also home to the watch world and the immeasurably large Baselworld, where a sea of men in suits—all Italian-looking—share their passion for the most beloved men’s accessory for a full week. The astonishing exhibition center designed by Herzog & de Meuron is home to the event, where brands from Rolex and Tag Heuer to Chanel and Gucci compete for the attention of global buyers and press, with overwhelming spaces featuring product launches and cocktail parties.
On my first visit to the Swiss town, I was delighted to have joined a group of writers from around the globe invited by Bulgari to see its new collection firsthand, and to understand the emerging consumer habits of watch-lovers.
The show is a competition of storytelling, re-creating tradition, and presenting new technologies for pieces that are meant to last for much more than a lifetime. “It’s a challenge to create a collection that brings Bulgari’s heritage and Roman flair to a global consumer. Bulgari is Rome! But now we have a large group of consumers globally, in countries such as China and Japan,” said Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, head of design of the house. Mr. Stigliani has worked on the creation and launch of Lucea (meaning “light” in Latin), a new timepiece line with twelve styles that range from a classic steel version to the decadence of pink gold and pavé diamonds, which is destined to become a new classic. It’s an understated luxury watch that is both precious and timeless—a challenging task for a designer, but one that was accomplished with brilliance and grace.
Living in both Italy and Switzerland, the designer splits his time among the creative process and the complex engineering system required for a watch to last forever. Stigliani spends half of the week in each country. “It is impossible to work with the creative team without being able to touch and feel the materials, and to work with the prototypes on the making of a timepiece,” said Stigliani. After all, no one said creating tradition and heritage is an easy task.
Photo: Courtesy of Jorge Grimberg/Bulgari