More than 350 employees representing dozens of professions dedicated to the infinitely small and precise are at work on the brand’s various production sites, from Le Sentier to Saignelégier via La Chaux-de-Fonds.
With a current over 350-strong workforce and integrated production of all watch parts spread over four sites in the Jura mountains, at the heart of a major hub of the most sophisticated skills and crafts, the Manufacture Bulgari has developed so strongly that it now fully masters the production of mechanical watch movements ranging from Grande Complication to ultra-thin hand-wound calibers, as well as standard Solotempo self-winding base movements. Production of the external elements – metal cases and bracelets, high-end dials – is also done internally. The vertical integration that began a few years ago has reached cruising speed and has effectively put Bulgari Watchmaking right up amongst the elite of Swiss watch manufacturers.
Only a few exceptional brands can currently claim global mastery of the multiple processes involved in making a watch – encompassing design and development, mechanical movements, dials as well as metal cases and bracelets. Classic and streamlined, complicated or precious. Watches are all about emotions, like superb works of art that are created by drawing upon a broad range of expertise, as well as time and passion. For behind these complex objects lie a number of age-old skills combined with state-of-the-art technologies. Behind the Fine Watchmaking masterpiece is a vast and complex network, filled with multiple skills – all completely interconnected and independent, backed by cutting-edge technologies or by traditional dexterity in craftsmanship. The Manufacture Bulgari is currently able to master the entire process and to manufacture its creations in-house, the privilege of authentic players in the world of luxury.
Vertical integration has enabled the brand to progressively acquire all the skills required to make a complete watch by setting up a production division handling everything from the first sketches from the design office – forming the basis for the development conducted by the Technical Department – and right the way through to the absolute final checks. This pool is spread over several manufacturing sites, all rooted in the heart of the purest tradition and the finest skills: Le Sentier for the Grande Complication and ultra-thin Finissimo movements; Le Sentier for the production and assembly of the Solotempo caliber; Saignelégier for gold and steel cases and bracelets; while the high-end dials are manufactured in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Assembly and the final controls on the watch take place in Neuchâtel, the nerve centre of operations.
At the heart of watchmaking creation beats the mechanical movement. This amazing assembly of parts, up to a thousand in the case of the most sophisticated horological complications, has to find its place in the infinitesimal volume measuring just a few cubic centimeters at most. The quality standards inherent in complicated movements are naturally applied with the Manufacture Bulgari to functionally simpler mechanisms such as the Finissimo and Solotempo calibres. In both instances, whether ultra-thin hand-wound or self-winding movements, these stringent requirements are applied to the entire range of manufacturing stages in order to achieve a result meeting the highest standards of excellence.
While undoubtedly the central element in a mechanical watch, its ‘motor’ is nevertheless only one facet of its character, since its external parts are naturally equally important – and just as complex when it comes to producing the case, dial and bracelet. At Bulgari, these elements are subject to the same rigorous demands throughout the processes involved in their production. Just as with a high-end movement, the expertise required to produce extremely high-end dials is also very refined and implies a set of skills underpinned by a precious value: experience.
As with the dials, the case and bracelet Manufacture in Saignelégier regroups a wide variety of highly specialized professions, all of which demand dexterity achieved through experience. The site is based on the same guidelines and its production is intended for the Brand’s most iconic and exclusive models. Entering this place gives a sense of entering Vulcan’s legendary forges, with computer numerically controlled machines relentless cutting gold or steel blocks under oil jets, as well as a large polishing room where all components are dealt with by hand, right the way through to the smallest bracelet links.
Spread between the various production sites, the people who make the Manufacture Bulgari tick represent dozens of highly specialized skills and professions, daily combining several hundred hours of work within a perfectly orchestrated ballet-like performance. Their watchwords are patience, a love of the infinitely small and a passion for giving birth to exceptional and authentically organic creations. Their work is governed by a single principle: the quest for perfection and beauty through a perfect combination of Swiss expertise and Italian creativity.
This quest is shared in close partnership with Bulgari Jewelry when it relates to precious watches. Both activities are the Brand’s legitimate territories and Bulgari Horlogerie implements logical and natural synergies with its Jewelry facilities for such specific products. As for complicated watches, craftsmanship is of central importance also for jewelry watches. The jeweled elements of each jewelry timepiece are crafted in the Bulgari Jewelry manufacture in Valenza or in the High Jewelry workshop in Rome, depending on the product’s features and its preciousness. The type of production carried out there is the traditional lost-wax casting technique. Expert goldsmiths clean, assemble and finish all the metal elements, giving shape to the actual watch element: bracelets and stone-set cases. Special attention is reserved to details, since it is fundamental that every element perfectly interlocks with the others, following the natural movement of the wrist and that the clasps and settings are expertly realized. Expertise and experience are necessary during the delicate phase of setting the gems, to ensure that every stone is firmly anchored in place. The watch element itself is assembled in Neuchâtel, where the movement in encased and the final quality control is carried out.
Courtesy of Bulgari