Bulgari Unveils First of 3 Commedia del’Arte Minute Repeater Watches

Bulgari Commedia del Arte Brighella - frontBulgari, a watch brand with its roots in Rome, pays tribute to Italy’s theatrical history with a trio of limited-edition minute repeater watches called Commedia del’Arte, all with automaton dials. The first in the collection, introduced at Baselworld 2013, is called Brighella.

The Bulgari Commedia del’Arte watches, each limited to only eight pieces each, are distinguished by their highly complicated movements and intricately crafted dials, with tiny moving figures, set against lavishly painted and engraved backgrounds.

The watches’ theme, and the collection’s name, is derived from 16th century Commedia del’Arte, a nomadic, improvisational style of street theater staged by masked performers. The three famous masked characters depicted on the watches are Brighella (the first and only model released thus far), Pulcinella, and Harlequin. The dials’ backgrounds depict contemporary Italian palaces with either a Venetian, Bolognese, or Neapolitan decor.

The movement, Bulgari’s in-house caliber BVL 618, is equipped with a Cathedral Gong minute repeater (operated by a slide at 10 o’clock) with two hammers, along with a jumping hour and retrograde minutes display; when the watch’s chime sounds, the characters on the dial begin moving in choreographed, balletic motions. On the Brighella watch, the main figure begins moving its arms while the background figures’ various parts move in a counter-clockwise motion as if singing or playing musical instruments.

Bulgari Commedia del'Arte Brighella - front

Bulgari has, in recent years, developed a reputation as a creator of chiming watches, and the gongs the brand developed for the Commedia del’Arte timepiece are notable in that they are longer than the standard type, with the steel wires that conduct the sound wrapped twice around the inside of the case rather than only once. The result, Bulgari says, is a deeper sound and more amplified resonance. Also aiding in the auditory optimization is the watch’s case, which is constructed of 18k white gold and an alloy called Magsonic, developed to amplify the resonance of the repeater’s chimes.

The dial, created for Bulgari by Atelier Vaucher in Geneva, is composed of 18k gold disks and combines artisanal techniques such as miniature painting, engraving, and chasing. Each of the three dials has four levels, one each for the central character, side characters, foreground and background decorative elements. The motion of the automaton figures is a highly technical process, using tiny hidden joints and pivots; more than 15 separate special engraving tools are required to create and animate the figures. The miniaturist painter takes three to five weeks to complete each dial, which is then placed in an oven at a set temperature for an hour between 30 and 50 times to achieve the final result. Detailed specs on the watch are below the photos.

Bulgari Commedia del'Arte Brighella - angle
Bulgari Commedia del'Arte Brighella - side

Technical characteristics:

Movement: Bulgari Caliber BVL 618, manual-wind; frequency = 18,000 vph; diameter = 36 mm; thickness = 11 mm; 91 jewels; hand-finished; black bridges and circular-grained baseplate; polished hammer and index assembly; 48-hour power reserve

Functions: Jumping hour with retrograde minutes between 7 and 11 0’clock; minute repeater with cathedral gongs and five automaton figures that spring into motion when the watch strikes

Case and strap: 18k white gold and Magsonic with sapphire crystal front and back; diameter = 54 mm; thickness = 16.36 mm; minute repeater slide at 10 o’clock; numbered 18k white-gold crown; water-resistant to 30 meters; on alligator leather strap with white gold triple folding clasp

Dial and hands: 18k white gold, engraved, chased and entirely hand-painted multi-level dial with scene depicting a classical 16th-century Italian palazzo

Making of Bulgari Brighella - engraving
The engraver shapes each dial element in 18k gold.
Making of Bulgari Brighella - painting
Hand painting the tiny components requires painstaking care.
Making of Bulgari Brighella - finishing
Each fully painted dial is fired in an oven multiple hours for finishing.
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  1. John Carey

    Not my cup of tea (more because of the pocketbook than subject matter). However, these are truly amazing.

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