New Bulgari Aluminium Watches For 2020: The Past As A Roadmap To The Future
by Martin Green
Fortunately, the fear that a new generation is not interested in watches now seems somewhat misplaced. For a while, smartwatches were seen as fierce competitors to mechanical watches and a new quartz crisis was feared.
The fact that that cloud has lifted became clear as our team chatted with Jean-Christophe Babin, Bulgari’s energetic CEO, during Geneva Watch Days in August. In clientele for the brand’s new Aluminium models, he sees an entirely new set of buyers looking to purchase their first mechanical wristwatches – often to mark important milestones in their lives. New clients are not easy to entice as they have high expectations regarding a watch’s quality and charisma, demanding clear value for money before considering a purchase.
Clients like this won’t immediately splurge for an Octo Finissimo, so Babin decided that it is important for a brand like Bulgari to offer collections specifically targeted to this group. Fortunately, he didn’t have to look very far as in 1998 Bulgari launched a collection that perfectly fits the bill: the Aluminium.
The fountain of eternal youth
The two new Bulgari Aluminium models look a lot like their predecessors, which makes you realize how timeless the design is. They don’t even look retro, highlighting the timeless quality of the original design.
I believe that an important role is played by the relatively clean dial design, elementary use of colors and materials, and the rubber bezel. Gérald Genta must have been working according to the motto “if it’s nice, say it twice” when he designed the Bulgari-Bulgari – which this is an offshoot of – a watch with the same bezel design.
Surprisingly, both the new Aluminium time-and-date and the chronograph models are housed in 40 mm largish cases with titanium case backs. Because of the cleaner dial layout, the time-and-date model wears larger, especially in the off-white dial variation. This is a clever move by Bulgari as this tone of white softens the look of the watch and avoids the risk of it looking cheap as bright white dials sometimes do.
While the watch already has a lot of character, the segmented rubber strap with aluminum inserts adds even more, making the Bulgari Aluminium watches look unlike any other watch in the market – which is a big plus for attracting a new clientele in search of something fresh.
An added bonus is high wearing comfort, but not the comfort you might typically expect from a rubber strap. As it is segmented, it wears more like a rubber bracelet than a strap with a more solid feel around the wrist.
While these new watches are among Bulgari’s least expensive, they don’t feel like it unless you hold the aluminum case’s lightness against them. Their fit and finish is certainly up to par, and Bulgari was obviously very focused on getting all the details right.
My favorite element is the second hand on the time-and-date model, where a subtle touch of red brightens up the entire design. We find the same effect on the second hand of the chronograph model, where Bulgari also opted for a panda dial with the same off-white background. I could argue that it would have been nice if the date wheel was the same color white, but that would be nitpicking at this price point.
Converting millennials from smart to mechanical watches
If you want to convert smartwatch owners to bona-fide mechanical-watchaholics, you have to do it right. Bulgari has done just that as all the new Aluminium models feature mechanical movements. Nothing extremely high-end, but something solid and reliable.
The time-only is powered by Caliber B77, which is based on the ETA 2892-A2, while the chronograph’s Caliber B130 uses an ETA 2894 automatic chronograph as a base caliber. Bulgari resisted the temptation to show the movements through a transparent case back, but offers 100-meter water resistance, even for the chronograph. This makes them relatively care-free mechanical watches that should reassure first-time owners.
Aluminum cases: why don’t we see more of them?
Because it is so light, aluminum seems to be an ideal material for watch cases, but few brands use it in their collections. The reason is that aluminum is quite soft so it shows signs of wear earlier than, for example, stainless steel or titanium.
It is quite interesting to note that two brands that have extensively used aluminum are at opposite ends of the market in terms of production numbers. For Swatch in the 1990s, aluminum was the perfect material to offering its clients a lightweight metal watch, and these sold exceptionally well. However, when you see these watches now, you also get an idea of how well (or not) aluminum cases hold up. In most cases, the signs of wear and tear are not terrible, but they are noticeable.
Interestingly, this didn’t keep F.P. Journe from using aluminum for its Octa Sport and Centigraphe Sport models. This might be because Journe uses a harder alloy, as Bulgari also claims with these new Aluminium models.
The exact alloy has not been disclosed, but Bulgari will greatly benefit from a better performing aluminum material. However, they probably secretly hope that these watches start showing some wear to encourage their owners to upgrade to a nice Octo Finissimo.
For more information please visit www.bulgari.com/en-us/collection/bvlgari-aluminium-watch.
Quick Facts Bulgari Aluminium
Case: 40 mm, aluminum with black PVD-coated titanium case back and rubber bezel
Movement: automatic Caliber B77 (ETA 2892-A2 base), 42-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; date
Quick Facts Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph
Case: 40 x 11.1 mm, aluminum with black PVD-coated titanium case back and rubber bezel
Movement: automatic Caliber B130 (ETA 2894 base), 42-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; date, chronograph