Bulgari Serpenti Misteriosi High Jewellery: A Precious Snake That Cleopatra Would Have Loved
by Martin Green
Jewelry watches, especially high jewelry models, rarely become icons. Their production numbers are often so limited, with many of them unique pieces, that they just don’t get enough attention to obtain this coveted status.
In the past, a brand might make a big impression by combining exquisite gem-setting craftsmanship with a dazzling price tag, like Vacheron Constantin in 1979 with the Kallista, which cost five million dollars at the time of its creation. These days, multiple brands sell multi-million-dollar diamond creations, many based on models already existing without an abundance of precious gems.
And that is the second reason why many of them saunter into oblivion for the general public: the regular model becomes the icon, while its high-jewelry sibling is quickly forgotten.
Bulgari Serpenti: the perfect pet snake
The exceptions to these rules are few and far between, but the Bulgari Serpenti is one. This very cleverly designed and beautifully made pet snake for the wrist dissolved the line between jewelry and timekeeper, winning the heart of famed actress Elizabeth Taylor along the way. These two aspects combined already offered a promising start for the timepiece, but Bulgari also carefully nurtured this collection in the decades to follow. As the Serpenti is unique and charismatic, it is a watch that people remember, a rarity for a watch set with gemstones and great in helping become an icon.
Since 2017 each edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) has had a Bulgari Serpenti among the shortlisted watches in the Jewellery category, each year with a different model. This is a mindboggling achievement and further testimony to the greatness of the Bulgari Serpenti.
The downside of this collection, in particular of models like the Serpenti Misteriosi High Jewellery, is that they are so rare and precious that few get to see them, and even fewer get to handle them. We at Quill & Pad were lucky to be among the latter earlier this year in Geneva.
Serpenti Misteriosi: difficult to describe
The Serpenti Misteriosi High Jewellery is a watch that is difficult to describe because it is so much more than the sum of its parts. While it is made of precious metal and stones, it seems like it can come to life any minute. “The animal” is crafted in such an organic and three-dimensional way that it really takes on character.
This particular version combines a body of pink gold with scales set with diamonds and turquoise. Two pear-cut rubellites give the snake a powerful stare, but those who dare should press its tongue. That pops the head open, revealing a pavé setting of colorless diamonds along with a small dial on which two blued hands provide the time.
Micro movement: Bulgari Caliber BVL 100 Piccolissimo
This ingenuity goes even further as the watch is set into a removable case that can be taken out of the Serpenti’s mouth, making it easier to wind, set, and service. This is not a typo: one must indeed wind the mechanical movement.
Bulgari opted to outfit the watch with its proprietary Caliber BVL 100 Piccolissimo. This is one of the smallest mechanical movements in production with a diameter of just 12.3 mm, a height of only 2.5 mm, and a total weight of only 1.3 grams. While less obvious from a technical perspective, this is equally as impressive as the brand’s ultra-thin creations in the Octo Finissimo collection.
Bulgari played with various aspects to keep the movement as small as possible in every dimension, yet it is simultaneously a solid performer. So is the miniscule balance wheel, its inertia guaranteed by the heavy white gold it is crafted from. Bulgari even finished the movement to a high degree.
Such a movement elevates the entire creation to an even higher standard, making it precious inside and out. This refined approach is why the Serpenti collection is the exception to the rule and much more than the sum of all its diamonds.
For more information, please visit www.bulgari.com/en-int/watches/womens/serpenti-secret-watch-rose-gold-pink.
Quick Facts Bulgari Serpenti Misteriosi High Jewellery
Case: 40 mm, pink gold with bracelet set with turquoise inserts and brilliant-cut diamonds, two pear-cut rubellites as eyes, pavé diamond setting inside the mouth, including the dial of the watch; total of 18.05 carats
Movement: manual winding Caliber BVL 100 Piccolissimo, 3 Hz/21,600 vph, 30-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: CHF 246,000 (VAT included)
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