Design as a discipline, elevated to art

Smitha Sadanandan | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on June 15, 2016

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Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, director of the Bulgari Watches Design Centre, talks about design inspiration, Bulgari’s aesthetic codes and more

Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani has always loved to sketch. He spent considerable time dreaming up cars, trains, helicopters, shoes, sunglasses, watches and everything imaginable. His fascination for objects saw him study industrial design at the Institute for Industrial Arts of Rome and begin his career at Fiat Style Centre in Turin. After three years, he decided to move on and pursue his passion for watches; thus joining Bulgari’s watch design team (in 2001). Since 2007, as Director of the Bulgari Watches Design Centre, Buonamassa has been designing distinct horological marvels, seeking out new challenges and continually adding new pieces to the brand’s watch universe. Here, he talks about his design inspirations, the essence of Bulgari, and more.

As an industrial designer, whose works inspire you the most? Both on a personal and professional level?

Generally speaking, Italian design traditions have informed every aspect of my work and are always in the background, whenever I’m designing a new watch. The industrial design, as we know it today, was born with the Industrial Revolution and was essentially a discipline created to ‘dress’ the products created by the industry. Italians have managed, over the years, to develop this discipline combining it with the ‘aesthetic’ and elevating it to a form of art. I specially admire all those Italian industrial designers who have made such a significant impact on culture and daily life: with their works they have been able to innovate by creating new types of products and ‘educating’ consumers to use them in a different way, so they provided the objects with a second life and, at the same time, with an innate sense of proportion and refined taste. Bulgari creations are often imbued with the same spirit, like in the case of Tubogas.

What would you say are the most important aspects of your current role?

The brand and its heritage are of great importance. Bulgari uses very strong and clear aesthetic codes that must always identify products as belonging to the maison.

We are very focused on the distinctive ‘signs’ of the brand and are working to introduce new products with the exact same recognisable and contemporary codes. This represents a key responsibility and a big challenge for me, since we have a huge heritage at our disposal — and we must handle and manage it with extreme care, while evolving it coherently and gradually over time. Another key aspect is to constantly bear in mind the customers, who will use our watches: their needs, their attention to detail as well as their refined taste and desire for objects created with passion. I continually think about how customers will use the products that I’m about to design.

How do you find original ideas for your designs?

My mission is to constantly reinterpret Bulgari's rich stylistic and cultural heritage in a contemporary language in line with the brand's DNA. The key issue, when designing a product, is to understand the design and aesthetic language that are behind it, the usage possibilities, the material, and its history. Once you understand the ‘culture of the project’, you can draw cars, watches, jewellery or other objects. In my case, the inspiration often comes from the brand itself: the history of Bulgari is so rich and full of ideas, which is itself a primary source of inspiration. Rome with its architecture, monuments and its special light represents another very strong source of inspiration. The proportions found in Roman architectures embody a magnificence that we often try to transfer and convey in our products.

How would you describe the Bulgari watch universe?

Pure volumes, geometric solids and unique proportions are the key elements that identify products created by Bulgari. Each Bulgari watch is designed to feature the meticulous precision of Swiss savoir-faire and the innovation of Italian creativity, blending together the tradition of these countries to produce the pinnacles of their expertise. Architectural proportions, Italian taste and simple geometric shapes represent the brand’s individual style and are the typical features of all Bulgari creations.

How do you balance form and function in a Bulgari watch?

Aesthetic codes and technology are equally important in a Bulgari watch. The whole Octo Finissimo collection represents a very good example of this aspect, because these ultra-thin timepieces exemplify the Bulgari ideal of fusing distinctive and powerful Italian design with the finest in Swiss haute horlogerie calibers. The Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, just launched at Baselworld 2016, boasts both the world’s thinnest minute repeater movement and the world’s thinnest case, and, in typical Bulgari style, the case is as breathtaking as the movement.

What prompted Bulgari’s first complication for women – Giardino Tropicale di Bulgari — in 2012?

With the introduction of Il Giardino Tropicale, for the first time, the codes of high jewellery have been blended with the watchmaking tourbillon function. The two apparently so distant worlds were fused together!

What are the elements that you believe make for a beautiful jewellery watch?

Bold, colourful, historic yet innovative. Bulgari high jewellery watches are chromatic masterpieces and instantly recognisable. We use the same aesthetic codes at the base of the high jewellery pieces, which reflect the essence of the brand.

The writer is a London-based freelance journalist and Co-Editor (International) of

Published on June 15, 2016
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