Photos by Ariel Adams

Regardless of how you may personally feel about the prominent branding on the bezel of the rather appropriately named Bulgari Bulgari watches, it’s undeniable that this design is the epitome of recognizable. Despite adhering to an otherwise incredibly simple and traditional aesthetic, the bezel on the Bulgari Bulgari collection makes it a design that can be instantly recognized from across the room, and it is essentially the horological equivalent of a designer belt or handbag that prominently displays its brand’s logo. With a history that dates back to the 1970s, the Bulgari Bulgari series has existed in a variety of different forms throughout the years, although the latest solid gold models released as part of the brand’s novelties for LVMH Watch Week 2024 represent a return to the collection’s roots, and they are very much contemporary versions of the original Bulgari Bulgari watch that debuted in the 1970s.

With the name of the brand prominently engraved into its bezel (twice), the Bulgari Bulgari series is inspired by the appearance of ancient Roman coins, although the true purpose of these models is to let other people know that you are wearing a watch from one of the world’s most famous luxury manufacturers. Although some people may find this overt branding to be rather ostentatious, it is regarded as commonplace in many other luxury industries, and there are countless shoes, belts, handbags, and jackets, that all prominently showcase their respective designer’s logos. Additionally, when you take into consideration the history of the Bulgari Bulgari collection, the prominent branding on its bezel starts to make a lot more sense, as the origins of the collection are rooted in what could best be described as a high-end promotional item that the brand created for its most valuable VIP customers in the mid-1970s.

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Back in 1975, Bulgari created a small yellow gold LCD wristwatch as a 100-piece limited edition, and rather than selling it to the public, the brand gave the watches as gifts to its very best customers. Featuring an LCD screen set into a round yellow gold case, the limited-edition watch had the words “Bulgari” and “Roma” prominently engraved into its bezel to evoke the appearance of a Roman coin, and because the only way to get one of these watches was to be gifted one by the brand, the Bulgari Roma became a highly coveted item. The following year, Bulgari created a version of the Bulgari Roma that was available to the public, and while quartz watches with LCD screens were considered cutting-edge tech for the era, the brand took the collection in a different direction and gave the publicly available model an analog display with a mechanical movement. 

By this point in time, the vast majority of the foundation for the Bulgari Bulgari watch was already set, and when the brand released the first actual Bulgari Bulgari model one year later in 1977, the bezel on the watch was updated to feature the brand’s name twice. Given the size of the branding on the Bulgari Bulgari series, it’s hardly a surprise that it became the wristwatch most associated with the company, although Bulgari has adapted the underlying concept of the collection to create a fairly wide assortment of different designs throughout the years. That said, the latest Bulgari Bulgari models presented at LVMH Watch Week 2024 are very much in the spirit of the original from the 1970s, and rather than being exact recreations of the vintage model, they represent the modern expressions of this concept with simple lines, solid 18k gold cases, and the collection’s signature “Bvlgari Bvlgari” engraved bezel.

As mentioned in our original news article about their launch, the new Bulgari Bulgari watches span four different models, and in addition to the two full-size automatic versions featured here, the brand also produces smaller time-only models with quartz movements in both yellow and rose gold. In regards to these two full-size watches, the 18k yellow gold model fitted with a matte black dial is the ref. 103967, while the rose gold version with a white opaline dial is the ref. 103968. Additionally, while both models are fitted with two-piece alligator leather straps with signed pin buckles in either 18k yellow or rose gold to match their respective cases, the yellow gold ref. 103967 receives a black strap to complement its dial, while the rose gold ref. 103968 has a brown strap to help bring out the warm hues of its case. Aside from the type of gold used for their components and the colors of their dials and straps, the two full-size models are otherwise identical, although each one offers its own distinct take on this classic Bulgari design. 

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The cases of the full-size Bulgari Bulgari watches measure 38mm in diameter by 8.75mm thick, which makes them significantly larger than the vintage models from the 1970s, and they are fitted with flat sapphire crystals above their dials, along with snap-on display casebacks that showcase their internal movements. True to the spirit of their Roman coin inspiration, the shape of the case is essentially a short cylinder without any type of additional curvature, and although the lugs slightly angle downward from the case, the Bulgari Bulgari models still end up wearing rather large for their size, as they sit flat across the top of the wrist, rather than wrapping around it in any type of significant capacity. The winding crown at 3 o’clock is entirely unsigned on these Bulgari Bulgari watches, and while this would normally be something that I would consider to be a notable oversight on a solid gold luxury timepiece, the unsigned crown feels like a very intentional decision in this instance, as it better complements the ultra-simple lines and entirely high-polished finish of the case.

Just as you would expect, the matte black dial fitted to the yellow gold Bulgari Bulgari ref. 103967 receives yellow gold hands and hour markers, while the white opaline dial is fitted to the ref. 103968 is paired with rose gold versions of these components. However, the actual design and layout of the dials are entirely identical between the two full-size Bulgari Bulgari models, with a thin set of baton markers punctuated by large elongated Arabic numerals at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock, plus a beveled date window appearing at the 3 o’clock location. Additionally, the calendar discs differ on the two Bulgari Bulgari models to better match their respective dials, and the yellow gold ref. 103967 has a black calendar disc with white printing, while the rose gold ref. 103968 receives the inverted style with a white disc that has black numerals printed on it. 

Generally speaking, I almost always prefer yellow gold to rose gold when it comes to watches, although I also feel that the yellow gold Bulgari Bulgari model offers a slightly more successful implementation of its date window. The black calendar disc does a decent job of blending in with the matte black dial of the watch, although the white calendar disc on the rose gold model isn’t quite a perfect match for the white opaline finish on its dial. Realistically speaking, Bulgari is hardly the only brand that is guilty of its calendar discs not quite matching its dials, and for certain dial colors and finishes, a perfectly matching date disc simply isn’t possible. However, because the two shades of white are relatively similar on the rose gold Bulgari Bulgari, the fact that they don’t quite match is arguably more noticeable than instances when a white calendar disc is paired with a dial of a completely different color, and it is clear that the brand didn’t have any intentions of trying to make the date window blend in with the surface of the dial.

Powering the new full-size Bulgari Bulgari watches is the brand’s manufacture Caliber BVL 191 “Solotempo” automatic movement, which runs at a frequency of 28,800vph (4 Hz) with a power reserve of approximately 42 hours. Visible through the sapphire window in the caseback, the Bulgari Cal. BVL 191 features 26 jewels, and its finishing primarily consists of frosted surfaces, Geneva stripes, and a large Bulgari-signed rotor. Given that the performance specs offered by the Caliber BVL 191 are largely the same as what you get from one of the commonly used ETA/Sellita designs, the fact that it is an in-house movement really only has significance when it comes to bragging rights among fellow collectors. However, having some type of proprietary movement has almost become mandatory for brands that plan to operate above a certain price point, so it makes complete sense why Bulgari hasn’t simply opted for some ubiquitous third-party caliber to power these most recent solid 18k gold watches. 

The prominently branded bezel of the Bulgari Bulgari series is a polarizing design element, although it is also the one feature that truly defines the collection. While Bulgari has taken this concept in numerous different directions throughout the years, the new gold Bulgari Bulgari models for 2024 distill the collection down to its roots, and they very much represent the modern equivalents of the original from the 1970s. Take away the Bulgari-branded bezel (and maybe also the elongated Arabic numerals), and you are left with a watch that could easily be made by almost any other manufacturer. However, with these two key design elements, you have a timepiece that can immediately be identified from across the room, and that is exactly why this collection has become emblematic of Bulgari as a brand. With an official retail price of $13,200 USD for either the yellow gold ref. 103967 or rose gold ref. 103968, the new Bulgari Bulgari models are objectively rather expensive timepieces, although they aren’t nearly as ambitiously priced as many other solid gold luxury watches, and I struggle to think of another 18k gold timepiece that is this recognizable among the general public and costs less. For more information on the Bulgari Bulgari watch collection, please visit the brand’s website.

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