A tale of how understanding the emotional strengths and needs of women helped an Italian titan transform its iconic serpent-inspired timepiece into an everyday-friendly watch with some bite – as told to Imran Jalal by Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, Bvlgari’s senior director of watch design, in Shanghai

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

"Introduced in the ’40s, Bvlgari’s signature Serpenti watch is modelled after the snake motif found on ancient jewellery worn by the likes of Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor version, bottom of page) and has become synonymous with glamorous women such as model Marisa Berenson (above). Designed by Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani (below left), the Seduttori Serpenti (all other pictures) is its latest and most everyday-friendly edition."

“Admittedly, it’s difficult to make watches for women. The most common response when they’re presented with a watch is either ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it’, and when I ask why, the reply is usually an ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I just don’t like it’. It’s something hard to put a finger on because women tend to buy watches based on emotions. With men, it’s a different story. They’re attracted to the technical features – how many screws there are, questions about the barrels, et cetera.

When we first started creating the Seduttori five years ago, it was originally meant to be an addition to our high jewellery collection, but that project eventually became about creating a totally new everyday take on Bvlgari’s signature Serpenti watch. That’s a great challenge because everyone knows how a Serpenti looks like and it doesn’t make sense to just copy and paste the old model, then fix on a new bracelet. That would just be assembling a watch, not making a new one. When you play with iconic designs, you have to reinvent it to create an evolution. How can I wear a Serpenti every day?

We already have variations like the Tubogas, which wraps around your wrist; the Spiga, which comes in ceramic; and the dressy Incantati with a round case. So with the Seduttori, we created a more pronounced, refined and thinner drop-shaped case to match the bracelet.

‘Seduttori’ means seduction in Italian and we named the watch as such because its design conjures up the image of a snake with smooth, curvaceous lines. The surface of a timepiece is very important because women like to touch and feel the different elements of a watch. They tend to like to fiddle with objects like their ring, earrings or pendant so the watch’s surface has to feel precious.

It took us a year to develop the Seduttori’s bracelet alone. It had to be ergonomic, follow the shape of the wrist and sit like a second skin. Its hexagonal links may look very simple, but they are threedimensional, supple and come with a little tension. Otherwise, the bracelet would be like a souffle: It looks amazing, but when you put a spoon through it, its form doesn’t bounce back.

Besides the new construction, it was important for us to use gold for the material of the watch. It’s the most common precious material and its colour is very warm. Gold conjures up different meanings. And to create a gold Serpenti that’s everyday-friendly and can go with a denim or sporty outfit means that the overall design has to be discreet and mainstream yet well executed and still possess a strong character. When designing the Seduttori, my mood board had images of Rome and self-confident women who aren’t afraid of imperfections and would wear this kind of watch every day. Take Italy’s most important actresses, for example. They do not conform to traditional ideals of beauty and yet are truly beautiful, especially when you see how talented they are.”