Antoine Pin started his career with TAG Heuer. After working with such luxury timepiece makers as Boucheron and Zenith, he joined Bvlgari in 2014, when he headed the brand for the Greater China and Australia region. This was followed by a stint at Berluti, after which he joined Bvlgari again in September 2019. Since then, he has been leading the brand’s Watches Division.
In March this year, Bvlgari unveiled updates to its Octo Roma collection. Headlined by three time-and-date models and, in a first for the collection, a pair of chronographs, the watches offer interchangeable strap functionality, among other things.
Vidya Prabhu, GMT India’s Managing Editor, caught up with Antoine in Geneva to talk about Bvlgari’s latest novelties. Excerpts from the interview:
Vidya Prabhu (VP): From being considered a fashion brand in the watch industry to evolving continuously with its Octo series, Bvlgari has come a long way. Do you think there’s a lot of pressure on the brand and the team to constantly live up to these soaring expectations?
Antoine Pin (AP): The Bvlgari Octo series is a milestone unto itself. The question then is, can we achieve many such milestones? I guess we can. Coming to the question of pressure, I guess it all depends on if such pressure pushes you or pulls you or, maybe, refrains you. I for one think we’re building our confidence by drawing on our past successes, but we are still hungry and curious about so many areas we can improve upon. Our approach stems from this culture of goodwill and a positive attitude towards failure. So, if we fail, we’ll try again. It’s all part of a creative process and these things need both time and patience.
VP: Definitely. Speaking of the creative process, I wanted to understand how the brand finds its way around constraints — be it with regard to form or function?
AP: We do have constraints and very important ones at that. Without them, we’d be making art pieces and not watches. That’s not to say that watches are not art; in fact, I do believe that watchmakers are artists.
But, at the same time, designing or making watches is also about having to deal with technical aspects or engineering; it could be about chronometry, power reserve, dimensions, readability, user friendliness and so on. Which is why it comes under applied art. With that in mind, we just work towards making a watch that is very easy to use and very wearable. That is our goal and we find our way to it.
VP: Moving to the newly unveiled Octo Roma collection, what do you think is the most exciting aspect you had to encapsulate in these novelties?
AP: For me, what is most interesting is the absolute invisibility of the interchangeability system. The invisibility ensures that there is no interference with the aesthetics of the timepiece; for us, that is an important aspect. If something is well done, we need to do justice to it, else there’s no beauty in it. That our team managed to achieve this flawlessly is a feat unto itself!
I am also proud of how we have incorporated the chronograph into the Bvlgari Octo Roma collection. Of course, it’s not as thin as the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo, despite boasting a similar silhouette, but it’s an elegant piece with a bracelet that is less wide.
VP: The strap interchangeability makes the Octo Roma collection so versatile. Was it a conscious decision to include it in this collection?
AP: The interchangeability is the result of long debates during which we actually checked what the market needed. Our products are quite expensive and if we want to keep some customers on board, we need to give them the flexibility of changing their straps and bracelets with minimal cost and effort. With this collection, customers are now getting more than one watch for the price of one, thanks to this strap interchangeability feature.
So, yes, this collection is also aimed at a bigger market, one that includes customers, who may not purchase a luxury watch every year and are looking for greater value for their money.
VP: What were the major challenges you faced while developing the Bvlgari Octo Roma collection?
AP: Working on a collection like this, it was definitely a challenge to ensure that we did not compromise on aesthetics for functionality and vice versa. We’re hungry for perfection and we are willing to do the extra work. And Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, who is helming our product design, is not a man of millimetres — he’s the man of one-tenth or one-hundredth of a millimetre! This means that even a slight change in measurement can make us redo the whole process. So, yes, we had to be extra careful throughout the process of developing this line.
VP: Lastly, how long do you think it took for this Bvlgari Octo Roma collection to become a reality from being just a sketch on a piece of paper?
AP: A collection of this sort takes us years; I’d say it took us almost four years. The reasons for this include the case and the caliber. Both the time-and-date models (that use the Bvlgari caliber BVL 191) and the chronographs (with Bvlgari caliber BVL 399) are run by our in-house movement. So, while we didn’t have to start from scratch, working on these pieces still took time.
What’s more, we wanted to make sure that we got it all right. We’ve had to go through many iterations to get to where we are today — to be at that point, where we are satisfied with our end product and can release it across the world.