Roman Holiday: Bulgari’s CEO, Jean-Christophe Babin, Talks About Everyday Luxury

Trace the legacy of Bulgari back to the cobblestone streets of Rome on Via Condotti to uncover the history of the once-family-owned business that is now a powerhouse of all things luxury. The famed Italian jeweler — known for its Hollywood devotees like Elizabeth Taylor, who was smitten enough with the Maison to mark pivotal occasions with a Bulgari bobble, as her 2011 Christie’s auction can attest — are not content to rest on past laurels. Case in point the Bulgari Bulgari collection of jewelry, watches and handbags, which has been revived and retooled in time of its 40th anniversary. This array riffs on Nicola Bulgari’s coin-collector interests and encapsulates the essence of the Bulgari name. Designed in 1975, their moniker is echoed and encircled on the face of a watch or piece of jewelry. The anniversary grouping is a spiffed-up version of its former self, and it’s available for purchase in December.

While visiting the flagship boutique on New York’s toniest corner, ascend the glass stairway to the third floor to see jaw-dropping, one-of-a-kind archival pieces they call the Masterpiece Collection. A lavish display of the brand’s jewelry prowess — curated to mark the occasion.

The boutique party was a smashing success and marked the celebrated date. An international Champagne toting crowd sashayed though the shop while eating sweets and gawking at the golden fondant layer cake. There were some customers that even made an evening purchase. Bulgari’s CEO, Jean-Christophe Babin, jetted in from their headquarters in Rome for the soirée just in time to talk to Haute Living about the happening.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 1.03.08 PMQ What does the Bulgari Bulgari moniker symbolize for the brand?

A The Bulgari Bulgari is the most iconic of our collections. It was designed to mimic elements of the Roman coin. It’s the most emblematic of our designs, since it takes on qualities of the coin, which directly relates back to our Italian roots. The design began in the ’70s — the family decided to create a watch for everyday use instead of the special-occasion pieces they had been selling. The watch took on the roundness of the coin, and the circular script logo was used a design element. They adapted the new design identity into jewelry, too. The Roman coin has developed into both a strong identifying platform and a telling symbol for the Bulgari brand.

Q How did it evolve in the ensuing years?

A Up until this point [1975] we specialized only in jewelry and watches for special occasions. The Bulgari Bulgari was a foray into “everyday luxury” and created a grouping of watches and jewelry that were more accessible for customers. We’ve reprised the daily luxury notion in the current grouping—of course the pieces retain their elegance and refinement that Bulgari is known for.

Q What is the most complicated watch in this group?
A The unique Finissimo tourbillon is one of the most elegant of our grand complications. It is extremely thin which is quite a feat with a tourbillon. We had to rethink the design and structure of the piece. We wanted to do something very special for the anniversary, and this piece is befitting.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 1.04.11 PMQ You are jetting back to Italy very soon, but what do you enjoy most about New York City?

A I spend most of my time at the headquarters working, but my favorite thing to do is take in a Broadway musical. New York is a magical city with its mix of cultures!