While Geneva’s Palexpo was getting ready for the second-last day of SIHH, IWS team was with Fabrizio Buonamassa, Head of Deign for BVLGARI and a really charming man.
Entering the flowerful hall of Hotel de la Paix, after having admired a wonderful selection of Octos, we’ve been immediately hit by the presence of an elegant and groomed figure, focused on drawing.
There were no doubts, that was the person we’ve been looking for, the genius behind the last creations of the Roman brand. But we had no idea who he exactly was… let’s begin!
“You’ve been hired by Fiat at your birthday and by BVLGARI in your name-day, correct?”
“(Smiles) I’ve been hired by BVLGARI four years after Fiat, it was a time rich in changes. BVLGARI was looking for a designer and I sent my hand-drawn free topic drawings in pen to Paolo Bulgari, and he was very impressed by the details”
“In a previous interview you said that “a designer is independent from the environment he’s surrounded”, so how do you adapt?”
“A designer must be able to draw everything, from a safety pin to a missile, regarding of the related technology. It’s however mandatory to know the brand’s know-how and the sector you’re into. In cars, for example, you have to understand the technology to understand the elements that are more characteristic, but that’s not enough”.
Watches and cars are the same to me, two different ways to express your taste and style. Of course, you’re almost forced to use a car, but the customers and the passion for mechanics are the same, they are both objects you can carry around with you.
In my career I’ve drawn almost anything, from shoes to chairs, but I draw a bag differently from a watch, while someone uses the same style for everything. You wear a watch on your wrist, you can feel it, and it’s the use of the object that determines the design.”
“What’s the influence you got from the different environments, for example Fiat and BVLGARI?”
“Fiat taught me how to manage complexity: the car is one of the most complicated products, because of its impact on everyday life under different aspects. Then, the team you work with is enormous and the components are a lot… probably only trains and helicopters are harder to design.”
When designing a watch, do you begin from the aesthetics or the movement?”
“BVLGARI always started by mechanic’s aesthetics, performance never been the determinant, it’s the form that determined the mechanics. You instantly notice the Octo Finissimo because it’s different, you immediately see its aesthetics and that it’s generated by the mechanics. The idea was to wear grand complications in a different way, joining an ultra-flat watch and an automatic movement. There’s not a big gap between mechanics and aesthetics, but we’re Italian: beauty follows functionality, an object must be beautiful and functional, or we’re not fascinated by it. There are beautiful objects both for the idea the bring and the innovation they carry.
And there’s a big difference in drawing men or women watches. The man is looking for complications and performance, the woman wants emotions, uniqueness and beauty, there must be a strong tactile feedback. To a woman the tactile side is very important because they tend to actually touch a lot the watch while talking and waiting, and the explicit beauty is mandatory.”
“What’s the Head of Design role?”
“It’s definitely less operating than the regular designer, but it requires to understand the trends to follow. You must be able to express the aesthetics in the brand’s DNA. For example, BVLGARI is never repeating, we never take a watch back straight from our archives. We’ve been the first to use rubber and aluminum in horology, or titanium for minute repeaters: the different way to use what everybody know creates the charm.”
The Head of Design imagines the future of the brand both stylistically and strategically, according to the public and the brand. The Octo Finissimo is innovative because it revolutionized the ultra-flat standards in a young and recognizable style, not offering the customer the classic gold round timepiece for special occasions, but a versatile watch with a characteristic bracelet that can be worn with a pair of jeans”.
“What’s your favorite design creation?”
“Well, it’s hard to say. I like objects, watches, pens, glasses, lamps, chairs…
I prefer some than others, mainly simple objects made in just one material: to me, luxury is in the innovation and in the build quality, not in the price. Of course, I like Italian innovative industrial designs, like the Lettera 22, the Asti pen, Bellini’s chairs, Giugiaro’s cars…
They all unconsciously drive my style, made from my own personal experience. Designer is a mixture of jobs, from a psychologist to an economist: it’s mandatory to understand who will use the product, what are his hidden dreams and how will he use it, what does he want that it’s not already existing, as it’s important to be able to understand where the market is moving to.”
“And where do you find all these answers?”
“Unconsciously, observing, the inspiration is everywhere. If I get caught by something, I start drawing but the end result isn’t always right. I get my inspiration from arts, from cars for shapes and proportions, not for the performance. I look at the aesthetics of the objects, what it represents and tells, if it’s able to tell what it is with its shape, proportions and materials, then it’s a winner.”
“What are the keys for the Octo?”
“BVLGARI is rationality and color, the aesthetics of the brand is rational and functional. Mixing simple shapes to create a complex one, like EUR Congress Palace (starts drawing) that it’s inspired by the Pantheon. The difference is that one is modern, from the outside they’re similar but the development is totally different.
The Octo is a blend of round shapes in a corner-cut square. The octagon is a religious symbol of perfection, the intermix of square and circle, one representing the Earth and the other one the Paradise. BVLGARI used it for the first time in the Gemme Numarie collection, here’s where the octagon came from. I always like to take the roots of a brand and make them contemporary, that’s transforming, not coping.
Today vintage is really hot for the sentimental value it brings, but it’s a sterile copy that doesn’t bring anything new.”
“We’ve understood that you’re into watches, but how as it all started?”
“When I was a kid, I’ve been gifted a watch and I started drawing them since then.
I like watches that represents a change, that has a character and brings innovation, from Nautilus to Submariner, Tank, Royal Oak, Octo… Everything that changed and innovated this industry. My favorite maybe is the next…”
What we’ve learnt by this meeting with BVLGARI’s Head of Design surely is what determines the true creativity and how an eclectic mind works. What you notice after a while with Mr. Buonamassa it’s his attention to every single aspect of his designs, the eyes observing meticulously everything that surrounds him, the passion he puts in the details.
Often, looking to a product, particularly a watch, you could never imagine who there’s behind and how he works, where does his fascination come from. Surely the chance to meet the man behind the Octo, seeing it drawn and listening his histories from who gave it life, really amplified the love we have for the brand and the model even more. By the way, what’s most impressive about Mr. Buonamassa are the verve and the words, proving him to be “independent from the environment he is surrounded”, for his drawings but mostly for his thoughts, even outside horology.”
Translated by Lorenzo Spolaor (@itsdoc_oclock)