By no means the first brand to use coins in its jewellery and watches, it is certainly true that Bulgari’s Monete pieces, which debuted in the 1960s, are among the most memorable and desirable, due in no small part to their celebrity associations. Favoured by everyone from Grace Kelly to Goldie Hawn and Candice Bergen, these “old money” treasures will be forever linked to one of the 20th-century’s greatest love stories thanks to the pendant worn by Elizabeth Taylor throughout her scandalous affair with Richard Burton during the filming of Cleopatra in Rome.
Always a brand to shun convention, Bulgari constantly searches for alternatives to the default diamond. Famed for its innovative and unique use of coloured gems, coins were a natural progression for the maison. Over the decades, Bulgari has sourced ancient coins from Greece, Persia and, of course, Rome, as well as using early 20th-century pieces from the US. Rare by the nature of the precious materials used, it is always a joy to see new Monete pieces, and unveiled earlier this year were two stunners. Both secret watches, each showcases Bulgari’s cutting-edge watchmaking within a frame of exquisite haute joaillerie and historic Roman coins.
The Octo Monete is a wristwatch with an octagonal case surrounding an ancient silver Roman coin, which acts as a dial cover that opens via the winding crown. The coin chosen is from the 4th century and was struck in the time of Constantinus Augustus. Within the case lies the skeletonised version of the Calibre BVL 268, the world’s thinnest tourbillon movement. With 253 components and a total thickness of 1.95mm, the calibre features a flying tourbillon with cage sustained by a ball-bearing ring rather than the standard pivoting axle.
Equally as breathtaking is the second of the two new pieces, the octagonally shaped pendant watch. Again, the dial is covered by a 4th century coin, this time depicting Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia and conqueror of the Persian Empire. The cover opens to reveal the gold openworked, Calibre BVL 208 – the same movement that was found in the Serpenti Incantati Skeleton Tourbillon launched in 2016. The pink-gold case and 90cm neck chain are set with diamonds and rubies.
Choosing a favourite from the two is almost impossible, but one thing is for sure: few brands manage to fuse the beauty without and the secret within in such a historically captivating and uniquely precious way.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete Wristwatch
Calibre BVL 268 hand-wound, skeleton flying tourbillon with sapphire baseplate; 253 components; 52-hour power reserve
44mm octagonal case in pink gold; 4-silica silver coin; water-resistant to 30m
Black alligator-leather with pink-gold pin buckle
Bulgari Monete Pendant Watch
Calibre BVL 208 hand-wound, pink-gold, skeletonised tourbillon movement; 64-hour power reserve
41mm octagonal case set with brilliant-cut diamonds and rubies and fitted with a silver coin; sapphire crystal caseback
90cm pink-gold chain set with 1,270 brilliant-cut diamonds (36.54cts) and 252 rubies (3.29cts)