As I accelerated up Highway 74, California’s most dangerous highway, at the wheel of the new Maserati Levante SUV, wearing the new Bulgari Maserati GranSport timepiece, I noticed that the sweep of the retrograde minute track on the Bulgari perfectly matched the rev counter on the Maserati’s dash. I was in Palm Desert to experience the Bulgari/Maserati partnership, and I was having the drive of my life.

According to Bulgari’s Watches Design Senior Director Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, my driving partner in Palm Desert, the new Maserati timepieces he designed are inspired by the heritage and products of the Italian automobile legend.

The new timepieces, which I saw for the first time in Geneva in the fall, are beautiful, elegant and exclusive. Designed for Maserati owners, these watches, the GranSport in black DLC steel and the GranLusso in red gold, are both jumping hours with retrograde minute displays. Both use a Bulgari Roma case and look great on the wrist.

Especially in the leather driver’s seat of a Maserati.

California Dreamin’ — Driving Maseratis with Bulgari
California Dreamin’ — Driving Maseratis with Bulgari
California Dreamin’ — Driving Maseratis with Bulgari
California Dreamin’ — Driving Maseratis with Bulgari
California Dreamin’ — Driving Maseratis with Bulgari
California Dreamin’ — Driving Maseratis with Bulgari

LA – Palm Springs

In LA, we visited the Petersen Automotive Museum for a deeper understanding of automotive design, and a quick look at the new Maserati Levante, one of which they have on display.

After a wonderful dinner in penthouse suite 64 of the Hollywood landmark Chateau Marmont Hotel, where Howard Hughes used to stay, we hit the road for Palm Springs the next morning, fighting LA traffic until we got on the highway and could let the Ghibli stretch its legs.

I piloted the Maserati Ghibli from LA to Palm Springs (2.5 hours), enjoying the comfort of this fantastic car, as well as the responsiveness and the intoxicating exhaust note of the Twin-Turbo three-liter 345 horsepower V6 engine. For the most part, I kept close to the legal limit, but there were times I accelerated well past 100 mph, just to feel the power and hear that engine.

California Dreamin’ — Driving Maseratis with Bulgari
California Dreamin’ — Driving Maseratis with Bulgari

Palm Springs

Once in Palm Springs, we drove out to Palm Desert and tested the Levante SUVs, driving them up and down Highway 74, with the escort and tacit approval of the California Highway Patrol.

In the Levante, the driver sits high, which I prefer, like an SUV, but it has the incredible engine which makes it drive like a sports car. Punching the accelerator in “Sport” mode induced this growl from the engine that forced a smile onto my lips that just didn’t go away.

Powering past Dead Man’s Curve, with its gnarled and crumpled guardrail, I held onto the steering wheel a little tighter, but the car was so well put together, I always felt in control. I might have gone a little faster than I should have, but the Levante excused my indiscretion, taking everything I did in stride.

The drive up Highway 74 was over way too soon, but I was still able to enjoy the Ghibli on the ride back to Palm Springs. Even in rush hour traffic filled with Porsches, Mercedes and BMWs, the Maserati stands out as a different, and inspired, choice.

California Dreamin’ — Driving Maseratis with Bulgari
California Dreamin’ — Driving Maseratis with Bulgari

As the sun set on my day behind the wheel, it became clear that Maseratis and Bulgaris work well together. Maserati and Bulgari share a common heritage, attention to detail and commitment to quality, so having this long-term partnership between these two Italian icons makes a great deal of sense.

And wearing the Maserati timepieces in an actual Maserati traveling at speed was an incredible experience.

I want one of each – just to clarify: one of the watches (the GranSport, the watch I wore all day, would be my choice) and one of the cars (sign me up for a Levante).

California Dreamin’ — Driving Maseratis with Bulgari