Inspired by an age-old symbol that is the stuff of legend Bvlgari’s Serpenti collections have long channeled the seductive powers of the snake into signature designs that capture the jeweler’s illimitable style.
While not the first to draw inspiration from the potent charms of the snake, Bvlgari’s ability to craft the creature’s sinuous symbolic strength into magnificent adornments and timepieces has made it an unmistakable emblem of the Roman jeweler’s boundless creativity. In 1962, a photograph of a glamorous Elizabeth Taylor wearing a bejeweled Serpenti watch on the set of Cleopatra did much to propel Bvlgari’s design into the international spotlight.
The gold watch with a diamond-pavé serpent’s head – set with emerald eyes and a crest of marquise-shaped diamonds – seen in publicity stills on Ms. Taylor’s wrist was well-suited to her role as Queen of Egypt, adorned with snake-inspired accessories chosen to express Cleopatra’s sensuality and seductive powers. Fueled by the media frenzy over the actress’ scandalous love affair with Richard Burton, punctuated by frequent shopping trips to Bvlgari’s boutique, the serpent came to embody the inimitable glamour of Rome in the 1960s.
The snake’s multilayered, cross-cultural and mythologically-inspired symbolism have made it particularly expressive as a design motif for Bvlgari. The “Ouroboros” – a serpent eating its own tail – symbolized regeneration or the cycle of life and death in Ancient Egypt. In Rome, the snake was a guardian of temples, entwined on a rod wielded by Asclepius, god of healing ; or a predatory beast attacking the Trojan priest Laocoön and his two sons at the Vatican.
Bvlgari’s serpentine saga, however, had begun long before Cleopatra. The jeweler’s snake-shaped watches were introduced in the late 1940s, concurrently with the Tubogas technique that produced the coiled brace-lets which became 1980s icons. Over the years, Bvlgari continued to reinvent its versatile “wrap-around” snake design with ever-more imaginative jewelry and watch creations in a variety of metal, stone and color combinations.
The Tubogas design inspired the Serpenti Seduttori, Bvlgari’s daily-wear watch with a slinky bracelet and slimmer snakehead, which is also its most “mainstream” Serpenti proposition to date. Geometric iterations as seen in the Serpenti Incantati have toyed with abstraction while allowing Bvlgari to add a complication, as in its Tourbillon Lumière model.
Still, the most magnificent Serpenti timepieces are the bejeweled ones. The Serpenti Misteriosi Romani secret watch is poised to become a serious contender next November at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. A showcase for Bvlgari’s unique skill in marrying its watchmaking know-how with its jewelry-making heritage, this seductive snake is another dazzling incarnation of the perpetual rebirth of the Serpenti design.