Bond's Best: Bulgari's Serpenti

Jewellery Bulgari Bond's Best

Over the decades, the snake has become emblematic of top-tier jewellery and horology house Bulgari. Its iconic Serpenti collection of watches, bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings, worn by a galaxy of A-listers from Elizabeth Taylor to Zendaya, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, showcasing the mystical reptile’s enduring allure.

The legacy can be traced back to the late 1940s when Bulgari creative director Giorgio Bulgari, son of the founder, designed an innovative range of watches with snake-like heads and supple, fluid bodies crafted from tubogas goldwork which wrapped around the wrist, a luxurious riff on the flexible gas pipes of the period. For the watch bracelet, interlocking metal links were coiled round an inner core which, when removed, created a curvaceous spring. It’s a technique that’s still used today. It wasn’t exclusive to the Roman house, but what has set Bulgari’s serpents apart is their glamour, the sensuality of the finished piece, and also the master craftsmanship and design, featuring beautiful attention-to-detail scaling effects, enamelwork and innovative gem setting.

The serpent has cross-cultural appeal. Throughout history they have been worshipped and have symbolised pretty much everything, from healing to perpetual rebirth, vitality, fertility and wisdom. The sinuous snake is kind of sexy, a little frightening, intriguing and talismanic, opening up endless creative possibilities that are appealing to women the world over.

Just as a snake renews its skin, so Bulgari has evolved the collection over the years. The original metal links transformed into sleek enamelled bracelets in the ’50s. During this decade smaller watch movements were developed, allowing a dial to be hidden within its ‘head’, as a secret watch. The tactile Serpenti proved very popular with famous tastemakers and eventually they slithered onto other Bulgari creations, such as leather accessories and handbags. In 2010 the contemporary Serpenti was created and three years later its more stylised and geometric sibling, Viper, arrived on the scene.

The most recent version, the Serpenti Tubogas Infinity, was launched this year and, for the first time, the serpentine silhouette continues from the snake-like head containing the watch case with its diamond snow-set dial, all the way down the bracelet with its lithe curves patterned with lines of diamonds. The dazzling first iterations feature a single or double tour bracelet, which coils languorously around the wrist and sits comfortably like a second skin.

Bulgari, 168 New Bond Street

By Joanne Glasbey, editor of The Times’ LUXX Watches & Jewellery

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