With the new Bulgari Aluminium collection, Bvlgari have revived a 1990s design which will be a featherweight in aluminium and rubber and provide a great all-occasion companion for less then this brand’s flagship products.
Bulgari’s presence in the watch world in recent years has been nothing short of astounding. Previously regarded as a brand interested first and foremost in fashion, models from their successful Octo collection have beaten records for thinness and have shown a very new aesthetic direction.
Consequently, I have often wondered where a brand can go from here. Piaget’s Altiplano, for instance, is a watch which was sold the pretext of being the thinnest to the point of being virtually unwearable and entirely unaffordable in its most extreme form. Instead, Bulgari have taken a different route and, in so doing, have looked to the late 1990s.
In 1998, Bulgari launched the Aluminium and Aluminium Chronograph as quartz watches with ultra-light aluminium cases, rubber straps but all whilst retaining the Bulgari look. Today, they have revived the design in a perversely attractive format and one which, much to my surprise (and concerns expressed below), has won me over.
Both chronograph and three-hand models use a 40 mm aluminium case with integrated lugs (more on that later) and rubber coatings on the bezel, crown and caseback. Where thickness is concerned, both remain modest at 9.4 mm and 11.1 mm, respectively. With the addition of a 100-metre water resistance, the result is a set of watches intended to be enjoyed on all occasions whilst the rubber elements point to a more casual setting.
Nonetheless, I believe that, in order to understand these watches, you have to consider their namesake: aluminium. Seen on relatively few watches and from even fewer brands, aluminium isn’t the obvious material for a watch. It’s light, soft and, as a consequence, difficult to give a finish anywhere as good as could be achieved with steel or gold. Whilst Bulgari assures us that the alloy used will be more resilient, I cannot shake the feeling that the rubberised components accomplish a secondary function of shrugging-off the very worst of abuse. This is view is only strengthened by the use of a titanium caseback.
Even with this proviso, however, I can’t help but be attracted to these timepieces. Perhaps it’s the idea of a luxury watch (made of metal) which only weights in the 70-gramme range or it’s the fantastically intense dial. Speaking of the dial, three options are afforded you: three hands in either black or off-white or six hands in off-white with black sub-dials.
Seemingly hovering between an extension of Bulgari’s fashion work and a military tool, the dials worn by the Bulgari Aluminium watches are immensely legible. In the black configuration, the hands and their white plots give a very technical demeanour. Meanwhile, the off-white dials perhaps fulfil the brief better as the dials you might expect to see in a Riva speedboat as you cruise past Venice on a holiday. The chronograph’s treatment is at once busy yet legible due to the contrast chosen. A minor niggle is the absence of the lovely Bremont-esque second hand from the three-hand variant on the chronograph but this is quickly forgotten with a delightful choice of font.
The only truly objectionable choice is the date placement which fails to match the dial colour, hasn’t any kind of rim around the window and prevents the reading of the chronograph. In this case, perhaps the date could have been forgone.
A Curious Bracelet
For some, the choice of bracelet may be a sticking point. Aside from using proprietary screwed, integrated lugs, this watch wears a set of rubber sections connected with aluminium inserts to form an articulated bracelet. Aside from the obvious lack of variation available, durability is a concern and, for me at least, the presence of further Bulgari branding is too much. With that being said, Bulgari uses branding as a form of design and the Bulgari Aluminium shouldn’t be an exception.
Mechanically speaking, these watches hardly advance the brand with the calibres B77 and B130. The former is a rebranded ETA 2892-2 with a 4 Hz beat rate, 42-hour power reserve and automatic winding. The Aluminium Chronograph goes a step further with the B130 or ETA 2894-2 — an ETA 2892-2 using a chronograph module to add the requisite complication. Neither movement is particularly exciting, but I think that both suit the demeanour of these watches as neither is designed to appeal to an overtly technical crowd. Instead, these watches need reliable, slender movements to give the best outward experience possible.
Even so, these watches are not cheap with the Bulgari Aluminium being priced at 2,920 euros whilst the Aluminium Chronograph is priced at 4,250 euros. In any case, there is enough to be excited about here to justify the price for the correct buyer and, crucially, these show that an entry-level Bulgari doesn’t need to be a dull one.
Availability: Bvlgari Aluminium: EUR 2,920 / Bvlgari Aluminium Chronograph: EUR 4,250
- Dimensions: Aluminium: 40 mm x 9.4 mm / Aluminium Chronograph: 40 mm x 11.1 mm
- Material: Aluminium, Titanium & Rubber
- Crystal: Sapphire
- Display: Black or Off-White Matte Dial / Luminous Hands & Markers / Date at 3 O’Clock (Aluminium) or 4:30 (Aluminium Chronograph) / Aluminium Chronograph: Tricompax Layout with Black Sub-Dials
- Water Resistance: 100 m / 300 ft / 10 ATM
- Movement: B77 (ETA 2892-2) (Aluminium) or B130 (ETA 2894-2) (Aluminium Chronograph): Automatic & Manual Winding / 42-Hour Power Reserve / 4 Hz, 28,800 vph, 8 Ticks-per-Second / Hacking Seconds / Quick-Set Date / B77: Time & Date / B130: Time, Date & Chronograph