Bvlgari Serpenti Misteriosi: Tiny Mechanical Wonder
Bvlgari reveals four new Serpenti references that hide a big horological secret.
By Ashok Soman
Watches and jewellery are both defined by how they wear, but wristwatches are constrained by functionality — unless the wristwatch in question is the Bvlgari Serpenti Misteriosi high jewellery secret watch. New for 2022, debuting a couple of days ago at the LVMH watch week, the Bvlgari Serpenti Misteriosi is a triumph of fine watchmaking and high jewellery, fulfilling functional duties on the wrist while also being a pleasure to behold and wear (we have not tried the Bvlgari novelties on, but the example of previous Serpenti watches elevate our expectations).
As you might have guessed, this time-only watch boasts an all-new sublime mechanical calibre — the manual-winding BVL100 — that only reveals its timekeeping functions on-demand. Pressing the tongue of the stylised snake causes it to open its jaws and reveal the time.
With its jaws closed, the Bvlgari Serpenti Misteriosi might be mistaken for a Serpenti bracelet; these are Bvlgari’s signature creations that make it appear that you are wearing a small snake made of jewels and gold on your wrist. For more on the motif and its history specific to Bvlgari, see our story on this here. There are four references this year, all high jewellery, in rose gold and white gold, and each one has a distinctive look and probably textures too; the best part about wearing a watch like this is feeling it.
First though, we must spare a few words for the BVL100 calibre (pictured below) because it takes us back to a time before quartz movements were perfected and miniaturised to such an extent that mechanical calibres were rendered extraneous. The problem is the size of the movement — the BVL100 is 12.3mm in diameter, which is smaller than some wristwatch balance wheels — which tends to limit accuracy and practicality (in terms of the power reserve).
Contemporary engineering offers solutions to these problems, and what we have in BVL100 is a movement with an impressive 30 hours of power reserve and a balance wheel in white gold (more mass in the balance wheel improves the mechanism’s moment of inertia), which helps the escapement deliver a steady 21,600 vph. More mass here is relative because the entire movement (102 parts) weighs in at an effervescent 1.3g! Bvlgari is claiming no records here (this time) but BVL100 is significant and we look forward to learning more (and seeing it in more Bvlgari watches).
Given that the Bvlgari Serpenti Misteriosi is a secret watch, that limits where a crown can go — such a thing is a dead giveaway that what you have on your wrist is a watch. The solution here is a bi-directional dual-duty winding and setting mechanism on the caseback. From the images provided, this hidden crown looks to be sizable enough to set and wind the watch with ease. Bvlgari has not revealed much about the finish on the movement but it looks like gilt frosting, on some plates and bridges.
Moving on from the innards of the watch, the dimensions of watches such as the Serpenti Misteriosi are difficult to assign numbers to. For the record, all cases are 40mm and each one sports three coils (depending on how you count them, and called double tour by Bvlgari) so they will have quite a strong presence on the wrist — Serpenti watches are not shy, even if these models are being a little coy. Below are the specifications for each watch, as provided by Bvlgari and identified by model number.
Ref. 103559: 40 mm black-lacquered rose gold case, 2 pear-cut diamonds for the eyes (~0.3 ct), diamond-paved dial; black-lacquered rose gold double-tour bracelet.
Ref. 103560: 40 mm white gold case, green-lacquered and set with brilliant-cut diamonds, 2 pear-cut emeralds for the eyes (~0.4 ct), diamond-paved dial; green lacquered white gold double-tour bracelet set with brilliant-cut diamonds. Total 369 diamonds (~8.35 cts).
Ref. 103558: 40 mm rose gold case set with brilliant-cut diamonds and turquoise inserts, 2 pear-cut rubellites for the eyes (~0.4 ct), diamond-paved dial; double-tour rose gold bracelet set with diamonds and turquoise inserts. Total 724 diamonds (~18.05 cts).
Ref. 103561: 40 mm white gold case and head set with 626 round brilliant-cut diamonds (~15.83 cts), 2 pear-cut emeralds for the eyes (~0.4 ct), diamond-paved dial; yellow gold double-tour bracelet set with round brilliant-cut diamonds, white gold tail set with round brilliant-cut diamonds. Total 795 diamonds (~16.59 cts).