In 2023, Bulgari celebrates with extraordinary magnificence the 75th anniversary of its iconic Serpenti, a symbol of mutability that has spanned generations and left a deep imprint on the history of jewellery and the Maison itself.
This is the fascinating story of the evolution of an icon, a tale that unfolds through time, embracing contemporaneity and eternity.
The Rebirth of an Eternal Symbol
The epic of Serpenti began at the end of the 1940s when Bulgari dared to introduce the snake motif into its jewel watches for the first time. He does it with mastery, using the innovative Tubogas technique, a magical fusion of seamless gold links that gives life to essential and elegant creations. This bold choice proves to be revolutionary and prophetic, demonstrating the Maison’s extraordinary ability to adapt to the difficult times of the post-war period with flair and innovation.
It was the 1950s that marked Serpenti’s first metamorphosis, a crucial passage in which the snake abandoned its role as a simple timepiece to transform itself into an object of desire of immeasurable luxury. This evolution reflects not only Bulgari’s craftsmanship but also its ability to understand and anticipate the time’s new aesthetic and social trends.
The Height of Elegance in the ’60s
The 1960s brought with them the pinnacle of serpentine elegance. Bulgari introduces the first snake necklaces, and the motif’s evolution continues with unprecedented craftsmanship. Although the Tubogas models remain a constant, the new variants see the creation of the flexible and sinuous body of the snake with scales all made by hand.
This artisanal detail leads to new colour combinations and introduces materials hitherto little considered by the world of high jewellery, such as polychrome enamels. Creating what are ultimately works of art required extraordinary mastery: chromatic pigmentation of the scales with glass paste required preparation of three days, while the entire creation required an average of 200 hours of work. For this reason, the production always remained a limited edition, making the Enameled Snakes cult objects among collectors worldwide even today.
The success became international, so much so that even Elizabeth Taylor, in Rome in 1962 for the film “Cleopatra,” loved to wear her Serpenti watch bracelet during breaks in production on the set – a precious talisman that kept her connected with the character of the legendary Queen of the Nile. The actress was a great lover of the Maison’s jewels, so much so that every time she was in Rome, she did not fail to visit the historic boutique in Via Condotti with her husband, Richard Burton.
The ’70s and ’80s: The Triumph of Elegance
In the 70s, Serpenti continued its evolution, maintaining its identity as a prestige watch while establishing itself more and more decisively as a jewel of extraordinary refinement, sinuously transforming itself into necklaces and belts that enchanted the world of fashion and luxury.
The futuristic style of the further creative reinterpretations of the Tubogas models conquers an audience of the highest level. Andy Warhol, an artistic genius of the 20th century, has a three-turn Serpenti Tubogas watch in his collection and, about the Maison, he says: “When I’m in Rome, I always visit the Bulgari store because it’s the most important museum of contemporary art.”
Even Diana Vreeland, chic, eccentric and brilliant editor of Vogue US, wrote to her colleagues in 1968: “Don’t forget the snake… The snake should be on every finger, and around every wrist and everywhere […] We can’t see enough of it.” Fixed in the imagination are the images of Vreeland, an authentic style icon, wearing her Bulgari Serpenti belt, a unique jewel made of white and pink enamel, elegantly rolled around the neck.
The ’80s and ’90s: The Logo-Mania
The 80s saw the brand enrich the Tubogas Serpenti watches with the “BVLGARI” logo engraved twice around the bezel, anticipating the logo mania of the time. These models are received with great enthusiasm and are chosen by many celebrities for important social appointments.
Actress Sophia Loren wore the Tubogas Snakes on international red carpets. In contrast, the divine Grace Jones wore two watches to attend the most exclusive evenings. The success was so overwhelming that in the 90s, three-turn Serpenti Tubogas rings with precious stones were also launched on the market, further emphasising the timeless elegance of the Serpenti Bulgari.
The Third Millennium: A New Chapter of Style
In more recent times, the Serpenti line continues to evolve into increasingly stylised interpretations, sublimating the magnetic scales of the snake into a contemporary hexagonal pattern.
Since 2000, Serpenti has been enriched with variations in bags and accessories, becoming a symbol of style and refinement. Since 2021, the sign has reigned in the bracelets, rings and pendants of the Serpenti Viper collection, with a graphic design and unmistakable scales.
SERPENTI FACTORY: The Art of the Snake in 2023
In 2023, to celebrate Serpenti’s 75th anniversary, Bulgari promoted a one-of-a-kind international artistic initiative focused on the snake as an infinite source of creative inspiration: the Serpenti Factory. This fascinating journey embraces different aspects of the icon’s identity, from heritage and craftsmanship to multi-sensory technologies and the advertising campaign celebrating the sign’s 75th anniversary, uniting past, present and future in an enthralling whirlwind of creativity.
Bulgari has selected only a few cities worldwide for this special exhibition: Shanghai, Seoul, Dubai and Tokyo. Milan will be the only European stop on this extraordinary journey.
Bulgari thus continues its homage to the city of Milan, a point of reference on the Italian and international scene not only for fashion but also for culture, with a series of cultural initiatives and the launch of a High Jewellery collection for the first time.
The Bulgari Serpenti 75 Years of Infinite Tales exhibition will be open from 11 October to 19 November at the Dazio di Levante in Piazza Sempione, Milan.