Watches and jewelry are both defined by how they are worn, but wristwatches are limited by functionality unless they are the Bvlgari Serpenti Misteriosi high jewellery secret watch. The Bvlgari Serpenti Misteriosi, new for 2022 and unveiled just a few days ago at the LVMH watch week, is a triumph of fine watchmaking and high jewelry, 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).
This time-only watch, as you might expect, features an all-new sublime mechanical calibre — the manual-winding BVL100 — that only reveals its timekeeping functions on demand. When you press the stylized snake’s tongue, it opens its jaws and reveals the time.
The Bvlgari Serpenti Misteriosi could be mistaken for a Serpenti bracelet when its jaws are closed; these are Bvlgari’s signature creations that make it appear as if you’re wearing a small snake made of jewels and gold on your wrist. This year, there are four high-end references in rose gold and white gold, each with its own distinct look and, most likely, textures; the best part about wearing a watch like this is feeling it.
But first, a few words about the BVL100 calibre (shown below), which transports us to a time before quartz movements were perfected and miniaturized to the point where mechanical calibres became obsolete. The issue is the movement’s size — the BVL100 has a diameter of 12.3mm, which is smaller than some wristwatch balance wheels — which limits accuracy and usability (in terms of the power reserve).
Modern engineering provides solutions to these issues, and what we have in the BVL100 is a movement with an impressive 30 hours of power reserve and a white gold balance wheel (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 is relative in this case, as the entire movement (102 parts) weighs an effervescent 1.3g! Bvlgari isn’t claiming any records here (for the time being), but BVL100 is significant, and we’re eager to learn more (and seeing it in more Bvlgari watches).
Given that the Bvlgari Serpenti Misteriosi is a secret watch, there isn’t much room for a crown — and such a thing is a dead giveaway that what you’re wearing is a watch. On the caseback, a bi-directional dual-duty winding and setting mechanism is used as a solution. According to the images, this hidden crown appears to be large enough to easily set and wind the watch. Bvlgari hasn’t revealed much about the movement’s finish, but it appears to be gilt frosting on some plates and bridges.
Moving on from the insides of the watch, the dimensions of watches like the Serpenti Misteriosi are difficult to quantify. For the record, all cases are 40mm in diameter and feature three coils (depending on how you count them, and referred to as double tour by Bvlgari) for a strong presence on the wrist — Serpenti watches are not shy, even if these models are. The specifications for each watch, as provided by Bvlgari and identified by model number, are listed below.
Ref. 103559. Image: Bvlgari
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. Image: Bvlgari
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. Image: Bvlgari
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).