Fabrizo Buonamassa Stigliani is the man responsible for the stunning designs of Bulgari watches in recent times. Passionate about both cars and watches, he started out as an automobile designer at Fiat in 1998, before joining the Bulgari Design Center in Rome in 2001 to try his hand at watches. He was elevated to the position of Director in 2007 and now works out of Neuchatel in Switzerland, to better manage the relationship between his designs and Bulgari’s manufacturing facility there. He spoke to MW about the thinking behind his designs, and his passion for cars.

You have launched three stunning looking Octos this year — Finissimo Tourbillon, Velocissimo and Solotempo. Tell us about the design philosophy that went into them. 

Octo is one of our main pillars in the men’s collection. In the last few years, we have been developing the line keeping in mind our desire for sophisticated elegance, everyday use, great versatility and the ability to support large and small complications. The Finissimo collection testifies to our ability at innovation, like the introduction of highly contemporary black-clad interpretations in the form of the Ultranero line. It is meant to further accentuate Octo’s power and singularity, forcefully affirming its distinctive personality in a market segment characterized by very different aesthetic codes.

How do you approach a new watch design? What is it that you consider before starting the design process?

The first step is the brand and its heritage. Then, I think about what I want to communicate to the customer’s needs. I try to find the right signs and the right proportions for the right customer, and then I start working on the formal concepts. Octo is one watch that gets better looking with every passing year.

What is the secret behind creating its aesthetics?

I believe its secret lies in its distinctive, original concept. The Octo Collection embodies and celebrates the fusion of two excellences: Italian design, recognized throughout the world for its aesthetic content, and Swiss savoirfaire. The unique octagonal case is itself a piece of micro-architecture. As it often happens with Bulgari watches, its inspiration comes from the rationalistic architecture in which geometric shapes unite and combine to generate volume. It proclaims the collection’s inseparable connection with the heart of Bulgari’s heritage, rooted in the city of Rome.

How important is the use of new materials when designing watches? DLC, for example, has been playing a big role of late. What is the material you like working with the best?

It is extremely important, and I enjoy working with precious metals and special alloys, but there is no specific material that I prefer in particular. For me it is very important to choose the right material for the right product, like in the case of the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater just launched in Basel. Its case is made of titanium: in addition to its appreciable lightness, the properties of this low-density metal ensure the best possible sound diffusion.

Where do you see the design of the Octo headed in the coming years?

The extensive manufacturing capability reached by Bulgari Horlogerie allows the designers absolute freedom to follow their dreams, and this in turn allows Bulgari to create timepieces that combine strong Italian aesthetics and the finest Swiss-made calibers. Bulgari’s manufacturing mastery also allows it to explore particularly challenging areas of watchmaking where few others dare tread, including ultra-thin high complications. We will keep going into this direction with the Octo collection.

You are a lover of cars a and watches. Which are your favourite watch and car respectively in terms of design?

My lifelong passion for timepieces and cars has always been nourishing my career. I specially love wearing the Bulgari Roma Finissimo and the newest Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater. It is simply impossible for me to indicate just one preferred car: my favourites are all the Italian cars launched over the 60s, especially those designed by the Italian firm, Pininfarina, and produced by the automobile coachbuilder, Touring.

You worked with Fiat design before shifting to Bulgari; how is designing a watch different from designing a car?

The worlds of cars and watches share similar emotions: the shape of a vehicle must suggest its use, its performance, and, sometimes a dream. Watches have the same objectives but with the added, perhaps harder challenge of fitting all this in a space 40mm across. I personally share a love for fine cars with Mr Paolo and Mr Nicola Bulgari, with whom I have always enjoyed a friendly relationship, imbued with respect and this common passion. This culminated in 2007 when I was appointed Director of the Bulgari Watches Design Center, where my mission is to constantly reinterpret Bulgari’s rich, stylistic and cultural heritage in a contemporary language in line with the brand’s DNA.