An Astonishing And Charming Collection Of Vintage Bvlgari Ladies' Watches Hands On
Swiss Bvlgari is a word most often associated with jewelry, snakes, and the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater. But what some of you might not know is that Bvlgari has, for many years, made one of the most iconic vintage ladies’ watches in history – the Tubogas. You are likely familiar with the Serpenti watches that are also currently in production. The Serpenti and Tubogas go hand in hand, as the first record of the Tubogas watch is from the 1940s, when the Italian jeweler released a serpent-form wristwatch that coiled around the wrist, with the movement concealed in the head of the snake. The tubular design soon became one of Bvlgari’s most iconic designs ever produced. Today Bvlgari still makes both Serpenti and Tubogas watches.
The Tubogas design was inspired by the production of flexible gas tubing used in the 1920s and automotive exhaust pipes – just another example of how watches and cars are forever linked to one another. The structure of the Tubogas is created by first making a coiled form out of copper or wood, and then tightly wrapping interlocking gold strips around the mould so that no soldering is required in the process. After the entire piece is constructed, the interior form is either melted with acid or pulled out, leaving a perfectly formed coil that is incredibly resilient and strong.
For the movements, Bvlgari turned to great makers like, Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Vacheron Constantin. These luxury ladies watches enjoyed their greatest popularity in the 1950s and continued to be made through the 1970s. Each watch head was different, depending on the decade, and varied from round to oval, octagonal, or square. These watches were produced in very small batches and it is not uncommon to stumble across a unique combination.
The Tubogas watches you see here are in partnership with Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger-LeCoultre. All feature double signatures on the dial, Bvlgari and VC or JLC stamps, and are manual-winding movements. In fact, Vacheron Constantin provided movements to Bvlgari starting in the 1930s for their other watches in production. The small calibers vary from watch to watch but the message is the same – these are real timepieces made of high-quality materials, with equally respectable movements. The thing that is also so nice about these pieces is the way they fit. The bracelet is flexible and therefore can fit wrists of all shapes and sizes – not to mention the indestructible feeling of the interlocking gold tubes.
It is refreshing to come across such understated and well made manual-winding wristwatches, unlike some of the ladies pieces in production today. These vintage pieces are not only attractive, but are also functional, with significant historical importance. I truly find it heartbreaking that so many brands today do not reference their archives more, or utilize manually-winding movement of the same quality as their men's pieces. I have often heard brands say, "Women don't like to wind their watches everyday," which is simply not true and sounds like a lazy excuse to make cheap quartz movements, throw them into a diamond-encrusted thing called a "watch" and sell them for the same amount as a Patek Philippe minute repeater.
If anything, these vintage pieces call attention to the amount of detail that went into creating meaningful ladies timepieces that seems to be lost in much of the modern watch market today. These pieces are currently available, along with several other models, through the New York City vintage clothing store and site Resurrection. I have watched the Tubogas wristwatches increase in value over the years and they seem to continue to go up – and it is unusual to see a collection of these together and in so many different variations.