One of the most exciting things about the revolution in mechanical timepieces is the explosion of new materials being used in timepiece engineering. During the first golden age of mechanical watchmaking, from the 1940s until the 1970s, almost all watches were made of gold. Since the resurgence of mechanical timekeeping that began in the 1990s, manufacturers have popularized the use of stainless steel, titanium, ceramic and other space age materials. The result is a whole new generation of heirloom timepieces that are built to stand the test of time.
Bulgari has been at the forefront of this exploration of new materials. In 1998, it introduced the Diagono Aluminum. “It’s cool design and casual appeal made it a must have,”
says watch director Guido Terreni. This was followed by the use of titanium for cases and rubber for straps. “In 2015 we wanted to evolve the concept further, so we looked for another material combination that would perform and at the same time be very exciting from a design point of view.”
The result is the Diagono Magnesium, a new collection of timepieces with case components and dials made of magnesium, a material used in sports car engines. “It is light and resistant, and it appeared to us as appropriate for a gent’s cool luxury watch,” says Terreni. The watch is actually made with a combination of magnesium, ceramic and a high-grade plastic called PEEK, an acronym for PolyEtherEtherKetone.
Magnesium is a silvery-white, lightweight material that has a high mechanical strength for minimum weight and high dimensional stability. It is used in race cars and aeronautics. Watchmakers appreciate it for its low coefficient of friction and its high resistance to wear without lubrication. It is coated with motorlac, a kind of lacquer that is used to coat and protect the mechanics of sports cars. It also allows for the application of color – the Magnesium is thus available in dials that can be coppery brown, anthracite grey, deep blue or silver grey. The bezels are ceramic, and the cases are steel. The casebacks are black PVD. The watch is fitted with an automatic movement with a 42-hour power reserve, and the strap is rubber.
“The motorlac is at the heart of the idea,” says Terreni. As the Aluminum opened the road for black and white watches, the motorlac, which is the lacquer that covers the magnesium engines in the luxury automotive industry, gives us the possibility to have a black and colored watch, using the very sophisticated colors developed in the car industry for the most exigent men. It is a coating that can resist fire, high temperatures and oil.”
A special edition of the Magnesium watch is the e-magnesium, recognizable by the ê in the magnêsium indication on the dial. It has “smart watch” functions that include storing personal data like passwords and banking information. It can serve as an electronic passport or an electronic car door opener. It can transfer data, activate a home alarm system and place calls from a smart phone. The dial is made of magnesium, a metallic material that sparkles. It uses an NFC (Near Field Communication) chip, and stores data in what Bulgari calls the Bulgari Vault, an app that encrypts the information.
However, it is not a smart watch, says Terreni. “Bulgari is not interested in entering the smart watch market, as we don’t believe they are luxury items,” he says. “It is, however, the Bulgari answer to a simple question: can technology be useful to a client interested in luxury watches? The answer is yes, as long as we provide satisfaction to luxury needs and not to gadget functions.”