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Bulgari il Giocatore Veneziano
Fit for a Doge
There are few cities in the world that can rival the beauty of Venice. A World Heritage Site, the city is located in the northeast of Italy on a marshy lagoon. It comprises of a group of islands, numbering in excess of 100 linked with bridges, spanning majestic canals.
It was a maritime powerhouse during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, a commercial hub trading grain, silk and spices.
Venice, by virtue of its trading routes, would export art created in the city. This would not merely be restricted to paintings, but sculpture, glass, lace, woodwork and ceramic.
Titian, born circa 1490, was the most important painter of the 16th century Venetian School. He was associated with naturalism, depicting realistic objects in a natural setting.
Later Mannerism became popular from the late Italian Renaissance to the Baroque period. The style was a reaction to naturalism, intellectually sophisticated. It embraced artificial qualities. Proportions would be elongated and bodies posed in highly stylised postures.
The Baroque school of painting revisited the realism of naturalism but with dynamism, wonderful use of light and easy to interpret detail. A famous artist from the Baroque period was Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571 - 1610).
It is the famous painting by Caravaggio, The Cardsharps (circa 1594), which has provided the inspiration for this incredibly high-end watch from Bulgari, il Giocatore Veneziano.
The painting shows two boys playing cards. One is cheating, with cards hidden behind his back, tucked in his belt. His accomplice, an older man, is standing over the shoulder of his mark, providing indication of the dupe’s hand to the cheat. A dagger is beside the cheat's side.
The Cardsharps has a wonderful realism, oozing drama, with the subdued colours within the composition imparting danger.
The Bulgari il Giocatore Veneziano features a minute repeater but also features a mechanical dice player. The delicately painted automaton with moving arms, rolls two dice, providing the closet gambler endearing entertainment.
Automata was the preserve of royal courts in yesteryear. They would sometimes be placed on the dinner table after a meal to entertain guests. Harnessing cams they would perform tricks or feats for the enjoyment of aristocrats.
Il Giocatore Veneziano is a matchless example of complicated watchmaking. The watch harnesses over 500 components in a masterpiece finished and assembled by hand.
The dial is solid gold, engraved and painted by hand. It shows a dice player.
Dice players would have frequented the taverns of 16th century Venice, duping the foolish into parting with their coin.
Roman numerals are located at 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock and noon.
Two blued hands indicated the hours and minutes. They are clean and succinct, straight in profile with arrow-tipped pointers at their ends.
The dice player has a young, innocent face, all the better to part the witless wastrel from his money. He is wearing period attire, with ruched sleeves and beret. The dice player is raised from the horizontal, affording a depth and three dimensional appearance.
A pusher at 1 o’clock is used to lift the hands of the automaton to reveal the dice.
The pusher at 5 o’clock is a two position lever which initiates the automaton’s playful trickery with the dice. The Venetian player gently moves the two cups in his hands, revealing two square shaped apertures that show the dice.
After approximately eight seconds, the wearer presses the pusher at 1 o’clock to reveal one of 504 random results and is able to ascertain if they had guessed the correct result of the throw.
The flame on the candle changes colour, underscoring the high level of horological engineering. This is just one of five animations which take place on the dial.
The automaton is a faithful representation of the android made by François Junod but offering the convenience of being worn on the wrist, thanks in contrast, to its relatively diminutive size.
However, for all the mechanical mastery it is the fine, hand painted detail of the dice player’s hands, eyes, purse and candle which distinguish this dial as a work of art.
Each piece has a unique colour scheme, albeit the probability of you meeting a fellow wearer of this very rare timepiece is unlikely. This is the horological equivalent of couture for the wrist.
The case shape features a double ellipse characteristic, typical of several Daniel Roth models.
Measuring 46 mm x 43 mm it is available in 18-carat white or pink gold. I favour the richness of the latter variant.
The highly polished case has an intricately profiled caseband, featuring the slider mechanism for the minute repeater on the left hand side of the case.
The lugs are expertly welded to the case in seamless union. They retain the rich brown alligator leather strap in secure embrace.
The case-back features a sapphire crystal to bestow a beautiful view of the Hand-wound Calibre DR 7300 movement.
Bulgari in 2000, acquired Daniel Roth’s manufacture in Le Sentier. A haven of haute horology, this watch certainly harnesses Mr Roth’s prodigious watchmaking talent.
The Calibre DR 7300 movement compromises of 501 parts including 49 jewels. It has a frequency of 18,000 vph and a 48-hour power reserve.
The bridges feature Côtes de Genève applied by hand. The plate is decorated with circular graining. Edges are bevelled by hand. There is no evidence of CNC, Computer Numerical Control, to be found. This is the product of hand-eye co-ordination. The finissage is exemplary.
A minute repeater is one of the most complex of grand complications. To feature a minute repeater and an automaton on one watch is remarkable. Moreover, both complications are independent of each other.
Sadly, I have not had the personal joy to hear the chime of the cathedral gong which features on the il Giocatore Veneziano. However, I have had heard other Bulgari minute repeaters and have no doubt this watch will share their sonorous sound.
The watch is deliciously decadent.
Caravaggio was active in Rome, Naples, Milan and Malta. Some have hypothesised that he visited Venice and saw the works of Giorgione. Indeed, Frederico Zuccari, a Mannerist painter accused Caravaggio of imitating the Venetian aritst, Giorgione.
I do not pretend to be an art expert. I know what I like and can appreciate beauty when it is presented in front of me and this is a beautiful watch.
Venice, the birthplace of my favourite composer, Antonio Vivaldi, is ubiquitously cultured.
This watch captures the essence of the city of harlequins and masks. However, there is no deception, no veneer, but an honesty.
An honesty, borne of craftsmanship, artistry without compromise and elevated watchmaking craft seldom seen.
This is a watch fit for a Doge.
- Model: Bulgari il Giocatore Veneziano
- Case: 18-carat pink gold; dimensions 46.00 mm x 43.00 mm; height 14.10 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and rear.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; automaton; minute repeater.
- Movement: Calibre DR 7300 movement, manual-wind; frequency 18,000 vph (2.5 Hz); 49 jewels; power reserve 48 hours; 501 parts.
- Strap: Brown leather strap on pink gold deployant.