Bvlgari Tubogas Serpenti: Behind the Iconic Design

A closer look at one of the 20th century’s most unique and coveted watch designs

Freeman’s November 22 Jewelry and Watches auction features several works by Bvlgari, including a sought-after yellow-gold Tubogas Serpenti watch. Here, Freeman’s specialists explain what makes this design so timeless and unique.

11/11/2022     Latest News, News and Film, Jewelry and Watches



gold watch
Lot 111 I  A Rettangolo Bvlgari Gold Wristwatch


You know it when you see it: an instantly iconic design, the Bvlgari Serpenti watch—in its many enticing iterations—has been in continuous production since the 1940s, and makes just as much of a splash today as it did when it was first created. But what differentiates this timepiece from others, and why is it still so highly coveted?

Part of the reason why this design—now nearly 75 years old—still commands strong market performance and collector interest today is due to Bvlgari’s innovative use of the Tubogas, a phrase that riffs on tubo gas, meaning “gas pipe” in Italian. Patented in 1881 as a plumbing manufacturing technique and later adopted by jewelry makers, the Tubogas technique involves wrapping metal in tight coils around a central armature that is later removed, creating a slinky, hollow chain.

The technique—which forgoes soldering altogether—lends itself to a bouncy, sensuous, comfortable feel, perfect for what would become one of Bvlgari’s most iconic works: the Serpenti. Heavily inspired by snake motifs popular in ancient Mediterranean designs, the Serpenti watch is designed as a snake wrapped multiple times around the wearer’s wrist. Though most Serpenti designs are “double spirals,” meant to wrap around the wrist twice, Bulgari has released the timepiece in iterations that wrap around as many as seven times.

gold watch
Lot 110 I An 18K Yellow Gold Bvlgari Tubogas Serpenti Watch

Freeman’s November 22 Jewelry and Watches auction features a sought-after Tubogas Serpenti timepiece, the winding strap made entirely of 18K yellow gold with an engraved double Bvlgari signature on the bezel (Lot 110). The present design is both striking and versatile; the sumptuous, serpentine strap still winds around the wrist, but unlike other Serpenti designs, the watch face is round, rather than the more angular forms that clearly resemble snake heads.

The Tubogas Serpenti watch has graced the wrists of countless celebrities, from Anne Hathaway to Zendaya—but for many decades, perhaps the most famous and well-known Bvlgari Serpenti aficionado was Elizabeth Taylor. A longtime Bvlgari devotee, Taylor was photographed on the set of Cleopatra in the 1960s wearing a Serpenti watch, which created fervent demand for the piece and catapulted the style into international popularity.

gold necklace
Lot 12 I An 18K Gold Blvgari Chain

Thanks to Bvlgari’s meticulous craftsmanship—all Tubogas works are crafted in the company’s manufacturing plant in Valenza, Italy—Serpenti watches can be incredibly time-consuming production endeavors. This unrivaled craftsmanship is on display in two other Bvlgari works on offer in Jewelry and Watches: an 18K curb link chain (Lot 12) and another timepiece, an 18K yellow gold Rettangolo wristwatch (Lot 111).

The Tubogas Serpenti is a timeless classic for a reason: not only is it crafted to last a lifetime, but the design itself both makes a bold statement and is versatile and practical enough for everyday wear. As unique as the wearer herself, the Tubogas Serpenti is a collecting opportunity not to be missed ahead of this year’s holiday season.





View the rest of our November 22 Jewelry and Watches auction.



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