maserati 1
Cars & motorsport

High Altitude: Crossing the Alps with Bulgari and Maserati at the 2018 Passione Engadina

Money is not everything. It’s impossible to acquire the Bulgari Maserati GrandLuso if you do not own a Maserati car. Good timing, I was turned into a gentleman driver for a weekend in St Moritz, driving a Levante.

By Joël A. Grandjean

In the heart of the Bulgari boutique, in front of the mythical Badrutt's Palace requisitioned as Passione Engadina 2018 race’s headquarters, a real 41.5 mm Octo Maserati GranLuso in solid pink gold was hung on my wrist.

Before the race, two sacred stars of creation

Most of my male mates would have been in pure excitement to find themselves driving a new Maserati at the start of this mythical 2018 race spectacle, moreover in one of the most jet-set places on the planet. As for me, I especially liked what should be called a three-day wearing test, in a dream landscape, of nature, and of human warmth.

One day before the competition, as the watch had just settled at the end of my arm, I had the opportunity to attend a cultural panel devoted to design. On this small intimate theatre stage nestletd in the heart of the generous spaces of St. Moritz's most mythical five-star, "Vite parallele" took place. It was an exciting get-together between Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani and Lorenzo Ramaciotti, respectively the Bulgari designer, Octo’s father, and the living legend of Italian car design, father of more than a dozen mythical cars, for Pininfarina, Ferrari and above all, Maserati. It's crazy how Italian design can both generate warmth and superiority as if it were both sitting on unlimited cultural heritage and the result of an automatic and delightful capture of the beautiful surroundings.

There's something for everyone. So, it seems that when it comes to automotive passion, I am definitively not the authority. Nevertheless, Maserati, who was the guest of honor 2018 of the famous Passione Engadina in St-Moritz, sounds familiar to me or rather to my musician's ears... In fact, is there a more precise tailpipe sound delivery than a Maserati throttle? The exhaust pipes of these vehicles, whatever their time of commercialization, all seem to have been tuned in tune.

Design is dead, long live Bulgari design!

Why do I like this model and, more generally, this Octo family? Because I think we live in an era that has killed design. Indeed, due to the incredible craze for resurrections of iconic models, the market trend for all these safe models to which we offer a facelift, a reinterpretation, or even a particular series, the design and its impulses kneaded with risk and courage, have not survived. The vintage wave, like a marketing tsunami, has swept everything in its path. And if we were to apply this same logic to the automotive world, we must admit that the best place in the world to realize that concerning style and form everything seems to have been done and tried in the past, remains a race of passionate gentlemen drivers.

At a time when some great designers have just been sacked, can you name me during these last 15 years a brand that would have the audacity to launch a brand-new family, a new aesthetic? Apart from Cartier with its Ballon Bleu and Hermès with its Slim, only Bulgari can claim to have modified entirely the beautiful scene agreed with its Octo. The most Roman of the Swiss watch brands broke the rules, and she took a real risk: neither round nor rectangle, eight sides, precise angles, a surprising finesse in elegance and thickness. A little as if, challenged by the lack of creativity around, the elegant Italian signature had suddenly remembered that pure creativity is a significant part of its DNA.

Octo Maserati at the time of retrograde and jumping hours

We at Watchonista have written a lot about this model, on the one hand, because we have fallen in love with it, and on the other hand because new models continually enrich its topicality regarding variations. Here the watch hosts a tourbillon within it, there a minute repeater, a chronograph calibre... Then, it offers itself a tour of the track on the scene of materials and finishes. Made in only 20 pieces, this Bulgari Octo Finissimo watch dedicated to the Passione Engadina race features an inscription on the dial of which acts as a tribute to this special weekend. In letters as blue as the original codes claimed by the blued hands and indexes, however without sacrificing the contemporaneity of a steel grey - not titanium this time - which exudes modernity and functionality.

Above all, there are these two new arrivals dedicated to the Maserati brand that feed a partnership that began in 2012. Discreetly laid under a window located at 03 o'clock, a gold wire trident seems to want to roar. It is pointing the hour, and it sets the tone. There's GrandLuso, this chic and luxurious version as much as the brand's sedans, and therefore as much as this incredible Maserati Levante 4x4 that has just been lent to me. It is in solid pink gold, and its anthracite dial with changing reflections is permeated with shades. It doesn't reveal everything at once, and the horses that seem to sleep under its hood only sleep with one eye. At the slightest impulse, they bow, neigh and gallop indomitably.

In its own way, the minute hand sweeps back the left half of the dial. Once at what would usually be the 12 o'clock indication, the hand itself offers a reverse run – aka retrograde - in order to move into position at 6 o'clock. It's a semicircle arch that puts your mind back in place and reminds you of the movements of a gas gauge. I have to admit that it took me a little while to understand that the aperture placed where the date is usually offered is an hour indication window. In terms of micromechanical science, this aesthetic particularity is nothing other than a horological complication. A complication which has the talent to captivate a glance, to offer to the wearer of the part some small kinetic interludes. In fact, it is the BVL 262 calibre beating at 28,800 vibrations per hour, a bi-directional automatic mechanical manufacturing movement.

A road book that looks like a photo-album

My Bulgari Maserati GranLuso was captured in the most incredible places. The same goes for the sportier version GranSport, worn by my co-pilot and sometimes pilot, photographer-reporter Pierre Vogel: cased in DLC treated steel - Diamond Like Carbon - served on its perforated black strap, stitched in blue. Their ultra-anti-reflective treatment makes clear all the subtleties and inscriptions of the dial. It contrasts with the lake mists and the high fogs of St. Moritz at the end of August. At the crossing of passes and sometimes under the downpours of celestial sprays, we associated the watchmaking experience with a hint of motoring craziness: driving movements punctuated by mechanical pulsations, in a background of passion and racing.

It is evident that this watch, I did not want to give it back, after this weekend of the end of summer rich in majestic landscapes and intense emotions. Especially since this automatic Octo Maserati will remain charged with the energy produced by my movements for a long time to come. Passione Engadina, memories of unforgettable moments…

Passione Engadina 2018 in Pictures

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