Cover Two-time Grammy-nominated DJ and producer, Steve Aoki; Image: Bulgari

Bulgari’s latest watch collaboration with acclaimed DJ and producer Steve Aoki is an emblem of the enduring spirit that resonates with the global nightlife scene and those who thrive within it

The euphoria of being on a dance floor is unlike any other: basking in the beats from the DJ’s turntable, in the company of old and new friends, and staying for one more song, refusing to let the night end—even when morning comes. 

We might not be able to party for now, but the spirit of nightlife lives on boldly in a new watch collaboration between Grammy‑nominated American DJ and producer Steve Aoki and Bulgari. The Italian jeweller has long proven its horological prowess with its award-winning watches, and the Bulgari Aluminium Steve Aoki Special Edition watch is no different. The brand has injected design elements that somewhat capture the energy of Aoki’s high-octane performances.

“With everything I do, I always think of ways to innovate; to do something different and value add to others,” shares Aoki over a video call, surprisingly chipper for a man who had just spent the previous night spinning at the Las Vegas-based Omnia nightclub, where he is the resident DJ. “At the end of the day, we’re all of service to each other as human beings. And the ones who provide the kinds of service that are unique are the ones who are successful. So that’s my aim: to always provide something that’s unique and exceptional.”

True enough, the multifaceted DJ lives up to the standard he set for himself. Besides his music career, which in pre-Covid times saw him playing an average of 250 shows per year, Aoki also helms the Aoki Foundation, a charity which supports organisations making strides in research areas with a specific focus on regenerative medicine and brain preservation.

“Time is everything. Time is all we have. It’s the most precious thing in the world. Money gives you access, right? And when you have it, you get access to the best food and experiences. But without time, nothing really matters. [Through the Aoki Foundation], we’ve raised over a million dollars for organisations that work on brain research so that we can elongate our time in the healthiest, longest way possible, to the point where we can possibly, in our generation and lifetimes, live forever through technology,” he shares. “To be alive and living is the most important thing in this world, and our body degrades with every second that passes.”

This year, Aoki made his debut in the non-fungible token (NFT) movement, in collaboration with 3D visual artist Antoni Tudisco, for a series called Dream Catcher, comprising 11 unique digital animations tied to soundscapes. The sale of the whole collection totalled US$4.25 million. This was followed by another drop called Neon Future, with serial entrepreneur Tom Bilyeu, comprising five original comic artworks (available in full colour and black and white) designed by digital artist Maciej Kuciara and made complete with exclusive music tracks by Aoki.

He shares: “Every time I go into an industry, I end up in the back end working with other designers, creators, and I try to learn as much as I can. I’m definitely a student and I’ve been doing that since I was a teenager. From fashion to products, or if it’s a utility or art. Now with NFTs, you get to bring them both together.”

Aoki likens watches to NFTs: an accessory that not only tells time, but also serves as art and a collectible. “It’s probably the most expensive thing I have on my body at all times. I don’t wear diamonds or jewellery, but this [pointing to the Bulgari Aluminium Steve Aoki Special Edition watch through the computer screen] is identity right here.”

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The luxury sports watch bears a few unexpected touches. First to catch your eye is Aoki’s signature logo on the caseback and dial. Eschewing convention, the dial is fully coated with SuperLuminova that glows in the dark—handy for all-night revellers. In fact, this is the key design element that is most emblematic of his own aesthetic. With a case crafted from aluminium and titanium, and a black rubber bezel and bracelet, the watch is cool, young and modern, a style that will surely resonate with Aoki’s party-going demographic.

“Bulgari is a sign of elegance and people know its history of craftsmanship,” Aoki shares. “When I think of the brand, I think of the most meticulous craftsmen who have dedicated their lives honing their craft and the quality is of the highest calibre. I work with brands that care so much about detail—and that’s Bulgari.”

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The process of creating the timepiece took over a year and a half, with Aoki flying back and forth between Tokyo and Milan to work with the Bulgari teams in person—a process that he enjoyed greatly. “Just like anything else, a watch needs to stop me in my tracks. So what is the DNA of Steve Aoki and Bulgari? How do you combine those two things and captivate people? I think one of the most effortless ways to do that is to make it shine in the dark. It’s simple, but it’s also reflective of what I do and how I live my life. I thrive at night. Nightlife is me. This isn’t just my business, it’s my love and passion all combined into one. So when we made this, it’s designed to be a watch you put on before you go out, party—and thrive.”