Video games and luxury watches are not necessarily two categories you’d put together. But the two have teamed up more often than you might think.

Tag Heuer has produced two limited edition watches with Super Mario Bros. Panerai has partnered with Razer, the hardware company known for its PCs and peripherals. And Hamilton worked with the developers of Far Cry 6, the first-person shooter game, to create a commemorative field watch, the likeness of which your character could also wear in the game, a model ‘ready for virtual and real-world adventures’.

Now Bulgari, the luxury watchmaker known for its complex movements and ultra-thin engineering, has announced a watch in partnership with the enduring racing simulation franchise Gran Turismo—and designed a concept car to drive in the game, too.

Gran Turismo 7: © 2023 Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc. Developed by Polyphony Digital Inc.

While many of the world’s greatest car brands have developed virtual ‘Vision GT’ custom cars to drive in Gran Turismo—the Jaguar Vision Gran Turismo Coupé; the McLaren Ultimate Vision Gran Turismo; the Ferrari Vision Gran Turismo, and so on—Bulgari is the first non-automotive brand to do so. (Nike did produce an electric ‘sci-fi buggy’, the Nike One 2022, that could be powered by a human body via a ‘spark suit’ that converted body movements into electricity, for 2024’s Gran Turismo 4, but it was not available for purchase in the game and could only be used in practise mode.)

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the game’s Vision GT programme.

Bulgari’s Italian-born design boss—or product creation executive director—Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, went straight from design school to work for Fiat and Alpha Romeo before joining the watch brand in 2001, and cars remain a passion.


The company’s Bulgari Aluminium watch, first released in the late 1990s, was both a product of its times and something of a pioneer in sports watches, the first luxury wristwatch of its kind built using an aluminium case and a rubber strap and bezel—an unusual choice of materials said to be directly inspired by car design.

Relaunched in 2020, by the admission of the brand’s own CEO in order to target millennials, it won a Red Dot Design Award earlier this year, the jury praising its ‘perfect proportions and premium-quality materials’, a miniature ‘synthesis of the arts’. It is this model that’s provided the springboard for the new watch.

The Bulgari Aluminium x Gran Turismo Special Edition 2023

The chronograph comes in two versions, one with a yellow dial and black counters, produced in a limited edition of 500, and one with an anthracite dial with yellow indices, produced in a run of 1,200.

Both are sized at 41mm and come in an aluminium case with a titanium caseback with a DLC coating and a rubber bezel and strap. The watches are engraved with a ‘10th Anniversary Vision’ GT’ logo.

Fabrizio Buonamassa. BULGARI

“It was inspired by the dashboard of one of the most important cars in rally history, a legendary Italian gran turismo car from the 1990s,” Stigliani tells Esquire, ahead of the project’s reveal at the Grand Turismo World Series Finals, the climax of the professional esports tournament, in Barcelona this afternoon.

The project began after Stigliani reached out to Fabio Filippini, the noted Italian car designer, former design director at the coachbuilder Pininfarina and executive director of the automotive design agency Acceaffe, having discovered his retrospective book Curve and contacted him on Instagram.

Filippini, in turn, knew of Stigliani and his automotive background—and also knew the people at PlayStation.

Over DMs he proposed they work together

“I said ‘Fabio! You know I am a great fan of Gran Turismo?’’ Stigliani says. “I played for decades, when I was young—during the night!’

“It was just Gran Turismo on my PlayStation, no other games. But now I have kids, they start to play FIFA, other games… But Gran Turismo for me, is a legend.”

The pair hatched a plan to design a Vision car, the Bulgari Aluminium Vision GT. It was to take its design cues from the industrial aesthetics of the Bulgari Aluminium watch—“Big wheel arch, big screw that reminds you immediately of the screw on the side of the watch,” according to Stigliani. “Geometry of the windshield and the lower part of the body of the car that is totally black.”


PlayStation’s Gran Turismo team then designed the project in-house—the first time they’d done this.

“We said immediately, ‘We don’t have the skills, we don’t have the software to make this kind of thing’,” Stigliani says. “‘So please, you can make the 3D for us?’ And Kazunori Yamuachi, one of the masters of Gran Turismo 3D [department] became the link between Bulgari and Gran Turismo.”

(At this point Stigliani shows Esquire a folder of work-in-progress sketches for the project. It is enormous. “This is a selection!”)

While a brief to design your own virtual race car for PlayStation might conjure up ideas of letting your imagination run at record-breaking lap speeds, Stigliani points out that there are rules. Fairly strict ones.

“This car [should be able to] be built and driven [in the real world],” he says. “Gran Turismo say from the very beginning ‘We do not want to have a ‘watch with a wheel’. We want to have a real car!’ You have to imagine that Gran Turismo, it is so precise for the simulation, that you have some very important [car brands] in the automotive industry that ask Gran Turismo to make a simulation. ‘I have this car, with this [build], with this kind of engine, with this kind of suspension, and I want to [test it out with a view to] participate in 24 hours of Le Mans. Tell me the performance of the car.'”

In other words, car companies use the Gran Turismo Vision GT programme as a proof of concept.

“It is super, super precise,” says Stigliani.

Still, designing such a project was, he says, something of a boy’s dream come true.

“The idea was to make a very cool, Italian-style car, inspired by the [models produced at] the end of the 1960s, inspired by the lightweight Alpha Romeos, with the very pure shape. The amazing exotic cars of the Porsche builder, or Pininfarina. Or other cars from [designer Flaminio] Bertoni, [Marcello] Gandini, [Gruppo] Bertone, the Lancia Stratos, all these kind of cars. Very lightweight. Like the Lotus, the Maserati… This was the idea. Because the Aluminium is a lightweight watch… it’s an amazing design in terms of shape, in terms of high-tech design.”

Gran Turismo 7: © 2023 Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc. Developed by Polyphony Digital Inc.

To get the drive the car in Gran Turismo, you need to first buy the watch—which comes with a QR code.

It is also possible to purchase it in-game, but for that you need one million credits. (Since your correspondent has never played Gran Turismo, Stigliani assures me this is a lot. “And when you achieve this kind of result, you don’t want to spend one million credits on just one car, because you can buy a lot of different cars. And you can make a lot of fine-tuning [to your existing cars].”)

As for how the car handles in the game, Stigliani had some ideas for that, too. “The idea for this car was pushed a lot by me, because I would love to drive a very easy and fun car. Lightweight without a huge engine without thousands of horsepower, because for me that doesn’t make sense. I just [wanted] to enjoy the pleasure of driving the car. In a very pure way. So it’s a bit like a go-kart. With a certain finish.”

As for Stigliani’s own Gran Turismo performance—he admits he’s not quite the demon he once was. “You need a lot of training,” he sighs. “Because, you know, the cars are super-reactive. And the tracks are very precise. When you get older your reaction is less quick.”

“My son Julio started playing Gran Turismo when he was eight, and he’s still playing now he’s 10. When you get older your reactions are less quick.

“At that point, for kids, it’s easier.”

Originally published on Esquire UK

Spider-Man 2. SONY

The anticipation is palpable: Spider-Man 2 is set to swing onto the PlayStation 5, promising to be bigger, bolder, and even more thrilling than its award-winning predecessor. The buzz is hardly surprising; the game has been put together by Marvel and Insomniac Games, the who previously built iconic franchises like Spyro and Ratchet & Clank. Insomniac was ultimately acquired by Sony after the huge success of the first Spider-Man game, and since then has been diligently at work on the sequel.

But what can fans expect from Spider-Man 2? We caught up with Bryan Intihar, the creative head behind the series, to delve into the narrative depths, gameplay innovations, and the vision driving this eagerly awaited sequel.

Spider-Man 2 (left), Bryan Intihar (right). SONY

A big highlight about this game is certainly the Venom symbiote bonding with Peter, stripping him to his abilities, but at a cost. Can you delve into the challenges this bond presents for Peter?

Bryan Intihar: The symbiote story has always been significant for any Marvel or Spider-Man fan. Its portrayal over the years has resonated with many. Given that this is technically our third Spider-Man game—following Spider-Man and then Miles Morales—we aimed to take our characters to uncharted territories.

Emotionally, we approached the symbiote as a metaphor for addiction. This perspective isn’t solely about the impact on Peter, but also on his circle of friends and family. It’s a narrative that pushes Peter into unfamiliar territory.

As players delve deeper into the game, the bond with the symbiote intensifies and Peter undergoes profound changes. There’s a moment in the launch trailer where Peter exclaims, “You’re not the hero.” It’s hard to fathom Peter ever making such a declaration.

On the gameplay front, this presented a golden opportunity for us to showcase a different facet of Peter. Both Peter and Miles are incredibly powerful characters with their unique superhero abilities.

Introducing the symbiote allowed us to amplify and celebrate the sheer, raw strength it offers. The symbiote, in essence, isn’t just an alien entity. It profoundly influences Peter emotionally and redefines gameplay mechanics. It’s been genuinely exciting for our creative team to stretch our capabilities in narrating Peter and Miles’ story in ways we hadn’t explored before. This shift has dynamically impacted both gameplay and narrative, and that’s what excites us the most.

Spider-Man 2 gameplay. SONY

This is the third game in the series. How has the development process evolved? Were there any lessons from the first two games that have been incorporated into this third instalment?

Bryan Intihar: When we started the journey with Spider-Man 2, we began from the ground up. Our aim with the first game was to showcase that we could craft a compelling Spider-Man experience. The feedback from the first game gave us clear indications of what players loved, and the subsequent message was: “Don’t tamper with what’s already working.” For instance, swinging and traversal mechanics were highly appreciated. So our approach was to enhance it further, not overhaul it.

One of our guiding principles has been to juxtapose the superhero fantasy with a relatable, human story. While we dive into the darker realms with characters like the Symbiote and Lizard, our intent remains to narrate a heartfelt story.

Reflecting on areas of improvement, we realised that boss fights needed more depth. We also wanted to amplify the exploratory elements in the open world. With Spider-Man 2 being exclusively developed for PlayStation 5, it was crucial to harness its capabilities, be it faster traversal speeds, seamless hero switching, or grander set pieces.

In essence, our philosophy was to preserve what’s cherished and enhance areas ripe for improvement. As we approach our ninth year since beginning our Spider-Man journey in 2014, the familiarity and rapport within the team have been invaluable. The core leadership from the first game remains intact for Spider-Man 2, mirroring a seasoned sports team that’s in sync. It’s been rewarding to witness this bond, especially when new leaders emerge and take on added responsibilities. For me, observing this evolution has been one of the project’s highlights.

An annoying trend with video game sequels, is when characters will helpfully “misplace” all the last game’s gadgets (so the developers can spend time giving the character’s new tech to play with). Thankfully, this game doesn’t do that. But did that make coming up with new powers and gadgets that much harder?

Bryan Intihar: It’s a challenging balance. From a player’s perspective, it might seem puzzling when certain capabilities are stripped away in sequels. One reason is the time gap between releases; players might forget game mechanics, and developers sometimes reset to help everyone get back on track. But that aside, our primary focus was ensuring continuity in the characters’ power sets and gadgets.

Drawing inspiration from the comics, we infused a touch of the "Insomniac flair" into the gadgets. While Miles is defined by his unique abilities like bioelectricity and camouflage, we wanted the first mission to showcase both characters with a rich arsenal. We took cues from the comics, specifically the Iron Spider arms, which also harks back to the first game with Otto’s mechanical arms. This led to the idea of Peter adapting that tech, enhancing it, and incorporating it into his toolset. It was essential to ensure both Peter and Miles felt powerful and distinctive, giving players a choice in how they wanted to engage.

As the game progresses, players will see Miles’s powers evolve, intricately tied to his personal journey and his interactions with characters like Martin Lee. Peter’s evolution is also evident with the introduction of the symbiote.

Our objective has always been to make players feel like Spider-Man from the get-go. Every game starts with swinging through New York City because we want players to immediately connect with that exhilarating Spider-Man sensation. When it comes to combat, the emphasis is on delivering that authentic Spider-Man experience with a mix of classic and new tools.

Spider-Man 2 gameplay. SONY

Given the sandbox nature of a Spider-Man game, there usually needs to be a balance between free exploration and structured narrative. How do you approach this balance?

Bryan Intihar: Honestly, we don’t strictly adhere to a 50-50 model. Depending on where they are in the game, players might delve deeper into optional or open-world content.

Reflecting on our previous titles, we identified a need to elevate the quality of open-world content. In a Marvel game, storytelling is paramount. Our goal was to ensure every piece of optional content offered a gripping narrative, whether it’s a brief standalone quest or a chain of events that build and culminate in a climax.

Furthermore, we aimed to instill a richer sense of exploration and discovery. We wanted to move away from merely relying on UI and waypoints. Instead, we integrated more environmental cues. For instance, after introducing Sandman, players might notice sand clouds in the distance, sparking their curiosity and drawing them into new experiences.

Lastly, we wanted to better integrate the main story with the open world by emphasising the cause and effect. For instance, in the first Spider-Man, after a significant event like the helicopter chase with Mr Negative, the aftermath would quickly vanish. We wanted the effects of such events to linger, making the world feel more dynamic and interconnected. By weaving narrative into the environment and enhancing exploration, we aimed to ensure the main story has a tangible impact on the broader world.

Working with a giant like Marvel must be exciting. How involved are they in the creative process? Do they give you autonomy, or are there specific directives about what can and cannot be done?

Bryan Intihar: This is a question I get asked quite frequently. To be honest, working with Marvel has been nothing short of fantastic. There might be a general apprehension when collaborating with IP holders—this fear that they might be overly protective or restrictive. However, my experience has been the complete opposite. Marvel consistently encourages us to think ambitiously and to be bold.

Many of us at Insomniac are avid Marvel enthusiasts, and we’ve grown up immersed in the Marvel universe. This deep-rooted respect for the brand ensures that we handle the material with care. But while these characters have been around for decades, we believe that fans don’t just want a carbon copy of what they’ve read in comics. They crave surprises while still feeling that the core essence of the characters is intact. Our guiding principle has always been to honour the original DNA of these characters while not shying away from innovating.

Of course, the Marvel team comprises exceptional storytellers and game developers. We’d be remiss not to seek their insights and feedback. So, while people might expect a restrictive dynamic, our collaboration with Marvel has been incredibly harmonious and remains one of the most fulfilling aspects of my career.

There’s loads of new games out at the moment. What sets your game apart from the rest? And, I am going to say you can’t mention Spider-Man

Bryan Intihar: To be candid, my personal game playing this year has been a bit sparse. I’ve set a personal rule for myself: I don’t play other games during a year we’re launching our own. Hence, I’ve only recently begun catching up, I just wrapped up Jedi Survivor and eagerly queueing up Final Fantasy XVI next. The sheer quality and quantity of releases this year are remarkable.

So take this with a pinch of salt, but I’d say one big aspect of our game is the cinematic scale we’ve integrated into an open-world environment. We’ve really tried to inject blockbuster-esque moments, reminiscent of linear game narratives, into our expansive, dynamic world. From the get-go, our game gives players an experience where massive, gripping set pieces seamlessly mesh with the freedom and spontaneity of open-world gameplay.

It might sound a bit audacious, and I hope I’m not overlooking any other game doing something similar, but this blend of cinematic immersion and open-world exploration is something we’re genuinely proud of.

Originally published on Esquire ME