It's a third world record for the Italian watchmaker and its Manufacture! The Octo Finissimo Automatic is officially, as of today, the world's flattest automatic watch. And should you need reminding, the two previous record-breakers from Bulgari were the 2014 Tourbillon and 2016 Minute Repeater, stellar tributes to the one of the greatest complications in ultra-flat Swiss watchmaking history, aka the Finissimo calibre.
Finesse, an added complication
If you were to ask a master watchmaker what he considered to be an added complication in the manufacture of micro-mechanical masterpieces of haute horlogerie, he would undoubtedly say "ultra-thin watchmaking". Because finding ways of producing the ultimate ultra-flat movement, while preserving its chronometric faculties intact, is no mean feat. It requires the work of supreme craftsmen, such as those employed at the Bulgari in-house workshop. A total of 370 employees are spread over several sites occupying a stretch of mountains between the Joux Valley and the Jura. Maison Bulgari handles in-house the design and manufacture of all components entering into the creation of its timepieces, relying on dozens of workshops from sites such as Sentier, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Saignelégier, all devoted to different aspects of micro-mechanics and precision watchmaking,
That feat is achievable thanks to a mini-rotor made of platinum, the density and weight of which serve to increase the responsiveness of the moving parts. But take a look at the features and decide for yourself. A case 5.15 millimetres thick, the BVL 138 movement with automatic winding, not quite 2.23 millimetres and beating at a frequency of 21,600 vibrations an hour, and the whole contained within the iconic octagonal form of a watch case measuring 40 mm in diameter, guaranteeing water-resistance to 30 metres.
As for keeping the connoisseurs happy, despite its diminutive dimensions, what's not to love about the small seconds skittering across the dial slightly off-centre? Not to mention the 60-hour power reserve and the Côtes de Genève decoration.
Octo Tourbillon Saphir, another tour de force
Another pinnacle of Bulgari's watchmaking achievements for spring 2017, alongside the new Serpenti models with their interchangeable straps and the recent Lvcea offerings with sunray dial and characteristic cabochon-tipped crown, is the attention-grabbing Octo Tourbillon Saphir. Amid their shameless flirtations with the ambient light, these pieces are always suffused with a magic that feigns an apparent simplicity beneath an ultra-complex exterior. Hey presto!
But before we even get to the iconic octagonal faceted case of the Octo, whose roots of inspiration can be traced from Antiquity, the Renaissance and beyond to the Age of Enlightenment, before we extol the virtues of equilibrium and harmony, we must acknowledge the Roman roots of the eight-sided model embedded in Bulgari's genes and its captivating powers. This form evolves further in 2017 with the Octo Roma line, which references the majestic Basilica of Maxentius, not to mention 130 years of jewellery-making history shaped by the plastic arts and driven by the search for balance in design. Form and substance become one, embodying a Dolce Vita Alternative that is pursued by pushing the codes of chic and elegance to the limit.
In what is a totally unprecedented move, the eleven bridges of the BVL 206 calibre (a flying tourbillon with manual winding) serve as markers. They boast a contemporary construction, like the rest of the movement, and sport a DLC coating (Diamond-Like Carbon) and green bar motif made of ITR2, a composite substance made with carbon nanotubes, and SLN. Super LumiNova is a luminescent material, which absorbs light during the day, stores it, and then re-emits it at night. For the sake of simplicity, everything has been designed to ensure easy adjustment or time-setting operations. A single press of the crown calls up a red disc inside a micro-counter positioned at 3 o'clock to facilitate the necessary adjustments. The crown can then be turned freely, or, if pressed a second time, can be stilled to prevent any false manœuvre.
It is rare in watchmaking for a sapphire model to play the on-trend "all black" card. Once again, Bulgari has taken us all by surprise with an eye-catching titanium case-middle coated in DLC. We are plunged headlong into secret depths and featherweight suspensions… The attraction is all the more magnetic when you discover that every aesthetic play of balance has a functional aspect, and you are transported to a place of harmony. This unique item of wrist furniture, water-resistant to 30 metres, beating at a rate of 21,600 vibrations an hour, offers an autonomy of 64 hours once the watch is fully wound. Its shadowy side absorbs the light, even when the dark leather strap with deployant buckle is secured to the wrist. A concentrate of exceptional purity …