The skills required to create an ultra-thin watch are rightly considered a complication of their own. And it's not only about technical mastery.
The Octo has modified its profile. Ever since the piece was fist launched, its unique face with eight sides and 110 facets has tallied up all the attention. The model's strength lies in its structuring octagonal shape. The watch needs to be observed from every angle to discover its complex architecture that has become a paradigm of refinement. Indeed, far from being dull, Bulgari has been successfully trying its hand at ultra-thinness for several seasons now. With that the Roman brand has taken the risk of attacking the front of the watch. The aim? To refine its signature Octo case and develop several main complications in an ultra-thin angle.
This obviously represented several challenges in one. Firstly, the Octo is from now on the essential pillar of Bulgari’s men's watch range and its size, its presence and generous aspect make it a masculine as well as sporty watch. It's an extrovert piece, which has an indisputable Latin touch without being exuberant. In addition to its deliciously complex air, it possesses the watchmaking rigor that is so dear to watchmaking manufactures. This watch embraces its double heritage -Italian and Swiss - fully. Its sublimely modern structured case with the hundred and ten facets is a prowess of its own. It is an atypical and sought-after watch even though nothing seemed to indicate at first that it would become the pinnacle of refinement.
It encompasses Bulgari’s genius: never opt for the easy way out, go beyond preconceived ideas and appearances, and, above all, take advantage of its age-old jeweller history to constantly shape and reshape the material and play with shapes and volumes. In this case, it was a prerequisite to be able to achieve ultra-thinness, as reducing the watch’s proportions on paper was not enough. The creation process needed to be started from scratch, all the components had to be refined, the major technical parts had to be redesigned in order to balance the volumes and shapes while ensuring the dynamic and accurate qualities of the mechanical movement in a smaller space of barely a few millimetres.
The movements: the second challenge
Once again, Bulgari did not balk when faced with the obstacle but rather attacked the subject with originality and ambition. The Octo Finissimo (Italian for “ultra-thin”) collection was the opportunity to go beyond the limits of Haute Horlogerie in terms of ultra-thinness and produce high-end complications.
Both collectors and fortunate aficionados of unique pieces were delighted. The range of ultra-thin Octo Finissimo watches comprises some essential pieces. They are in symbiosis and simultaneously claim the strength of Italian design. Each and every one of these pieces is streamlined: the Octo Finissimo Small Seconds, also produced in the Skeleton version, the Finissimo Tourbillon and the Finissimo Minute Repeater.
The Octo Finissimo Tourbillon features the world's thinnest flying tourbillon. Indeed, the BVL 266 caliber is only 1.95-mm thick thanks to an ultra-innovative assembly of seven ball bearings for the base and the ring-shaped tourbillon carriage that allows it to rotate. All in all, it comprises 249 components and a perfect mastery of watchmaking art that does not relent on any of its great principles, since the plate and the bridges are chamfered and feature Côtes de Genève finishes. One word: perfect.
After the tourbillon, in parallel with the hand-wound mechanical movement – the 2.23-mm thick BVL 128 caliber – the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater took another big step in 2016. Not only did the brand house the piece with the 3.12-mm thick BVL 362 caliber, which was developed and produced in-house, but it also placed a minute repeater mechanism inside a 6.85-mm thick case. With this watch, the brand has pushed the barriers of this specialized field and has established a new world record, just like the Tourbillon.
The Octo Finissimo Skeleton is an awe-inspiring watch. On top of being thin, it offers a deep view into its very heart as it is an entirely skeletonized watch. The whole piece is 100% modern, and it is a far cry from the usual skeletonized works that too often plaster strange displays on traditional pieces, and sometimes go even as far as try to imitate refined watchmaking. The opposite happens with Bulgari: it propels you right into a resolutely contemporary evolution of the craft. The 40-mm case exudes an air of strength and modernity and the pink gold bezel is a perfect reference to Bulgari's jewellery art.
In parallel, the black DLC-coated surfaces serve as frame to the finely carved movements with some parts of the plate and the bridges coated in black and with satiny finishes on the chamfering. The mechanism in question is the BVL 128SK caliber. It is, of course, a mechanical hand-wound caliber and displays small seconds and power reserve indicators. The power reserve, important for such a piece, is around 65 hours. The whole movement is barely 2.35-mm thick. It must be noted that such an accomplishment is not small at all.
All of Bulgari’s ultra-thin pieces exude a general feeling of homogeneity and modernity. Deliberately isolated from the standard ultra-thin watches of an urban elegance and normally reserved to aesthetes and formal evenings, the Finissimo pieces by Bulgari offer an honest display that is more in tune with contemporary requirements. The watches are refined and aimed at demanding and self-confident men, but also sport both formal and casual codes. Elegant Italians will most likely evoke "sprezzatura", which is a very sophisticated and studied form of relaxation that Stendhal has admired since he started travelling to Italy.
In this case, it would be the opposite: a form of elegant and sophisticated rigor applied to a fundamentally sports watch. It is definitely refinement at its best.