The Octo Finissimo Automatic needs no introduction. Since its launch in 2017, it has established its place on the market and became an indubitable member of the Luxury Sports Watch category. Modern, bold, monochromatic, ultra-ultra-thin, mechanically impressive and with its very own identity (something rare in this category). Now that this watch is well established, it is time for the brand to move forward and to offer evolutions… But not with the classic formula of a new dial colour. At Bvlgari, it’s all about materials and textures, for instance, the brand new “Satin-Polished” steel version – and it comes with one major update to make it even better.
Since 2014, Bvlgari is on a mission: creating a collection of ultra-thin watches, built around a single design, easily recognizable, derived with multiple complications that all break thinness records. But this quest for slenderness is not a matter of ego and cold numbers… Behind this lies the wish to create a contemporary watch for modern men, the equivalent of the slim-fit suit to be worn on the wrist. Thinness is both a technical achievement and an integral part of the design of the Octo Finissimo collection.
While Bvlgari set the tone in 2014 with the world’s thinnest tourbillon (back then, as the brand broke its own record later) and in 2016 with the world’s thinnest minute repeater, the pinnacle of the Octo Finissimo collection came in 2017 with a more accessible model, made for everyday wear and for everyday watch enthusiasts, the Octo Finissimo Automatic. Now the norm for this collection, it was first introduced in full titanium – case, dial, bracelet – and later followed by three other editions: full rose gold, full black ceramic and, important for today’s review, an extremely desirable full steel model with a unique white-silver coating and a matching dial.
This steel version of the Octo Finissimo Automatic, which I personally reviewed here, revealed a unique silvery-white colour, obtained with a thin layer of gold and later palladium-plated and rhodium-plated. An original, proprietary treatment that gave the watch a unique look, especially when combined to the sandblasted finish applied on every single part of the watch. This gave a bright matte look to this steel model, but there’s a second steel version launching soon on the market.
The new Steel “Satin-Polished”
The first and obvious change is the end of the monochromatic design. While most of the previous editions featured a matching case and dial – usually crafted in the same material, or at least done in a way that gave the dial the exact same colour/texture as the case – we now have a contrasting black dial over the steel case/bracelet configuration. This steel/black dial configuration might be a bit more mainstream and classic, probably to please some potential customers who were not so fond of the full-silver style. Does it make the Octo Finissimo Automatic less attractive? Not in my books, as it brings a sportier appearance to the watch and makes it easier, slightly more discreet on a daily basis.
The dial is lacquered, with a grained texture that avoids reflections and makes the polished rhodium-plated indexes, numerals and hands stand out. Legibility is great – maybe better than on the sandblasted steel version – and altogether, the design feels more traditional – with being ruined or becoming too conventional.
The second change comes from the case and the bracelet, or the way they are finished. This version is made of stainless steel, without the gold/palladium/rhodium treatment seen on the other steel Octo Finissimo Automatic. It thus has the traditional metallic colour of steel, however, it has been finished in a different way too. Instead of the sandblasted surfaces, the case and the bracelet show alternating satin-brushed and polished surfaces, all following the lines of the case. The bezel has a radial pattern and the directional brushing on the case follows the multiple facets.
This emphasizes the architectural aspect of the Octo Finissimo design and adds reflections, depending on the ambient light, something the matte versions don’t have. Once again, it marks a more consensual turn in the finishing, yet it doesn’t make this watch more conventional – not a bit! The polished surfaces are discreet and add some depth to the shape of the watch. And just like the black dial, this adds some sportiness to the whole concept.
What doesn’t change are the great proportions of this watch. With its 40mm diameter, it is perfectly suitable for most men and will sit comfortably on a smaller 16cm wrist or a larger 19cm wrist – the watch was photographed on Frank’s 18cm wrist. True again, this watch has more visual presence than suggested by the specifications. Due to the large bracelet and the original shape of the watch, it can feel slightly larger than expected – but as said, this is a visual effect, with no incidence on the comfort.
Regarding the main objective of the Octo Finissimo Automatic’s – thinness – the new Satin-Polished Steel version shows a slight increase in height, at 5.25mm, compared to 5.15mm before. There’s a technical reason for that, which will be explained in a few lines, but let’s be realistic about this 0.1mm increase: it doesn’t change anything (barely more than the thickness of a human hair.) The Octo is still one of the thinnest watches on the market.
Regarding the mechanics, no evolution either on this topic. Inside the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Satin-Polished Steel, is the in-house Calibre BVL138. This movement measures 2.23mm in height, with its components distributed on a horizontal axis instead of being stacked, hence the large diameter of 36.6mm. To achieve such thinness, the movement is wound by a micro-rotor, made of solid platinum, a heavy material that brings more winding efficiency. Despite its dimensions, the Calibre BVL138 can store up to 60 hours of power reserve. It is pleasantly decorated with Geneva stripes and polished bevels.
The small update that changes it all…
Water-resistance is an important factor in the luxury sports watch category. The raison d’être of these watches was to combine the finesse of an haute horlogerie piece with daily wearability. This explains the 50m WR of the Royal Oak or the 120m WR of the Nautilus (and the norm for these watches is currently around 100m).
With the Octo Finissimo, Bvlgari focused on thinness first and foremost and overlooked the water-resistance factor. Combining extreme slenderness with the ability to resist pressure isn’t easy. This explains why most Octo Finissimo watches are water-resistant to 30 metres. Some collectors complained about this and Bvlgari heard them.
The new Octo Finissimo Automatic Satin-Polished Steel, with its slightly sportier attire, was the perfect vehicle for improvements, as this new version is now water-resistant to 100 metres. Has the brand compromised on its quest for thinness? No, and the extra 0.1mm is truly negligible. The main update concerns the crown, which now screws down to guarantee resistance to pressure. With this, Bvlgari corrects what could be the only objective flaw of this watch.
The new Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Satin-Polished Steel, to go straight to the point, is a very mature product. We’re not talking about drastic and highly visible evolutions, and the overall concept of the watch introduced in 2017 is still respected. Yet, these slight updates add a lot to the overall package. It corrects a few minor flaws, such as the minimal water-resistance, and adds a sportier look to the watch, with its brushed surfaces and its new black dial. All in all, this creates a very coherent package, maybe a bit more consensual than the monochromatic and matte versions. And, to end on a very positive note, this is the most affordable version of the Octo Finissimo Automatic.
The Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Satin-Polished Steel (reference 103297) will be priced at USD 12,000. For comparison, the sandblasted steel-on-steel model is priced at USD 13,300 and the sandblasted steel-on-leather at USD 12,200. More details at www.bulgari.com.