The Octo Finissimo collection has been the talk of the town for the past few years at Bulgari, and for many reasons. Finissimo watches broke several thinness records and grabbed public attention and four GPHG prizes, all in a relatively short time. Still, in the segment destined for men, Bulgari offers much more than ultra-thin, technically advanced timepieces that come at a price. Bulgari recently updated the Octo Roma family to include several new models, including time-and-date references and four spectacular tourbillons. My attention, however, was drawn to the Octo Roma Chronograph the moment I saw them, and we bonded.
Less an Octo but Still an Octo
The Octo is an unmistakable Bulgari creation. It would be wrong to attribute the design to Gérald Genta, even though the influence is present. The Octo was conceived by Bulgari’s design department in 2004 to become the quintessence of Roman design, to quote Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO, with its distinctive shape rooted in ancient times, found in Roman architecture and decorative patterns. The original Octo case, in itself a work of art, was a unique and striking combination of octagonal and circular shapes. The case featured a bold, circular bezel that contrasted sharply yet complemented the case body significantly, creating a cohesive feel. The angles and curves of the case were expertly crafted to create a harmonious and balanced look that exuded sharp sophistication; it had exemplary and eye-catching geometry. Yet, this masterpiece of craftsmanship and excellence was revisited in 2017 with the Octo Roma collection launch.
The Octo Roma had a different appeal; it was a softer, perhaps less flashy, interpretation of the Octo (check out the stocky Octo Velocissimo Chronograph) and Octo Finissimo, already in the catalogue since 2014. Despite keeping the circle and octagon concept alive and present, the case felt quite traditional and rounded, with half the facets (58) and without the razor-sharp look. As our own managing editor Brice wrote six years ago, “While a normal Octo makes you feel that it is very proud of its origins, the Roma whispers it, with no ostentation.”
The New Octo Roma Chronograph
As mentioned earlier, this year, the Italian brand with Swiss watchmaking skills introduced thoughtfully updated Octo Roma models that will replace the previous references. For the first time, the collection receives two chronograph versions in stainless steel, with blue or black dials. The long introduction to Octa Roma was due because, before coming to love the new chronograph, I spent much time with Bulgari watches with adequate admiration, but this model connected. It is the one I am willing to spend money on. The new Bulgari Octo Roma Chronograph feels right, as it is very well designed and what is also important, the price is right – less than 10k, which nowadays seriously limits your choice of chronographs with a big name on the dial.
I absolutely love how the chrono push-pieces are integrated into the case of the Octo Roma Chronograph; if it was not for the complicated dial, one could hardly tell they are present. The 42mm case has a thickness of 12.4mm, and with the stainless steel bracelet, it provides a solid feeling on the wrist, which I like, as this is how we connect. The watch is not heavy, bulky, or edgy; it is a comfortable timepiece for any occasion. The easy bracelet/strap change system makes the Octo Roma Chronograph a truly versatile accessory.
The new Octo Roma dials receive a delicate Clous de Paris pattern, chronographs included, so the light allows for many hues. It is a joy to see how different the watch gets to appear with just little changes. Speaking of changes – the new Octo Roma dials feature metallic indexes and hands filled with SuperLumiNova; strangely, this was not the case with earlier Octo Roma references. Also, Bulgari added the crown guards to the case construction, which is a plus, and the interchangeability to all its bracelets and straps.
The subdials are positioned at 3 for the small seconds, at 6 for the chronograph hour and at 9 for chronograph minutes, with the date aperture at 4:30. The black version got a tone-on-tone date disc with a white digit, the blue, unfortunately, has a white background for the date, perhaps this is something to complain about. Other than that, both variants are equally appealing.
Inside the new Octo Roma Chronograph is the BVL399 automatic movement, which is the in-house Solotempo calibre BVL191 with a Dubois-Depraz module, so you will not see any difference should you happen to look at the back of the new chronograph and a time-and-date Octo Roma model simultaneously (all models have a sapphire caseback). The movement will provide you with about 42 hours of power reserve, which is fine, as the Octo Roma Chronograph should be the watch for daily use, including the weekends.
Thoughts, Availability & Price
Overall, the Bulgari Octo Roma Chronograph is a beautiful timepiece that combines exceptional design with craftsmanship and good technical prowess, and it is offered at a relatively competitive price. The new chronograph provides an instantly recognizable design, excellent quality and the allure of the brand, which is a great combination. Bulgari certainly knows how to relate to its customers personally.
The Octo Roma Chronograph, either in black or blue, is delivered with a tone-on-tone rubber strap and a steel bracelet, both with a well-conceived quick-change system. It will be part of the permanent collection as of July 2023, and will be priced at EUR 9,900. For more details, please visit www.bulgari.com.