If you’re looking for the modern equivalent of the Royal Oak, your search should start and finish with the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic. There, I said it. That might be a bitter pill to swallow for some watch collectors. After all, Bvlgari is (sadly and unjustifiably) still seen as a “jewellery” brand by some – but recent developments should prove them wrong. Regardless, the Octo Finissimo has repeatedly proven itself to be one of the defining watches of its generation. When others were playing it safe, Bvlgari’s design team – led by the inimitable Fabrizio Buonamassa – chose to go for the kill. To create something different, and exciting, and well, beautiful. And the latest Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Black Sandblast-Polished Ceramic is here to show it.
From the way it looks to the way it feels to the way it sits on the wrist, the Octo Finissimo is a watch we’ll still be talking about 20, 30, even 40 years from now. Just like the Royal Oak. Yet, what makes the icon from AP so enduring is its versatility. And that’s exactly what we’re starting to see with the Octo Finissimo. Buonamassa and his team have barely scratched the surface of what is possible with this sleek time-teller. If you need proof of that, look no further than this new Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Black Sandblast-Polished Ceramic.
How It All Began
Admittedly, the least attractive thing about this watch might be its lengthy name. So, for the sake of brevity and clarity, I’ll refer to it as the “Octo Finissimo Polished Ceramic”. Before we get too far into the review though, it’s worth taking a step back to see how we got here (and in a surprisingly short period of time).
As I’m sure you will recall, the Octo Finissimo Automatic was the third in a series of impossibly thin watches from Bvlgari. This line started with the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon in 2014 (world’s thinnest tourbillon movement and tourbillon watch). Followed by the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater in 2016 (world’s thinnest minute repeater.) And finally, the Octo Finissimo Automatic in 2017. This was followed by the world’s thinnest chronograph in 2019, which you can read about here.
What makes the Octo Finissimo Automatic stand out though is its accessibility (relatively speaking) to everyday watch collectors. The prices of the tourbillon and minute repeater are, somewhat expectedly, stratospheric. Whereas the Octo Finissimo barely breaks into five-figure territory. Still a lot of money, no question, but if you limit your view to the world into which these types of products live, there is a lot of competition around. Most of which do not display the same bold innovation and exceptional design.
What also set the Octo Finissimo apart from the crowds, aside from the obvious, was its distinctive monochromatic, sand-blasted appearance. The original model has an almost industrial look to it. Everything is matte and subdued, yet there’s no way this watch is not making a statement on the wrist. Using titanium for the case and bracelet also made it ultra-light. It was somehow very modern and futuristic, yet at the same time familiar and welcoming. This is one of those watches that you just feel right at home with when you put it on.
It’s such a distinctive aesthetic though, that for me at least, it was hard to imagine how it could evolve in any sort of meaningful way. How wrong I was. Rather than going the traditional route of playing with dial colours and variations, Buonamassa has instead focused on incorporating new materials. For the most part, these have still kept with the original aesthetic though. The matte finish, which has become something of a trademark of the collection, has changed recently with the introduction of both the Satin-Polished collection (with gold and steel models), and the new Finissimo Polished Ceramic we’re talking about today.
The Finissimo Polished Ceramic
In all the flurry of articles and Instagram posts about Baselworld last year, you may have missed that Bvlgari already debuted a black ceramic version of the Octo Finissimo. That model features a matte finish also, which, as Xavier noted in his review “literally absorbs all the light around it”. Very cool but a bit too subdued for my tastes. That’s why I was excited to learn about the new polished ceramic version. By changing the way some surfaces are decorated the watch has really been brought to life.
This new Black Sandblast-Polished Ceramic plays with light like no other Octo model… It feels like a black fluid for the wrist.
First though, some details. The case remains the same 40mm in diameter and sits 5.50mm high. Somehow squeezed inside is the in-house, record-thin automatic calibre BVL138 with platinum micro-rotor. Despite its wafer-thin proportions, it still delivers a respectable 60-hour power reserve. In fact, all the fundamental aspects of this watch are exactly the same as every other version. The only changes are purely aesthetic in nature. But they make quite a substantial difference to how the watch looks in the hands and on the wrist.
As you can see from the pictures – and probably guessed from the name – the case and bracelet are now a mix of polished and brushed ceramic. Although there are clearly more polished surfaces than brushed. The matte surfaces serve to provide a sense of contrast and prevent the watch from being too “shiny”. What I really love about this watch though is the way it plays with and reflects light. Sometimes it takes on an almost liquid chrome-like appearance. Other times it’s very dark and moody, leading it to appear far more understated than it actually is. The same can be said for the black ceramic dial, which features contrasting polished hands and indices to enhance legibility – which is, in the metal, really not that bad at all and easy to read.
For sure, this new look won’t suit all tastes. But again, it demonstrates the versatility of the Octo Finissimo. Have we seen polished ceramic watches before? Sure. This an evolution, not a revolution after all. At the same time though, the attention to detail and the level of finishing really makes this watch worthy of close attention. In addition to the fact that it is fast becoming the new ‘hot’ luxury sports watch to own. Ironically though, not necessarily in steel. Price is USD 15,600.
More details at www.bulgari.com.