No need to hide the truth, the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic was one of the highlights of 2017 – if not the most impressive watch (ultra-complicated ones excluded) of the year. Not only it is ultra-thin, but it is also ultra-bold, modernly designed, inspired and innovative. Certainly, some other brands created even thinner models (like this one) but not with the same stylistic audacity. First presented in titanium, I thought I had found my perfect watch. But that was before Baselworld 2018 and the new Sandblasted Steel version. Does it change much? Well, the answer is yes… and no.
I have to confess that when it comes to watches, my favourites are sports watches, modern watches and iconic watches (or let’s say classics). I’m not fond of vintage watches, not because I don’t find them appealing but mainly because I wear my watches intensively. I’m not the kind of guy to take great care. For this reason, I moved back to new watches – or young-timers, as I named them – after a short trip to the world of vintage. I tested them, I loved them… but I loved them in a safe. For this reason, and because watches are an expensive hobby, I decided to get rid of my vintage Omegas and Heuers and to move back to modern, solid, robust sports watches.
On the other hand, wearing a dive watch or a racing chronograph with a suit or a tuxedo isn’t really appropriate – yes, it happens to me, sometimes, to wear those kinds of clothes. And as I’m not fond of dress watches either, the situation became complex. Very complex? Not really because there is a solution: the luxury sports watch. Patek’s Nautilus, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak, Vacheron’s Overseas and the rest of the crowd. If the first is impossible to find – Frank will relate his personal odyssey with the 5711 in a few days – the others are true icons but simply doesn’t do much for me. I love them but only on other people’s wrists. My quest for a superbly modern, sporty but elegant watch came to an (almost) end when Bvlgari presented the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic at Baselworld 2017.
The first thing to note with the Octo Finissimo Automatic is, of course, its extreme slenderness. At 5.15mm thick (or thin), it was the thinnest automatic watch on the market when it was introduced. Thanks to a movement internally developed to measure just 2.23mm in height, this watch is simply stunning once worn. Thinness is one of the main factors to consider with such luxury sports watches. It is part of the DNA, it is the essence of the concept, together with the commoner metals used for the case, the shape of the case itself and the integrated bracelet. Yet, thinness is key.
In this field, Bvlgari has surpassed its competitors, by far – the Nautilus 5711 is 8.3mm and the Royal Oak 15202ST is 8.1mm. We’re talking about a 3mm difference here, which doesn’t sound much at first, but it means that the two rivals are almost 60% thicker. Put this way, it does make a world of difference. Also, even though the Patek and the Royal Oak Extra-Thin are steel, they feel slightly more fragile than the Bvlgari, which benefits from the use of titanium to be lighter and more resistant too. Finally, its entirely sandblasted case and dial give less shine, less “show-off” style.
At Baselworld 2018, Bvlgari introduced two new versions of the Octo Finissimo Automatic, with sandblasted cases in 18k pink gold or in stainless steel. While it felt relevant to have a gold version in the collection, the presence of a steel model was less obvious to us, at first. However, I had the chance to wear both models for quite some time and… yes, believe me, both versions are different. And the steel one managed to give me even more emotions than the titanium model.
What changes in the steel model compared to the titanium version? Technically and specification-wise, nothing. Besides the obvious change of material, the watch is still the same – same movement, same design for the case, bezel, bracelet and dial. It means that we find the same extremely modern shape, which, on the contrary to PP and AP, doesn’t look back towards the past. Remember that the Nautilus and Royal Oak were created more than 40 years ago. Not the best example of creativity. Bvlgari has achieved a true treaty of design and innovation with the Octo. It is bold, contemporary, everything but vintage-inspired but remains slender, elegant and understated enough.
The steel version is radically different from the titanium model
There are multiple reasons for me to prefer the steel version. First of all, it isn’t just steel. It is sandblasted steel – and not polished or brushed, meaning that it has a slightly unusual matte and finely grained surface and no shine. When you wear it, it blends with your skin and doesn’t visually set apart from your wrist. This doesn’t mean that the Octo Finissimo Automatic doesn’t play with the light. It still attracts the ambient colours and it can move from warm to cold tones.
The second important thing to note is that the case and bracelet are not “nude” steel. Once the metal has been mattified, it is coated with a thin layer of gold (approx. 0.175 microns) and is later palladium-plated and rhodium-plated. It is a very original treatment that, to my knowledge, is unique to the brand. This results in a very silvery, almost white colour that is totally different from the grey rendering of the titanium version.
The watch is more lively, slightly more present and has just the right dose of exuberance that the titanium version lacked – in my opinion, of course. Stainless steel also has another advantage – again, in my opinion – with its weight. Steel being denser, the watch is slightly heavier. When wearing the titanium version, I had the feeling of a watch that felt a bit fragile. Not because of the assembly, but because of the perceived weight. It is entirely psychological for sure, but I felt more confident with the steel version. In watchmaking, weight is also part of the perceived quality.
In my opinion, this stainless steel version is a winner, a truly successful watch. It has the style, the mechanics, an already iconic design, the boldness, the elegance and this uncompromised slenderness that make it extremely desirable. The best part of all is the price, which is a fraction of what AP and PP are asking. Certainly, this is justified by a lower level of finishing. But still, at EUR 12,900 in steel on a bracelet, it is more than competitive. Time to save enough cash to get it… Magari!