Monochrome Watches
An online magazine dedicated to fine watches

A Personal Take on the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Sandblasted Steel

I thought the titanium model was mega... Then came the steel version!

| By Brice Goulard | 6 min read |
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Sandblasted Steel

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. 

Pink gold, titanium, steel – make your choice!

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.

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Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Sandblasted Steel

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.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Sandblasted Steel

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.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Sandblasted Steel

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.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Sandblasted Steel

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!

13 responses

  1. I like the look of the sandblasted steel MUCH more than the titanium. The titanium had the look of cardboard at certain angles. Was thinking of getting an AP Royal Oak at some point, but this may be an alternative.

  2. The surface treatment looks groovy, but you have to ask, how will it hold up in years to come. I would say it is an ‘office’ watch, rather than a dress watch, in the true sense.

    All said it is uber cool with superlative tech and seemingly a unique presence (have to confirm that in the flesh though). As I am up for a square(-ish) watch, should I take this, or the new two-tone Santos?

    Footnote to Monochrome:

    Your wrist shots are great (keep it up). Would be handy if you could quote the wrist size featured (gives us, cursed with wrists the size of loggers, an idea of things relative).

  3. Hi Sieg,

    thanks for you comment. As for the wrist size, it is indeed a good idea – here, it is photographed on a 17cm (so rather small) wrist.
    As for the choice between Santos and Octo… Of course, you’ll have to test them both on the wrist.
    However, the Bvlgari is much more modern, much thinner and the movement is something quite impressive (remember that 2.23mm is quite an achievement)
    As for the new Santos, it is a beautiful, well crafted “classic” watch – two different worlds indeed.

  4. Yeah, what Sieg said – the wrist shots are great. They’re what made me go from thinking, ‘nice watch’ to thinking, ‘I might get that’.

  5. For me there is one problem with this watch – water resistance. It’s only 3 ATM. For a luxury sports watch, it should at least be 5 ATM, where one can take it swimming, or not be worried if it’s raining heavily.

    I hope in the future they compromise slightly on the thickness, or maybe go for a closed case back – to achieve a higher water resistance. The design and watchmaking here are both superlative.

  6. Does this mean that gold plated watches are OK again for that is what this is. I do like it a great deal and the plating gives it a really unique finish.

  7. As Sidd suggested, the stainless steel model almost needs a solid back to “finish” it IMHO.
    And increase the ATM. I would have to get it then.

  8. Sooo, you love the steel version because….it doesn’t look anything like steel. But you hate the steel of Patek et al because Titanium is so modern (it isn’t) and robust (it isn’t) But you love the steel of Bvlgari. Moving on, let’s all pay 12,900 Euro for an ultra-luxury “sports watch” which will look dreadful if you play any sports with it because it is plated…thinly.
    And did you say 30m WR? Well, woweee.
    This review is full of nonsense. The defining factor of a sports watch is thin-ness?
    It isn’t.
    Really not
    The defining factor of a sports watch is robustness.
    And did you say you wear your watches “intensively”?
    What does that mean? And why do you think a very thin movement will be applicable to “your lifestyle” (man)?

    I am glad you enjoyed wearing this particular watch. I think it has a place in the world. I like it’s supreme legibility, I like the fact that the manufacturer is actually making an effort to do something horologically sophisticated and I like the idea, but not quite the execution and certainly not the company. This review is quite simply wrong.

  9. You don’t wear luxury sports watches to play sports. You wear them to show that you’re well-off and that you are a man. A man capable of ripping his shirt off (after carefully removing his cardigan) and joining in a game of football in the park with some youths…if he wanted to. But he doesn’t, because he knows he’d score too many goals. And his watch would explode.

  10. I feel this watch is almost a great watch. Great movement and case design but unfortunately held back by the lack of technical features such at 10 atm water resistance and could do with improvements in the dial design (by which i mean the dial layout from the minute repeater albeit with lumed indices and more detailed dial finishing at this price point).

    It needs to go from being the watch-equivalent of an Alfa Romeo to a Lamborghini to compete with the big 3 luxury sports watches.

  11. Turns out that it wasn’t enough to win me over. I’m now on the waiting list for an AP RO. Frank, if you read this please let me know your experienes with servicing/repairs at AP. Thanks!

  12. The steel version won me over. I’ve had it now for two months, worn it daily and to all occasions and have been very positively surpriced by its versatility and accuracy (haven’t pulled the crown in at least three weeks and it is 4 secs behind!).
    I should be getting the steel bracelet (purchaced with the watch) in the end of the month, which will further its versatility. I’m convinced that this watch will be a future classic but I am, of course, somewhat biased.

  13. Don’t forget the black ceramic version! With the metallized black printing on the dial. Stealth.

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