Debuted in 2014, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo (Italian for extra-flat) collection is both a design statement and a testament to the brand’s watchmaking expertise. This collection is part of Bulgari’s Octo line that comprises of three collections: the Octo Solotempo, the Octo Velocissimo (two years ago we showed you the special edition for Masserati) and the Octo Finissimo collection. Today we’ll take a closer look at 3 models from this last collection, the quintessential Finissimo Small Seconds and two of the expressive black-clad ‘ultranero’ versions that were introduced earlier this year.
Avant-garde architecture, striking shapes and the love for linearity are all hallmarks of the Bulgari style. In this respect, the Octo is unmistakably Bulgari. It is without doubt one of the most iconic designs of the Italian jeweller / watchmaker which turned one model into an entire men’s watch collection complete with manufacture movements. Since Jean-Christophe Babin took over the helm of the brand in 2013, the collections were reorganized, in particular with 4 main styles for gents available today: Octo, Bulgari Bulgari, Diagono and Haute Horlogerie.
The revamping of this watchmaking classic (2012) was very tastefully done and is epitomized by both the elegance and the watchmaking credentials of the ‘Finissimi’ models presented in 2014. The ultra-thin Finissimo Small Seconds captures the essence of the Bulgari chic, while the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon and the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater – ultra-thin record breakers in their respective categories -were highlights of Baselworld 2014 and 2016 respectively.
The Finissimo is a compendium of the Bulgari style and technical expertise. There is something about the Octo Finissimo: the first impression is one of style and powerful design. Unlike the vast majority of traditional extra slim watches, the Finissimo is not understated, exuding a charismatic personality, timeless yet modern.
The Octo has often been attributed to Geral Genta but, as advised by Bulgari, it was actually designed in their Roman design department in 2004. Commercialized under the Gerald Genta name with the Bi-retrograde and Quadri-retro, the model is naturally coherent with the designer’s works. But if Genta created octagonal watches in the 1970s, these are indeed different and at the time the Octo was launched, he was no longer involved with the brand. He had sold its name to The Hour Glass in 1996. In 2000 Bulgari acquired the Gerald Genta name/brand and also the name/brand from a well-known watchmaker, Daniel Roth. Genta founded a new brand, named Gerald Charles in 2001.
Octo Finissimo Small Seconds platinum
The Octo Finissimo small seconds was presented in 2014. Its case is 40mm but feels much larger because of its distinctive, octagonal shape and lithe profile. The stepped geometry is striking down to its faceted lugs. It is indeed super slim, dressy and really comfortable on the wrist.
The case of the model we have got for review is crafted in the noblest metal, platinum. This is particularly impressive given its complex shape and numerous angles – platinum is one of the more difficult materials to work with. Its rich finish is exquisite, for instance the fine brushing of the bezel or the delicately decorated crown which features a ceramic inlay.
The design of the polished black lacquer dial is simple and highly legible which works perfectly with the sophisticated case. It features baton-style hour markers and elongated Arabic numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock. An off-centred small seconds is shown between 7 and 8 o’clock and indicated directly from the seconds wheel to keep the movement as flat as possible. The dial’s thickness has been reduced to 0.3mm, the hour markers are stuck while the small second is transferred. Finally, the hours and minutes are indicated by open-worked dauphine-style hands.
Powering the Octo Finissimo is the BLV 128 movement, developed and manufactured in Bulgari’s work shop in Le Sentier. The movement measures just 2.23 mm thick, an impressive feat that is further highlighted by the watch’s slender profile. What really strikes you though when you turn the watch over is the diameter of the movement. At 36.6mm it fills up much of the case. This large diameter means the the BLV 128 could be equipped with a big barrel which in turn means it offers an impressive – especially for such a flat movement – 65 hour power reserve. The decoration shows off large, beautiful Geneva stripes, nice anglage and snailing on the ratchet wheel. Its architecture features four large bridges, plus a thin full balance bridge.
The power reserve indicator on the rear is also a nice touch. It does not corrupt the simplicity of the dial and allows the wearer to know how much energy is left. This complication, that is nowhere more relevant than in a hand wound watch, is complemented by the small seconds that allows you to spot at a glance whether the watch is still running. The BLV 128 runs at 28’800 vibrations per hour, the modern norm for precision.
Specifications Bulgari Octo Finissimo Small Seconds
- Case: 40mm diameter x 5.75mm thick – platinum – sapphire crystal on the front and on the back with antireflective coating. Water resistant to 30m.
- Movement: BLV128 with manual winding – 65h power reserve – 28,800 vibrations/h – hours, minutes, small seconds, power reserve indicator at the back. 36.60 x 2.23mm. 26 jewels.
- Strap: alligator strap on pin buckle
- Price: 24’500 CHF
Octo Finissimo Ultranero Skeleton
Presented in 2016, the Octo Finissimo Ultranero Skeleton is an evolution of the Finissimo small seconds sporting a steel case with DLC coating and an 18K pink gold bezel. The skeleton work is modern and edgy, exposing the understated yet complex architectural design of the caliber BLV128SK. In coherence with this contemporary look, the movement has been given a monochrome dark finish with black-coated bridges and mainplate with circular satin brush decoration.
Unlike the Finissimo Small Seconds, the power reserve indication is shown on the face of the watch.
Specifications Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultranero Skeleton
- Case: 40mm diameter x 5.75mm thick – DLC Steel with pink gold bezel – sapphire crystal on the front and on the back with antireflective coating. Water resistant to 30m.
- Movement: BLV128SK with manual winding – 65h power reserve – 28,800 vibrations/h – hours, minutes, small seconds, power reserve indicator. 36.60 x 2.35mm. 26 jewels.
- Strap: alligator strap on pin buckle
- Price: 26’000 CHF
Octo Finissimo Ultranero Tourbillon
The third model we had the opportunity to spend some quality time with is the Octo Finissimo Ultranero Tourbillon. The presentation of the Finissimo Tourbillon in 2014 allowed Bulgari to set a horological record releasing the thinnest tourbillon movement ever (read our article about record ultra-thin watches here). Measuring only 1.95mm, the movement is even slimmer than the Finissimo Small Seconds. The model has returned in 2016 with this sleek all black version.
The BLV268 caliber combines several solutions to make the thinnest movement possible. Among these, it uses ball bearings (7) for several moving parts which explains the surprisingly low jewel count (11). The flying tourbillon (which means that the Tourbillon is cantilevered being supported from the base plate only) rotates on a cartridge bearing.
The barrel is maintained and rotates thanks to three ball bearings on its periphery. This allows for optimal use of the available space for the barrel drum and the maximization of the mainspring height. The result is a power reserve of 52 hours which is rather unexpected for such a flat movement. The balance wheel features 8 regulating weights and runs at 21’600 vibrations per hour. The movement is finished in coherence with this sleek black makeover and the exclusive complication. It sports Geneva stripes, fine anglage, perlage for the plate and bridges, satined-finish steel parts, circular satined-finished wheels and barrel and screw heads finely polished.
From a design standpoint, the finesse of the watch is really striking. Wearing it for some time was really quite an experience. The visual impression is enhanced by the black finish of the watch balanced by pink gold accents.
Specifications Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultranero Tourbillon
- Case: 40mm diameter x 5mm thick – DLC titanium with pink gold crown – sapphire crystal on the front and on the back with antireflective coating. Water resistant to 30m.
- Movement: BLV268 with manual winding – 52h power reserve – 21,600 vibrations/h – hours, minutes, flying tourbillon. 32.60 x 1.95mm. 11 jewels. 249 parts.
- Strap: alligator strap on pin buckle
- Price: 110’000 CHF
Final words and conclusion
Bulgari operates four sites in the Swiss Jura bringing together over 350 skilled professionals. La chaux-de-fonds: dial manufacturing. Saignelégier: case manufacturing. Le Sentier: movement development and manufacturing including Haute Horlogerie complications such as the Octo Minute Repeater Finissimo, the Octo Tourbillon Finissimo or the Ammiraglio del Tempo a minute repeater with Westminster chime and detent escapement. Neuchâtel: headquarters and final assembly.
This integrated manufacturing capacity is the result of a determined, long-term vertical integration strategy. Bulgari has been manufacturing watches since the 1920s but the creation of Bulgari Time in the 1980s was a key step to boost its watchmaking credibility. In 2000, Bulgari acquired Daniel Roth and Gerald Genta Haute Horlogerie SA. The integration strategy continued with the acquisition of stakes in Cadran Design SA (2005) and Prestige d’or SA (metal bracelets,) both completed at 100% in 2009. In 2007, a case manufacturer, Finger SA was purchased while an agreement was signed with Leschot to support the in-house development of movements.
The unusual geometric design of the Bulgari Octo gives it a strong, charismatic personality. Its lithe profile counterbalances its bold style in a distinctive expression of masculine elegance. From a technical standpoint, the Finissimo is just as impressive as it is elegant. It beats to the rhythm of a large, ultra-thin hand-wound movement, reflecting the strong horological credentials of the brand evidenced by the records set with its record-thin tourbillon and minute repeater.