After introducing its ultra-thin Tourbillon in 2014 and the fabulous Minute Repeater in 2016, Bulgari unveils its new horological creation, the Octo Finissimo Automatique, breaking the thickness record with the BVL 138 Finissimo movement of just 2.23mm.
How a Greek young man makes history in Rome and breaks records in Switzerland
In 1884, the 27 year old Greek Sotirios Boulgaris founds his company BVLGARI in the Italian city of Rome. In the same year, he opens his second shop in Via Sistina. Twenty one years later, with the help of his two sons, Bulgari opens the current flagship in Via dei Condotti, Rome.
In the 70’s, the company is expanded with outlets in New York, Geneva, Paris and Monte-Carlo and a watch division is established. In 1980 Bulgari Haute Horlogerie SA was founded in Neuchâtel. And then an important move into the direction of haute horlogerie was taken with the acquisition of Gerald Genta SA and Daniel Roth SA in 2000. On March, 6th 2011, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE announced taking a 50.4% controlling stake of Bulgari family, in an all-share deal worth €4.3 billion.
The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatique
The Octo Finissimo range is no stranger to breaking ultra thin records: the 2014 Ultra Thin Tourbillon and the 2016 Ultra Thin Minute Repeater are winners in our book. This year, at Baselworld, Bulgari amazed us yet again, with their third world record. The ultra-thin Octo Finissimo as the logical consequence of the Finissimo line after the Tourbillion and Minute repeater.
The case, dial and hands
This timepiece has sparked many controversies. It is one of those “love it or hate it” looking watches, but certainly an interesting appearance. Some consider the 40mm diameter sandblasted case far too manly. The multi-faceted body, specific to the Finissimo collection, has no rounded edges, except the bezel. It is a clear statement of Italian design: “I am Bulgari” and no one will have issues in recognizing it.
This thin beast is a charm on the wrist: absolutely fabulous easy-to-wear look, due to the size and design. The unusual thickness of the case tricks the viewer regarding the dimensions, making it hard to appreciate its real size.
The 5.15mm satin finish case is difficult to produce. All the chamfered edges and the complex shape in titanium is a proof of Bulgari House’s dedication for the best technologies and the high levels of finishes. The case is a two-part construction: the eight screws from the back of the case hold the bezel in place. Anti-reflective treated sapphire crystals are used to cover the top and the bottom. The crown has a black ceramic insertion completing the avant-garde architectural look.
All the elements of these timepieces were redesigned to fulfill the record-breaking size. The dial was no exception. Manufactured in La Chaux-de-Fonds in one of the Genta-Roth facilities, it has a the matt finish with black printed baton indexes and tall Arabic numerals for 6 and 12 o’clock. At first glance, this simple dial design seems to be a contrast to the complicated case. But we feel to the contrary, the simplicity of the dial contributes to the elegance of the watch. Perhaps an even more elegant dial might be to use the dial with pierced numerals of the Minute Repeater. And indeed Bulgari has done that in partnership with Revolution Magazine in a special limited edition series.
The black faceted hands with PVD treatment are skeletonised – a good choice: the dial’s look would have been too heavy with full hands. On the entire watch face, the small seconds is perhaps the sweetest element. Placed between 7 and 8 o’clock, the small black Dauphine hand has its own sub-dial indexes. This positioning is likewise met in other watches from the Octo line.
The movement: Bulgari Caliber BVL138
The BVL 138 is an automatic in-house caliber with a large 36mm diameter, filling the entire case. This can be easily observed by looking at the back. The thickness of 2.23mm beats Piaget Altiplano’s record of 2.35mm by only 0.12mm. Maybe it doesn’t seem much, but in this world, the miniaturisation, this is a country mile and is not easy to implement.
The movement is a redesign of the caliber BVL128 which features a power reserve indication. The indication was removed and a platinum micro-rotor is installed in place. Another change is the lowered speed from 4Hz to 3Hz. The power reserve of 60 hours is rather commendable for an ultra thin watch. And is really good for a self-winding movement. Of course, the entire redesign process is more complex than described.
The visual aspect of the movement is an example of dedication to haute horlogerie. The main plate is decorated with perlage. The four big bridges are finished with Côtes de Genève, and are arranged close to each other giving the impression of completing a three-dimensional puzzle. As mentioned, the movement fills almost the entire back view. We find this satisfying, as it gives the impression of the one watch, one movement concept. A nice luxury, haute horologerie touch. The finishes are completed by the perceivable fine anglage. The nicest detail of the movement is the thin balance bridge offering an almost unobstructed view of the 21,600 bph beating heart.
The “heavy” part of the caliber BVL138 is the PT950 micro-rotor. The micro-rotor itself is a “complication”, and dates from the end of the 1950’s. It is more wide spread in use as it is technically more challenging than a full sized rotor. But its use is rather classical in ultra-thin automatic watches. The only other option being the peripheral rotor which is even more technically demanding.
The Octo Finissimo Automatique’s micro-rotor is manufactured from platinum to provide good density. The beauty of the micro-rotor is only partly visible on the pictures. The way the beveled and mirror-polished inner circle plays with the light is incredible.
The Competitive Landscape
Today’s market is not as full of ultra-thin watches as you might think. From the big brands, the most admired thin watch is perhaps the Piaget Altiplano. Last year, Piaget released a 60th-anniversary Altiplano featuring a white gold 43mm case, wider than the Octo’s by 3mm. The movement used is the beautiful Piaget manufacture 1200P – a 2.35mm thin movement with 3Hz beating heart and a power reserve of 44 hours. The Altiplano comes with a lovely shade of blue sunburst dial with baton indexes and thin, baton hands. A minus that can be considered the absence of a seconds’ hand. The Piaget watch comes with a blue leather strap, to match the dial and a price tag of S$34,400. Deployant reviewed the Altiplano 60th Anniversary model last year in December.
Another “classic” is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Small Seconds that was released in 2014. The polished steel case has a thickness of 7,58mm and it offers 50m of water resistance. The dial is silvered with a sunray-brushed finish, dauphine hours and minutes hands and applied 3-D rhodium-plated hour markers. The small seconds sub-dial provides a nice, subtle light effect due to the fine guilloché pattern. The movement inside is the JLC Caliber 896: 3,98mm thick automatic with full-size rotor, a 4Hz balance and 43 hours of power reserve. The caliber 896 has the typical finishing of Jaeger-LeCoultre, complete with the 1000 hours test of the Master Control watches. This beautiful timepiece comes with a leather strap with double folding buckle and can be bought for a price just a little over S$10,000.
If you are in pursuit of the slimmest watch out there, you can have a look at the Citizen Eco-Drive One, released last year and bearing a case thickness of 2.98mm. An absolute crazy 1mm thick quartz movement packed in a 38.25mm Cermet case. It is limited to only 800 pieces worldwide and costs approx. S$8,500.
The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatique is available on a black alligator with a titanium pin buckle or a titanium bracelet with a double folding clasp. The bracelet is a splendid design, being a natural continuation of the case. The wide and thin bracelet’s links fit perfectly on the wrist, following the arm’s roundness easily. The clasp was designed to fit in the bracelet, making it very comfortable.
Bulgari managed to create not only a record-breaking timepiece but also an haute horlogerie marvel. It is light, it is a breathtaking design and it is a technological breakthrough. The Octo Finissimo Automatique is a watch that allows you to forget that you have it on your wrist, but it will never let you forget to wear it.
The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatique Specifications and Price
The acquisition prices for these record-breaking watches are Ref. 102711 – S$17,700 on alligator strap and Ref. 102713 – S$19,100 on the titanium bracelet.
Caliber: BVL 138 Finissimo
Type: Automatic wound mechanical
Dimensions: 36.60 mm x 2.23 mm (diameter x height)
Power reserve: 60 hours
Frequency: 3Hz, 21,600 vibrations per hour
Functions: Hours, minutes and small seconds
Material: Sandblasted Titanium
Dimensions of the case
Diameter: 40 mm / Thickness: 5.15 mm
Crystal: anti-reflective coating sapphire crystal
Crown: titanium with ceramic insert
Caseback: anti-reflective coating sapphire crystal
Water resistance: 30m
Material: titanium bracelet or black alligator leather
Buckle: folding clasp for the titanium bracelet and titanium pin buckle for the leather strap