Watch enthusiasts and non-watch enthusiasts see Bulgari pretty differently. The latter sees it as the brand that sells fancy jewelry while the former sees it as the brand that won’t stop breaking watchmaking records every damn year. The Bulgari Octo Finissimo line has been around for less than 10 years and already it has broken over half a dozen world records. From the world’s thinnest tourbillon watch to the world’s thinnest minute repeater, not a single thinness record was safe from Bulgari – well, except for the seemingly simplest of them all: thinnest mechanical wristwatch.
Review: Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra
The retail price for the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Ultra is circa EUR 400,000. Limited Edition of only 10 pieces.
That all changed in 2022 when Bulgari launched the Octo Finissimo Ultra, usurping the title of world’s thinnest mechanical wristwatch from the acclaimed Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept. At these ridiculously extreme levels of thinness, every fraction of a millimeter counts. At 2.0 mm, the Piaget is only 0.2 mm thicker than the Octo Finissimo Ultra, a difference so minute you really couldn’t tell with your naked eye. By that account, it’s even crazier to note that the Octo Finissimo Ultra is not currently the thinnest mechanical wristwatch ever made anymore! The honour now belongs to Richard Mille’s RM UP-01 Ferrari – a mere but evident 0.05 mm thinner than the Octo Finissimo Ultra, just to have the final say and to rub it in real good. Regardless, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra remains one of the thinnest in the world and arguably the best looking of the contenders. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on Bulgari’s latest record-breaker, the Octo Finissimo Ultra.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case of the Octo Finissimo Ultra measures an unremarkable 40 mm in diameter, like any modern timepiece. What’s truly a revelation is its height of only 1.8 mm. At these dimensions, it’s like wearing a communion wafer on the wrist. Achieving such a feat is no walk in the park, as one might imagine. And that’s why Bulgari teamed up with movement specialists Concepto for this piece. The general idea in the design of any ultra thin watch is to minimise the number of planes occupied by the case, dial and movement. This applies to the Octo Finissimo Ultra as well but taken to the next level. To save a precious millimeter or two, the Octo Finissimo Ultra has a case back that doubles as a mainplate. In a sense, the case becomes part of the movement. This solution, in turn, creates a potential problem: any amount of bending or warping of the thinner-than-usual case back becomes detrimental to not just the function, but also the structural integrity of the movement. To prevent this, tungsten carbide was chosen as the material of choice for the all-critical case back/mainplate of the Octo Finissimo Ultra. Rated a 9 on the Mohs scale, the alloy is ideal given its extreme hardness and strength. The rest of the case is crafted in sandblasted titanium, along with the ultra-thin bracelet and clasp. With a watch this thin, the sapphire crystal that protects the front of the watch has to be even thinner. It is only 0.3 mm thick and perched on two silicon studs (at the 3 and 6 o’clock positions of the mainspring barrel) that prevent any contact with the movement should there be unexpected pressure on the crystal.
There isn’t really a dial in the traditional sense on the Octo Finissimo Ultra. Apart from the two sub-dials for the hour and minute respectively (indicated by black PVD-treated hands as thin as 0.1 mm), everything else is movement. This includes the seconds display etched directly onto the fourth wheel. The most peculiar part about the watch is the QR code that’s been laser-engraved onto the ratchet wheel. Each Octo Finissimo Ultra is linked to an NFT on the blockchain. The NFT certifies the indivisible link between the watch and its associated NFT artwork, while preserving the authenticity and possession of both the physical and virtual creations.
In yet another space-saving exercise, the Octo Finissimo Ultra comes without a crown for time-setting and winding. Instead these functions are fulfilled by two ridged stainless steel wheels. A small click wheel prevents accidental turning of the time-setting wheel in the wrong direction and inadvertent actuation. Alternatively, the presentation box that comes with the watch can do all the work for you. The desired time can be set on a digital screen, and at the press of a button and the close of the box, the watch will be set and fully wound – silently – after 20 seconds.
Driving the Octo Finissimo Ultra is the 21-jewel BVL Calibre 180, measuring only 1.5 mm in thickness. In spite of space constraints, the manually wound movement is still able to generate a respectable power reserve of 50 hours while operating at a modern 4 Hz frequency. The balance is equipped with a flat hairspring with no overcoil (as it adds height). It is secured by a three-armed balance bridge that acts as an anti-shock device as well. One of the arms is integrated with a stud holder for the hairspring’s terminal curve. Despite all the modern engineering that’s gone into making the Octo Finissimo Ultra, the movement still comes with traditional finissage, including straight graining on bridges, circular graining on wheels, mirror polishing on screw heads, and anglage.
The Competitive Landscape
There’s no two ways about it – the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra is in rarefied company. Not only is it one of the thinnest watches ever made, it’s also the first watch to have a QR code displayed so openly as a decorative element – not to mention the NFT associated with it. As a nod to the 10th anniversary of the Octo, the Octo Finissimo Ultra is made in a limited series of 10 pieces only. At EUR400,000 a pop, this isn’t one for the mere mortal. The ten persons lucky enough to own the Octo Finissimo Ultra will be owning a piece of watchmaking history and one of the most unique timepieces around.
The most direct competitor to the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra is none other than the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept – the record holder for the world’s thinnest mechanical wristwatch before the Octo. At 2 mm in height, it is only slightly thicker than its successor. The watch also utilises similar strategies for height reduction, for example, by turning the case back into the mainplate for the movement. The material used for the case back, though, is a cobalt alloy, unlike the tungsten alloy of the Bulgari. While the Altiplano Ultimate Concept is no longer the thinnest mechanical wristwatch, it still is the thinnest round mechanical wristwatch since the Bulgari and current record holder (the RM UP-01 Ferrari) aren’t round. If you’ve missed out on the Octo Finissimo Ultra and have half a million Swiss Francs to spare, look no further than the Altiplano, which is limited production but not limited edition.
If you’re a fan of absurdly thin watches but not so much a fan of dropping literal house money, the Citizen Eco-Drive One is absolutely worthy of consideration. Measuring only 37.00 mm x 2.98 mm, the watch cuts an elegant profile on the wrist. It bears mentioning, however, that the Citizen Eco-Drive One isn’t a mechanical watch; it is a light-powered quartz watch – the thinnest of its kind. Sure, a mechanical watch being paper thin is a much more impressive achievement, but at ‘only’ USD4,500 (2019 price), the Eco-Drive One is far more attainable.
The Octo Finissimo Ultra is akin to a bow on the present that is Bulgari’s record breaking spree; the itch that’s finally been scratched. Breaking the record for thinnest mechanical wristwatch is the ultimate flex in the industry but make no mistake, the Octo Finissimo line is probably not done breaking records just yet. One can only imagine what is up next on the agenda for Bulgari. Is it going to be the thinnest grande sonnerie or split-seconds chronograph watch? Or is it going to be something that has nothing to do with being the thinnest? Whatever it is, you can trust Bulgari to get it done.