One moment you’re in your lane making jewelry, the next you’re out breaking watchmaking records at an unsettling rate – just another Tuesday at Maison Bulgari then. Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo line has been around for (only) eight years and has broken as many thinness records. One of these world beaters is none other than the stunning Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic. Introduced in 2020, the Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic was, and continues to be, the world’s thinnest tourbillon chronograph wristwatch. Achieving such a feat requires watchmaking heroics, not just to make the movement so thin, but also to ensure that – in spite of its comical thinness – it is able to run reliably and precisely.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic in Platinum
This year, Bulgari has expanded on the model with a more elegant, luxurious platinum variant. This is in contrast to the original, debuting variant which was rendered in titanium and significantly sportier. Picking a favourite between the two pieces will not be easy as we soon found out. Here, we bring you the low-down and our honest thoughts on the new Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic in platinum.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
From a design perspective, not much has changed with regards to the casing of the new Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic. The case is still aggressively angular, beset with numerous facets, and octagonal in overall shape with a round bezel for contrast. There’s of course also the all-important fact that this watch remains freakishly thin for how complicated it is: only 7.4 mm in height. What’s really changed in the new model is twofold: the material and the finish. The new Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic is crafted in platinum and therefore has the typical heft associated with precious metals. Unlike the grainy microblasted finish of the titanium variant, the new platinum casing features an alternating brushed and polished finish. This gives the watch a more classical, elegant look, as opposed to the more aggressive, industrial vibe of the titanium version. The 2022 novelty is also paired with a blue alligator leather strap instead of a bracelet.
As lovely as the case is geometrical, the real star of the show remains the dial – or lack thereof. Most of the dial of the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic has been openworked (it’s in the name). What remain are the chronograph seconds track, the minute counter, the running seconds sub-dial, and the brand signature. These are all accented in blue against a white backdrop. Where the watch was previously monochromatic, here, in the platinum version, we have more contrast and a welcomed pop of colour. Dial legibility is also significantly better as not everything is a sea of grey.
Driving the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic is the 52-jewel manufacture Calibre BVL 388. The movement has a power reserve of 52 hours when fully wound and operates at a stately 3 Hz beat. Its functions include the hours, minutes, seconds, and chronograph. The pusher on the flank of the case at the 2 o’clock position starts, stops, and resets the chronograph mechanism (yes, this is a monopusher chronograph). Interestingly, the pusher at 4 o’clock – classically the reset button of a standard chronograph watch – is instead a function selector for the crown. The first setting is for winding with the crown, the second is for hand-setting.
The most important feature of the Calibre BVL 388 is obviously its incredulous thinness. Its height of only 3.5 mm would look impressive on the specification sheet of your average, ultra-thin time-only wristwatch. But the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic is no basic timepiece. The notion that a movement with chronograph functionality and a tourbillon could be 3.5 mm thin is almost inconceivable – so of course Bulgari had to go ahead and pull it off. Achieving such a feat is anything but easy. Where most manufacturers would normally opt for a stacked movement design (i.e. chronograph mechanism/winding rotor on top of base plate/tourbillon), Bulgari has gone for more or less everything on the same plane. That includes the winding rotor, which specifically is a peripheral rotor. The drawback of such an endeavour is that you end up with a movement with a wider diameter and subsequently a wider case. The 43 mm case of the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic is probably at the upper limit of what most people deem “wearable”.
As if the technical aspect of the Calibre BVL 388 isn’t marvelous enough, its finissage and decoration are also top notch. The dial isn’t the only bit on the watch that has been skeletonised, the movement itself is also tastefully pared down. Every bridge and plate has been expertly openworked without compromising integrity. With skeletonisation comes an increasing number of edges, edges which Bulgari’s finisseurs have chamfered and polished to perfection. There are plenty of rounded and sharp, outward angles in the Calibre BVL 388 to savour. A little disappointingly, no inward anglage could be found. A missed opportunity, perhaps, to take the piece to the next level. It would’ve been completely understandable if this were a regular production, “mass produced” wristwatch, but the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton is a limited production timepiece (fewer than 100 pieces in total). That minor gripe notwithstanding, the Calibre BVL 388 truly is a remarkable work of art and engineering. It’s difficult not to feel it tugging on your heartstrings if you’re a watch enthusiast.
The Competitive Landscape
The tourbillon chronograph wristwatch is somewhat of a holy ground in luxury watchmaking. The chronograph and tourbillon are two of the most beloved complications in horology. The former offers tactile and visual interactivity, as well as some extent of utility. The latter offers visual interactivity and acts as a status symbol (because of how it bloats selling prices today). These are also some of the more challenging complications for manufacturers to, not necessarily assemble, but to perfect – this part here appeals to enthusiasts. Separately, they are fairly common, but together in a single timepiece, much rarer. The Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic goes one step further to distinguish itself by becoming the thinnest of its kind ever, a record still unbroken after two years and counting. The new platinum variant is not a watch you’ll like stumble upon in the wild as only 30 pieces will ever be made. Such technical excellence and exclusivity, as you might already guess, does not come cheap. The watch retails at EUR210,000.
One excellent alternative to the Bulgari is none other than the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked. Both watches share the same set of functions and an almost identical layout, with the tourbillon at 6 o’clock, running seconds at 9 o’clock, and chronograph minutes at 3 o’clock. And like the Octo Finissimo, the Royal Oak has an openworked movement. It bears mentioning, however, that the latter features a higher level of movement finissage. Other key differences include material (the example in the photograph below is rendered in black ceramic) and the fact that the Octo Finissimo is almost 6 mm thinner. Limited to 100 pieces only (and possibly sold out), the Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked Black Ceramic retailed for CHF290,000 back in 2020, or about CHF70,000 more than the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton in platinum.
For something dressier, look no further than the Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Tourbillon Chronograph. The watch features a 45-minute monopusher chronograph, power reserve indicator and a tourbillon. The dial isn’t open like the Royal Oak or Octo Finissimo, but the Maltese cross-inspired tourbillon at 12 o’clock more than makes up for it. If you’re new to luxury watchmaking, just know that Vacheron Constantin makes the best-looking tourbillons in the market. A monumental amount of effort goes into finishing them – there’s enough mirror polishing on the cage and bridge alone to distribute among half a dozen other movements. Priced at USD197,000 it is the least expensive of our three ‘competitive landscape’ selections here. This is likely down to the Traditionelle Tourbillon Chronograph being regular production, not openworked, and not record-breakingly thin. But at the end of the day, it’s a Vacheron Constantin.
There are plenty of reasons to love the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic. For one, it is well-designed. For another, it is history in the making. It also helps that there will only be less than a hundred pieces made in total, at least until Bulgari decides to make more in other materials. In the meantime, expect the brand to break another record with their next Octo Finissimo release. World’s thinnest rattrapante wristwatch, anyone?