The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic watch hands-on
When the Bulgari Octo was presented to the public, it was quite clear to me that the maison wanted to create a new watch icon. Bulgari started some years ago to build its fully integrated manufacturing facilities and aimed, in my opinion, at concretely getting its foot in the men's watch industry by launching a product that could compete on equal terms with high-range reference sport’s watches.
The development that the Bulgari Octo has had over the last three years has been quite impressive and it is a clear proof that this collection was considerably successful from its very beginning. The expansion of the range of a collection, is proof positive that a product has met the favour of the general public. If I were asked to sum up the Octo’s success from an aesthetic point of view, I would say that Bulgari created a case with an original geometry; squared and full of surfaces (and circles) in continuous intersection between each other. It is quite an original style but, at the same time, it is never quite excessive either and it is instantly recognizable as Bulgari’s own style.
The maison, however, hasn’t simply created a style object; from day one, Bulgari has equipped its Octo with a broad range of technical specifications geared towards watch-lovers that allowed this timepiece to quickly rise at the top of the list that includes the most desired and technically equipped watches in the world. The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic, the big novelty released at Baselworld 2017, is a small masterpiece of design and engineering. It features every single characteristic that made the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon and the Bulgari Octo Minute Repeater famous but in a more accessible range; these timepieces are two leaders in their respective high-range segments, with a caliber that, on the Finissimo Automatic, beats hands down the Piaget Altiplano (that took the reign back once again, in 2018, with the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate). Piaget is the brand that first launched the ultra-flat movement complication (despite the two timepieces actually representing two watches that are quite different from each other).
When I talk about complications, I want to highlight something in particular; being able to craft an automatic calibre that is only 2,23mm thick means that the manufacturer actually created a complicated watch. This result can only be achieved if the manufacturer invests heavily in research and development and aims at becoming a market leader. Bulgari put at the centre of its target something that many Swiss brands should do if they want to beat the market crisis, too; the product itself.
To achieve this result, Bulgari’s designers have not given up elegant solutions, such as the adoption of a winding micro-rotor, made of expensive platinum (due to technical reasons, perhaps, like the mass and the moment of inertia) with a very refined Côtes de Généve decoration on quite thin bridges and a "perlage" on the base of the plate. Considering such a reduced thickness, the result achieved is quite amazing when it comes to the power-reserve of the BVL138 calibre; the technicians of the brand reached a goal of up to 60 hours of power-reserve. This technique perfectly fits another great feature for which Bulgari is well-known: the creation of integrated bracelets.
The Bulgari Octo debuted a mesh that wraps the wrist as if it were a bracelet, thus taking to the extreme the concept of "integration" between case and bracelet. The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic sports a case that only measures 40mm but it looks as if the size was 45mm instead, both because of the squared shape and because it wraps the wrist with a continuity solution. Do not underestimate the difficulty of crafting such a bracelet because its functionality is very important, such a bracelet should be comfortable and should never pinch the user’s skin. It also needs to be satisfying and appealing.
Is this a proof of what Bulgari is able to come up with? The watch, made of titanium to provide the user with an exceptional use experience, features a bracelet that can be stretched out completely; the case-back enters in contact with the inner part of the fold-over clasp; a feature that is usually crafted only by those manufactures with a long experience in the production of jewelry bracelets (just take a look at what Bulgari did with the Serpenti).
The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic retails at 13.500 euro (12.500 on a leather strap). It is a Bulgari watch and we could therefore trivially say that "it is expensive by default". The truth is that Bulgari worked so hard to create this Finissimo and it seems like it did so with the same humility of those who have manufactured a complicated watch for the very first time.
Such is the care taken in crafting the ultra-flat calibre and the details present on the case and the bracelet. The strength of this timepiece lies in the unique synthesis of two seemingly antithetical concepts; on one side is the particularly refined style of a design object, and, from a functional point of view, it also features the best mechanics that one could ever dream of. Whether you are a fan of a Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic or not, this result is quite unquestionable!
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®