The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Rhodium-plated Steel, Rose Gold watches hands-on
A few years ago, when the Octo was first launched, I could see a watch that, for the first time, was breaking the traditional watchmaking patterns and reinterpreted them - it represented a gamble also for a brand that had never dared so much before on a watch, but that actually wanted to join the rest of the leading watchmaking brands as the real protagonist. I can still remember my first visit to the boutique located in Via Montenapoleone and the feelings that the tight and long mesh bracelet transmitted to me; somehow as hypnotic as one Escher’s drawing, but also heavy and not suitable for everyone.
Yet Bulgari has continued to develop that prototype - a great example of product design and transformed it into something even more refined and unconventional than before that has become a breakthrough in the world of watchmaking. It is at that moment that the Finissimo was born. Chronologically speaking, the Octo was born before the recent watchmaking crisis and was the result of a work of perseverance, the happy union between a very skilled hand (that of Bonamassa - an unparalleled designer) and a management team (Babin and Terreni) that translated into reality (both industrially and commercially) a happy intuition. And the B-Dinner held in Rome last October has once again confirmed the global success of the Octo.
From the Octo to the Octo Finissimo
The Octo's turning point was the launch of the Octo Finissimo. The technical effort that led to this watch was incredible and we have been talking about it for a while, sometimes looking for unlikely comparisons between the Finissimo and other classic watches, while forgetting what it really means to craft an ultra-flat timepiece with a caliber equipped with a micro-rotor and, outside, such a bracelet.
Bulgari’s main distinction was to tackle such a project with great humility and being fully aware of having to earn there and then the reputation of an haute-horlogerie and fine craft watch-manufacturer in a sector of sports luxury watchmaking, where competition is fierce and getting the attention of those customers who are loyal to Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Patek is extremely difficult.
Consistent with the matching concept of ultra-thin and ultra-light watch, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo comes in titanium alloy - a choice that helps to adequately convey the message of an innovative object and amplifies it much more than if it were made of steel. The end result is that wearing an Octo Finissimo could be compared to wearing a linen shirt or a pair of tailored-made moccasins, you could easily forget that you are wearing it around your wrist and I can only confirm this feeling.
The rhodium-plated steel Octo Finissimo
When you are able to craft an ultra-thin watch, the thinnest in the world even (it was only beaten in January by the Piaget Altiplano, but it's actually a Pyrrhic victory because we are dealing with two completely different objects both from a technical and manufacturing materials point of view) you can award yourself some unexpected, but absolutely reasonable ‘luxury’ like...adding some more weight. The steel version therefore doesn’t sport the lightness of the Titanium version that is sometimes considered as excessive for those who buy a luxury watch.
At the same time, and precisely because it is an ultra-flat watch, if you were to craft it in steel, it would never sport the same weight as a full steel watch and it wouldn’t be an ultra-flat watch either. The steel version has now arrived, and it preserves all those features that people love in the Titanium Octo Finissimo, like the sandblasted finish and the superior wearability that preserve the discrete character of the Finissimo. The stainless-steel Octo Finissimo is now an alternative to the Titanium Finissimo, a "threat" to steel watches and a unique option because, even if you were to ideally compare to the Royal Oak Extra-Thin for example, it is actually a different watch both when it comes to style and spirit.
The pink rose Octo Finissimo
It was the second major release in 2018 and, in some ways, it is an even brighter idea than that of crafting a Finissimo made of steel. The Full Gold (case and bracelet) is dynamically coming back in fashion after years where the undisputed heroes were white gold and the classic rose gold coupled with an alligator strap.
The Full Gold is popular in the United States, but less so in Europe where we have always preferred more discreet and extremely classic products. If we were to rate the popularity of Full Gold in Italy, for example, then white gold would win over yellow and pink gold. As with steel – which is not really just steel, but actually features a thin film of gold treated with palladium and rhodium - crafting an Octo Finissimo in gold has two advantages; the watch has all the appeal of a timepiece completely made of gold, but not the same weight and the sanded finish contributes, together with the presence of pink gold, to keep this watch within a niche of mature understatement.
Bulgari’s aim with its three versions of the Octo Finissimo (Titanium, steel, gold) is, in my opinion, to position this timepiece as a high-end product, but, at the same time, as an understated and technological product too, also thanks to the sand-blasted finish. In short, it is difficult to expect a Bulgari Octo Finissimo in yellow and polished gold in the future.
Why steel, why pink rose and what is still missing to further enhance the touch and feel of the Finissimo
We have already talked about the choice of a sand-blasted finish, let's now take a moment to discuss the steel version - it has all the pros of the Titanium version and gets rid, in one go, of all its virtual faults. The Titanium version is exceptionally light, and this "dilutes" the perception of luxury items within the over €10,000 price range.
The Finissimo's steel is opaque, but brighter than titanium and this tends to reassure the most classic of the buyers, those who were and still are attracted by its 40mm diameter octagonal case. In addition to this, the steel version is lighter than a similar all-steel watch, it features an ultra-flat caliber and it retails at €12,900 compared to the retail price of €13,500 that it is needed today to get your hands on a Finissimo Titanium. I would not be surprised if this watch "cannibalized" the success of the Titanium. The pink gold version was actually expected on a watch and a brand like these and the combination is quite rare, but with a retail price of 44.900€ it is clearly a flagship model.
To give the right credit to the Titanium, few people have noticed that Bulgari introduced a color variant of the Titanium with blue indexes that replicates the splendid Octo Finissimo crafted in only 50 pieces for the brand's New York boutique. What's still missing? A hint of touch and feel luxury. The case made using CNC machines and the bracelet are perfect and satisfying, but they betray an industrial manufacturing root that is even accentuated by the geometric and squared style of the case. Adding a touch of classic finish, on the caliber for example, would definitely help the Finissimo to step up even further.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®