Bvlgari Octo: An Italian Icon

by Jamie Tan

Bvlgari’s Octo proves its strength and versatility this year with several new models that explore various aspects of watchmaking while remaining quintessentially Octo.

Bvlgari’s timepieces span several collections, and each is an established icon that the Italian jewellery house continues to strengthen year after year. The Octo, in particular, welcomed several additions this year at Baselworld, from an ultra-thin record breaker, to a fresh take on a high watchmaking classic, to an exercise in materials and textures.

The Record Breaker

This year’s technical highlight for Bulgari – and the larger watch industry in general – is the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic. The timepiece is the fourth in a series of record-breaking Octo timepieces that first began with 2014’s Octo Tourbillon Finissimo, then the world’s thinnest tourbillon watch.

Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic

Without delving too deeply into the technical specifics, it suffices to say that the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic has broken three world records.

At 3.95 millimetres high, it is currently:

  1. the world’s thinnest self-winding watch,
  2. the world’s thinnest tourbillon watch, and
  3. the world’s thinnest self-winding tourbillon watch.

The timepiece’s movement, Calibre BVL 288, is based on the Octo Tourbillon Finissimo, but has an added peripheral winding system while managing to main the original’s thickness of 1.95 millimetres.

It’s on full display here, since even the dial has been removed to reduce the watch’s thickness; the movement’s architecture is quite a sight, with its components horizontally arranged and densely packed to reduce space.

The Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic comes in a sandblasted titanium case that extends the aesthetics established by the movement – the overall look here is decidedly contemporary, and even a little industrial.

The Sound Choice

The Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater Carbon here isn’t technically new, as it’s based on the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater that was introduced in 2016.

Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater Carbon

The two are almost identical, down to their record holding 6.85 millimetre thickness. In lieu of titanium, however, the new watch sports a carbon fibre case and dial.

Depending on how carbon fibre is manufactured, it can attain properties such as high strength-to-weight or stiffness-to-weight ratios.

This, in turn, can translate into superlative vibrational and acoustic characteristics, which instrument makers from Ovation (acoustic guitars) to Luis and Clark (violins, cellos, etc) have exploited for years.

The choice of material for the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater Carbon followed the same principles as these instruments that have replaced wood for carbon fibre.

In this watch, a composite material called Carbon Thin Ply is used to create a different “flavour” to the sound of its predecessor’s titanium case and dial – titanium was, in turn, a radical departure from the commonly used gold and platinum.

Sound aside, Carbon Thin Ply also offers a dramatically different look, thanks to its black colour and mottled/layered surfaces, which is due to how the carbon fibres are arranged within the resin matrix.

The Fresh Looks

Octo Finissimo Automatic

The Octo Finissimo Automatic that was launched last year came in a matte titanium case and a matching dial.

With this timepiece, it seemed as if Bulgari was making a point that the strength of the Octo’s design alone is sufficient for a watch.

The drab grey titanium surfaces drove this point home, for sure.

Without any extraneous details, the Octo case revealed just how well-proportioned and visually arresting it is, thanks to its clean lines, sharp angles, and multiple facets.

Bulgari has revisited the concept this year with two new references in rhodium-plated steel and rose gold.

Like last year’s watch, they feature sandblasted cases, dials, and bracelets that offer a modern, more understated look.

Compared to the titanium-cased original, the version in rose gold offers a warmer, more luxurious take, while the version in rhodium-plated steel sits at the other end of the spectrum with its bright, cool surfaces.

The Octo – a men’s collection?

Whilst it’s a fact that the Octo is positioned as a men’s collection and tends to have larger case diameters that typically exceed 40 millimetres, it can (and must) be argued that it’s equally suitable for women.

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic for her?

Not as a “boyfriend watch”, mind you, but as a bona fide ladies’ timepiece that women can buy, wear, and appreciate.

As mentioned above, the Octo’s case is defined by its lines, angles, and surfaces that all combine into a balanced, seamless whole.

It may lack the gentle curves that are typically found on women’s timepieces, but Bulgari’s jewellery creations themselves also often sport equally stark designs with architectural slants.

If the new timepieces introduced above are any indication, the Octo’s penchant for thinness will make it a comfortable fit on the wrist, while its experimentations with different materials and textures offer choices aplenty.

As for its case size? Take a closer look at the Octo’s lug design – the watch actually wears a fair bit smaller than its diameter suggests.

For the modern woman who’s looking for a tour de force in design that’s less traditional (read: overtly feminine), this will be it.

Feature and in-post images courtesy of Curatedition.

Related links:

Baselworld 2018

Bvlgari: New Interpretations of the Serpenti

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