Last week I paid my annual visit to the BaselWorld watch fair in Switzerland. Much like last year the watch releases that excited me the most came from Bvlgari, the Roman jewelry and luxury goods house that has made a serious entry into the world of watchmaking in the last years with the popular Octo range. Designed by Gerald Genta, of Royal Oak and Nautilus fame, Bvlgari has made the iconic Octo design very much their own by developing a line-up of record breaking watches under the name.
Most of you will probably know the titanium Octo Finissimo that was released at BaselWorld last year. It broke records as the (then) thinnest automatic watch with a total case thickness of 5.15mm, made possible by a newly developed in-house BVL138 movement that is a mere 2.23mm thick and charged by a micro-rotor. It also has a notable weight: on full titanium bracelet a mere 73 grams, on croc leather strap even less. Due to its monochromatic titanium palette it is a very under-the-radar watch, a stealthy statement of taste and wealth. This year Bvlgari released a version for those who simply do not do stealth: the Octo Finissimo in rose gold.
What I love about this watch is that Bvlgari decided to once again not take a traditional road. They did not go for polished or brushed rose gold, they went for a sandblasted finish instead. It really needs to be seen in the flesh to be fully appreciated, much like the titanium version. But believe me when I say: when you see it in the flesh you will want it instantly. I have several friends who started off hesitant, only to fall in love when holding it in their hands. This amazing piece comes with a pretty hefty price tag - EUR 44,900 - but I believe they will sell like hotcakes regardless.
Those who prefer steel sport watches will be delighted to hear Bvlgari also released a steel version. Once again sandblasted, it completes the sandblasted Octo Finissimo automatic trilogy. This piece is perfect for those wishing for a bit more weight on the wrist than the titanium version can offer, and also presents a slightly cheaper entry point into the collection at EUR 12,900.
Now on to the haute horlogerie releases of Bvlgari, which are nothing short of insane. It started with the reveal of the thinnest automatic tourbillon in the world, with a case thickness of just 3.95mm (!!!). Without getting too technical, Bvlgari had to develop a brand-new BVL288 movement featuring a peripheral rotor placed at the back and made of the perfect combination of gold and aluminium to attain the right density, on top of developing a one-minute flying tourbillon using a ball bearing system. All of this was achieved within a self-winding movement only 1.95mm thick. That is only slightly thicker than a robust business card. Like I said, insane!!
The case back of the watch features a sapphire opening shaped after the doorway of Bvlgari's flagship Via Condotti store that gives way onto the rear of the flying tourbillon mechanism. This Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic will be a limited edition of 50 units retailing at USD 118,000.
Last but certainly not least, Bvlgari reinvented its Finissimo Minute Repeater (which also holds the world record for thinnest minute repeater). This time it used a material called CTP ("Carbon Thin Ply", carbon fiber reinforced thermo-setting epoxy resin) once again breaking with the traditional watchmaking mantra that requires minute repeaters to be spacious and made of rose or yellow gold for optimal chime sound. You would not believe the sound that comes out of this watch! A spectacular achievement with an equally spectacular price - USD 160,000. This will also be a limited edition of 50, each unit having its corresponding number featured on the crown as pictured below:
Thanks to Bvlgari for letting us get a hands-on experience of these beauties and thanks to Timo Schoones and Gustavo Kuri for taking these pictures for me. I hope you enjoyed this short review - be sure to regularly check back for more!