Watches from jewelry and luxury brands usually have a hard time being taken seriously by the watch community. And when many people hear Bulgari they probably think of jewelry, perfume or leather goods rather than high-quality watches from Switzerland. But Bulgari is not a fashion label that has its logo printed on cheap quartz watches, only to offer them with a hefty surcharge. In fact, Bulgari offers the finest of Swiss Made watchmaking art. From its Swiss subsidiary Bulgari Haute Horlogerie SA, founded in 1980 and headquartered in Neuchâtel, the luxury group creates high quality timepieces with an independent design and record breaking technology (more on this below). The high quality is also evident in the Montredo Review of the Bulgari Octo Chronographs, whose unusual design combined with the special construction of the movements makes it worth taking a close look at the Bulgari Octo collection.
Bulgari presented the first Octo in 2012. Designed by Gérald Genta, who had already created the Nautilus for Patek Philippe and the Royal Oak for Audemars Piguet, the Octo’s appearance is clearly in the same tradition. The shape of the octagonal bezel is said to have been influenced by ancient Roman architecture. The result is a purist, almost industrial design that clearly stands out from other manufacturers, but certainly does not suit everyone’s taste.
Nevertheless, over the years the Octo has developed into one of the most commercially successful of the Italian brand’s product lines and is constantly being updated – most recently with new models presented at Dubai Watch Week 2020.
The modern, minimalist aesthetics are particularly evident in the Octo Finissimo, which Bulgari has also used as a showcase for its technical capabilities. The Octo Finissimo not only offers flat elegance and sporty elements, but has set one record after another for watch dimensions. The entry into the world of Finissimo watches starts at 12.500 € for a version with alligator leather (reference 103035).
The less angular Octo Roma offers a further development of the octagonal case, with the round bezel more prominent and the angular case almost disappearing behind it. This results in a less geometric aesthetic which is more suitable for everyday use. One could even say that the Roma, by slightly toning down its central elements, represents a less consistent implementation of the original design idea. Factor in the reduction of the diameter to 41mm, and the Roma becomes the ideal watch for anybody finding the traditional Octo too radical. All in all, the Roma presents as somewhat more urban, chic and elegant. Prices for the Roma start at 6,100 € for a version with alligator leather (reference 102855).
Besides the Finissimo and the Roma, Bulgari also has the L’Original models in its product line. These offer the same architecture, but with slightly thicker bodies and lower prices. Bulgari offers sportier models from its collaboration with Maserati as well.
As already mentioned, Bulgari has built up an excellent reputation as a watchmaker over the years, as the following records impressively demonstrate:
The Octo Finissimo minute repeater, which appeared on the market in 2016, set the record as the world’s thinnest minute repeater. It contains one of the most complex complications of a watch, the likes of which only a handful of renowned manufacturers have in their product range. The 40 millimeter titanium case measures only 6.85 millimeters in thickness, the BVL 362 hand-wound movement a mere 3.12 millimeters thin.
The Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater Carbon is limited to 50 pieces and costs 169.000 Euro.
With the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic, Bulgari has held another world record since 2018, actually combining two records in one watch: with an overall thickness of only 3.95 millimeters, the watch is not only the thinnest tourbillon, but also the thinnest automatic watch in the world. The automatic tourbillon movement 288 is only 1.95 millimeters thick.
Bulgari built only 50 copies of this world record watch and has sold them for 125,000 Euros each.
Last but not least, Bulgari also produces the slimmest automatic chronograph: the 6.90 millimetre Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT, introduced in 2019. The manufacture caliber BVL 318 used for this is an astonishing 3.30 millimeters thick and has a remarkable 55 hour power reserve.
To be able to wear this world record on your wrist, you have to put 17,400 Euros on the table (reference: 103068). The watch is available here.
Incidentally, the thinnest mechanical wristwatch in the world is currently (as of January 2020) the Altiplano 38mm from Piaget, with an overall thickness of 3.65 millimeters. Let’s see if Bulgari can break this record at Baselworld 2020.