BVLGARI isn’t your average watchmaker. Far from it. The Roman-born company is one of the most internationally recognized luxury brands there is today, and its jewelry collections are some of the best known of any maker. Names like the Serpenti, the Monete, and the Tubogas are just a few of the icons from BVLGARI’s history as a jeweler. In recent years, one of the brand’s watch collections has made a strong bid to join the ranks of BVLGARI’s most legendary creations: the Octo Finissimo.
Since the release of the first Octo in 2012 (the first ultra-thin variant wouldn’t be until 2014), BVLGARI has quickly established itself as one of the most ambitious watchmakers working today. In just eight years, the Octo Finissimo line has grown exponentially, and with it, BVLGARI has broken no less than five records related to one of watchmaking’s oldest pursuits: thinness. First came the 2014 Octo Finissimo Tourbillon, the thinnest tourbillon in the world. It was followed two years later, in 2016, by the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, the world’s thinnest production minute repeater. The next three releases happened in rapid succession over the same number of years: Octo Finissimo Automatic, which was the thinnest automatic wristwatch upon its debut; the Octo Finissimo Automatic Tourbillon, which not only became the thinnest tourbillon ever, but also claimed the title of the thinnest automatic watch; finally, the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT, which was released just last year as the thinnest chronograph in the world at only 6.9mm tall – and it even includes a 24-hour second time-zone display for good measure.
Six years. Five record-breaking watches. Only Octo Finissimo.
The constant stream of success for BVLGARI is one the most impressive watchmaking feats of this century, and what might be the most incredible aspect of BVLGARI’s run is that, even if you disregard the broken records for a moment, all of the Octo Finissimo models would still stand out, completely on their own design merit. The emblematic case profile – with its sculptural angles, straight lines, and step-like facets – is immediately striking and unlike any other contemporary design. These watches have a rare level of appeal that relates to both visual aesthetics and physical wearability. The Octo Finissimo collection is a showcase for BVLGARI’s sophisticated watchmaking know-how, and it has already cemented its status as a contemporary classic.
We added BVLGARI and the Octo Finissimo collection to the HODINKEE Shop last winter, and today, we want to take you through some of the models that we have currently available and highlight what makes them so special.
The BVLGARI Octo Finissimo Automatic
The Numbers You Should Know: 5.15mm Case Thickness; 2.23mm Movement Thickness
At its launch in 2017, the Octo Finissimo Automatic stood alone as the world’s thinnest automatic timepiece. While the record-breaking launches that preceded this watch – the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon and Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater – were clear-cut examples of BVLGARI’s unique haute horlogerie bona fides, the Octo Finissimo Automatic changed the game for collectors of all types, permanently. It even brought home the 2017 prize for Men’s Watch, which is typically one of the most contested categories, at the 2017 edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG).
Think of all the automatic watches in your collection – there are probably quite a few, right? Now imagine if all of those over 10mm (and let’s be honest, that’s probably most of them) were suddenly shaved in half. It would immediately make them more wearable and comfortable on the wrist, while also opening up a number of new possibilities for where those watches can be worn. Thinness clearly matters, but the Octo Finissimo Automatic also stands out for its overall design. With a 40mm case diameter made of sandblasted titanium (yes, this ultra-thin watch also happens to be ultra-light), the Octo Finissimo Automatic defied the convention that thin watchmaking equals fragility. And with its versatile combination of sporty and dressy elements, this record-breaker is really a daily driver at its core.
The sandblasted titanium case is truly matte in appearance – there are no polished or shiny surfaces – and the case flows directly into the famous Octo Finissimo bracelet, where it then slinks around the wrist for an immaculate fit. One of the most unique aspects of the Octo Finissimo Automatic is its unexpected lug width of 30mm, which is why the bracelet was engineered specifically to meet the Octo Finissimo case. It stretches that entire lug width at the point of integration, before seamlessly tapering down into the folding clasp. The folding clasp at first posed a problem for the BVLGARI team – how could a clasp be integrated into this design without an unseemly bulge? BVLGARI ended up designing the interior of the folding clasp to fold neatly into the back of the links, reducing its thickness on the wrist.
When most people think of the Octo Finissimo Automatic today, it’s typically the sandblasted titanium model that comes to mind. But the overall strength and integrity of the original design have resulted in a number of subsequent variants in other case metals, including one in stainless steel and another in black ceramic. The stainless steel variant of the Octo Finissimo Automatic has a similar all-matte finish to the titanium version, but it does have a trick up its sleeve. BVLGARI has applied a minuscule layer of gold and palladium to the steel case before giving it a final rhodium treatment, which creates its distinct, almost-silver appearance. This was a deliberate choice by BVLGARI that, in our opinion, elevates the idea of a stainless-steel watch to new aesthetic heights. The brightness of the finish, along with the use of stainless steel, results in an Octo Finissimo that is even easier to read than its titanium counterpart, while also being slightly less expensive.
The other variant of the Octo Finissimo Automatic in the HODINKEE Shop doesn’t boast quite the record-breaking pedigree of the previous designs, as the thickness had to be slightly upsized (only by .45mm! New case thickness: 5.50mm) to accommodate the fully black ceramic case. BVLGARI crafted every single inch of the watch’s case and bracelet – even the clasp! – from scratch-resistant ceramic. It’s a bold and dramatic interpretation of the Octo Finissimo design that pushes the watch even further into uncharted territory. We can’t get enough of it.
Inside each Octo Finissimo Automatic is the BVL 138 caliber, measuring in at just 2.23mm tall (which is slimmer than most of the leather straps available in the HODINKEE Shop). Its thinness is the result of a platinum micro-rotor that sits flush with the movement mainplate, extending the movement diameter up to 36.6mm (remember, the watch itself is only 40mm in diameter), but allowing for a healthy 60 hours of running autonomy. The movement is visible through a sapphire crystal caseback, which includes côtes de Genève across the mainplate, individually chamfered bevels, and perlage under the platinum oscillating weight. This is a wonderfully executed in-house movement that is able to be appreciated in all its glory thanks to the exhibition caseback.
The BVLGARI Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT
The Numbers You Should Know: 6.9mm Case Thickness; 3.3mm Movement Thickness
The Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT was revealed to the public just last spring, and it had an almost immediate indelible effect on the entire chronograph category. It is the thinnest mechanical chronograph ever, with the self-winding caliber BVL 318 measuring just 3.3mm tall – that’s about the height of two U.S. quarters stacked on top of each other. And for those keeping track, it’s also less than a single millimeter thicker than the BVL 138 movement inside the Octo Finissimo Automatic, despite the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT having both chronograph functionality and a GMT display. Fully cased up, the watch measures a slim 6.9mm. Although BVLGARI might make it look easy, it’s actually quite difficult to set new records in the realm of extra-flat watchmaking; the previous owner of the record held it for 32 consecutive years. Is it any surprise that BVLGARI proudly took home last year’s GPHG award in the Chronograph category?
The titanium case is paired with the Octo Finissimo bracelet, so the watch largely carries forward with the same overall aesthetic as the original Octo Finissimo Automatic, but the movement inside has been executed completely differently. Rather than using a micro-rotor, the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT utilizes a peripheral winding system made of platinum and aluminum for maximized winding efficiency. Further, caliber BVL 318 is a fully integrated, column-wheel chronograph movement with lateral clutch, and it’s crafted entirely in-house by BVLGARI watchmakers at its Neuchâtel manufacture.
The GMT functionality is located in the three o’clock sub-dial in the form of a secondary 24-hour display that functions as home time and can be adjusted through the crown. The central handset can be adjusted in independent, one-hour jumps through an integrated pusher on the side of the case opposite the crown. The chronograph is of course controlled by a pair of actuators located above and below the crown, and they function smoothly and efficiently thanks to the BVL 318’s column wheel. The two additional registers on the dial help the Octo Finissimo GMT channel a classic three-register chronograph design, with a nice and balanced orientation that makes legibility easy.
It’s been a little over one year since the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT was released, and we’re still in awe over it. The specs, the design, the movement – it’s really the whole package. So if you’ve ever wondered what all the noise surrounding the Octo Finissimo is about, this is a great place to start. It’s the perfect summation of BVLGARI’s one-of-a-kind horological initiative, and it won’t be going away anytime soon.
The BVLGARI Octo Finissimo Skeleton
The Numbers You Should Know: 5.15mm Case Thickness; 2.35mm Movement Thickness
There’s one more Octo Finissimo model currently available in the HODINKEE Shop, and it’s quite a departure from the Octo Finissimo Automatics and Chronograph GMT. It’s executed in sandblasted rose gold, has a manually wound movement, and is completely openworked. The Octo Finissimo Skeleton uses the Octo Finissimo case as a framework for success, but subverts any sort of prior expectations with a maximalist design that leaves an immediate impression.
This manually wound Octo Finissimo has a power reserve display located above the model’s standard small seconds that will neatly indicate when the watch needs to be wound. On that note, winding the Octo Finissimo Skeleton is an absolute dream. The openworked design offers a full view of the movement’s barrel (located near one and two o’clock), allowing you to actually see the mainspring gradually tighten with each turn of the crown. It’s a distinct pleasure that is somehow both tactile and visual, and you won’t get tired of it.
BVLGARI isn’t slowing down. Earlier this year, the brand introduced a satin-polished steel version of the Octo Finissimo with both a black and blue dial. The new steel variants introduce a more complicated mix of textures to the case, with an alternating matte satin finish and a high polish, in addition to a slightly thicker case design (slightly meaning about .1mm). The thicker case comes with a welcome attribute: These new Octo Finissimos are tested to 100 meters of water resistance, surpassing the current design’s 30 meters. And with the first-ever Geneva Watch Days coming up on the calendar shortly (it’s currently scheduled to begin on August 26), who knows what other surprises BVLGARI has planned. Maybe another record? We’ll have to wait and see.
Owning an Octo Finissimo today is a legitimately rare opportunity in the watch industry. Many of the most popular and desired watches today are the result of cyclical trends, but BVLGARI has been able to produce a unique collection of watches that goes beyond any current fad. These are watches that look to the future of watchmaking, from both a technical and aesthetic perspective. In other words, today is the perfect day to hop onto the BVLGARI bandwagon, and you can discover our entire current BVLGARI Octo Finissimo line-up for yourself, right here.