By Jonathan Bues
When I first saw the Bulgari Octo Finissimo in Basel, my first thought was how long it would be before I could test drive it. Unfortunately, I had to wait until late June to put it on my wrist. But as I end my week with Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo Automatique, I can say, without equivocation, that it was worth it. The latest in Bulgari’s popular Octo Finissimo line—slimmed-down versions of the product family that inherited the design DNA of the former Gérald Genta brand—the watch is not only a record-breaker, but a strong contender for the most critically lauded timepiece premiered at Baselworld 2017.
The record in question, as anybody familiar with the Octo Finissimo range already knows, concerns thinness. In this case the Octo Finissimo Automatique sports the thinnest automatic movement currently in production. Coming in at a mere 2.23 mm, the new Caliber BVL 128 achieves its record-breaking thinness through the use of a microrotor and a design that spreads the movement’s components and functions across its larger than typical diameter. The case holding the watch measures 5.15 mm thin.
One of the real joys of this watch is its bracelet, which was carefully integrated with the ultrathin case, and is therefore made of links that are svelte in their own right. Nevertheless, the Genta-esque design delivers a sturdy construction, excellent comfort, and, due to the titanium structure, a pleasantly light weight.
This is the third record-breaking timepiece in the ultrathin category for Bulgari. The previous record-setters were the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon (the world’s thinnest tourbillon) and the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater (the thinnest minute repeater). The latter is so thin that, according to the watchmakers who craft it at Bulgari, the manually wound minute repeater is actually more difficult to assemble than a grande sonnerie.
The Octo Finissimo case is made in the familiar faceted style that has come to define the Octo range. Crafted from sandblasted titanium and presented in a monochrome gray colorway with black PVD-coated hands, the Octo Finissimo Automatique was a hit with critics and press, and even had one of my editorial colleagues, a collector of some note, reaching for his credit card by the end of his Baselworld appointment.
Upon donning the Octo Finissimo Automatique for the first time, I was immediately struck by the watch’s wrist presence. The case is only 40 mm from edge to edge—not large by modern standards—yet it wears like a timepiece in the 42 to 44 mm range. I attribute this deceptively large feeling on the wrist to the square case and the precise integration of the bracelet, which is nearly as wide as the case at its connecting point.
Speaking of the bracelet, this is one of my favorite watch bracelets in recent memory. Its integration with the watch head is as seamless as the connection formed when the butterfly clasp is fastened, another high point of the Octo Finissimo Automatique designs.
The Octo Finissimo Automatique is, in my opinion, the finest ultrathin timepiece of 2017. Beyond the technical achievements that are manifest in the watch, its design is a winner. So often, when one encounters an ultrathin watch, it bears the design codes of a classic dress watch. Rare is there an ultrathin with a sporty streak and avant-garde design details. And as with most products, not just watches, standing out from the pack is the surest way to get attention.