According to some expert somewhere, 90% of all watches sold are round.

Sounds right, but when you think it through a little more, you realize it’s probably one of those things we all accept, but is probably not actually true.

Bulgari has a number of signature watches, including the Serpenti and Lvcea for women, the Bulgari Bulgari and more, but the most iconic men’s watch, and currently the standard bearer for the brand, is the Octo.

Not round but not tonneau or square, the Octo is a combination of round and square that is distinctive and “cultish,” but above all, a success. And it reinforces Bulgari’s slogan, “Life is not round.”

This year, Bulgari takes the Octo where no watch brandhas ever gone before.

The latest Finissimo is the…

The stealthy appearance and super-slim silhouette make the Octo Finissimo Automatic as easy to wear casually as it is to sport with a more formal look. Navy silk-cashmere jumper, Helbers; blue denim jeans, Levi’s Vintage. (Portrait Photography Nico Bustos; Fashion stylist Jo Grzeszczuk)

The Octo Finissimo Automatic: Thin is In

A new standard for elegance, the Octo Finissimo Automatic is the ultimate no-frills gent’s timepiece. On the cutting edge of fashion with a monochromatic look, the Finissimo Automatic is thin yet bold, a watch that slips under a tuxedo cuff but looks great with jeans and a T-shirt.

“So, we arrive to the innovation of the year, the Finissimo Automatic,” says Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO, Bulgari. “It came from the Minute Repeater, the idea of the dial and the case being made of the same material, for a monochromatic look. We decided to do an automatic Finissimo, making it the ultimate daily watch. You accept manual winding on occasional watches, but when people use a watch every day, they expect it to be automatic. All the other Finissimo timepieces are hand-wound mechanical.

“The challenge was to add the rotating mass without making it thicker, which seemed impossible,” Babin continues. “The first idea was to have an oscillating mass that went around the movement, but that would increase the case size. So, we decided to go with a micro rotor, but we needed to use platinum so it would have enough inertia. We had to find a place for it, because it’s as big as a barrel, so we had to reduce everything to its smallest. For the rest of the watch, we went full titanium for its lightness and dimension of elegance. The Finissimo is the flagship of Bulgari for high end watches, embodying the best of Bulgari excellence in engineering and design. Here, you have everything Bulgari stands for–excellence, design, boldness, the art of watchmaking, style  and technology.”

Bulgari's two new super models: Jon Kortajarena and the record-breaking Octo Finissimo Automatic. Cream cashmere roll neck, Private White V.C. (Portrait Photography Nico Bustos; Fashion stylist Jo Grzeszczuk)

Making such a thin automatic watch is a real watchmaking challenge. “You are using the space at its extreme possibilities,” explains Guido Terreni, director of watches for Bulgari. “You have 130 or 140 components, but they have to function in such a thin space. The tolerances and their position is reduced to a minimum. We wanted the movement to fill the case, so when you turn the watch over, you see this beautiful, wide movement, and as a result the tolerances are reduced to the minimum.

“We are always looking for the most elegant and beautiful timepieces,” he continues. “The thickness of the movement affects the aesthetics of the watch. Having a thin movement brings the elegance to a higher level, and makes it contemporary, thin, a watch for today and tomorrow, with maximum elegance.”

The 41mm Finissimo Automatic is designed to be an everyday watch, a timepiece its owner will want to wear all the time. And Bulgari has succeeded–when you wear something so elegant and sophisticated, yet light and thin, why would you ever want to take it off?

Doing Things The Bulgari Way

You can’t accuse Bulgari of doing things the conventional way. Most companies would start with simple watches and move towards the more complicated. Not Bulgari. Instead, Bulgari started their thin adventure with the Finissimo Tourbillon, then went to the Finissimo Petite Seconde, then the Finissimo Minute Repeater, and this year, the Finissimo Automatic.

“We don’t often do things according to the norm,” admits Terreni. “Going from complicated to simple is very Bulgari. Many of the most iconic things that Bulgari has brought to market have not been in a linear or logical way. The Finissimo collection looks at what Bulgari has done in the past and takes it further. It started with Bulgari trying to make a difference in the world of high watchmaking. We are very proud of our manufacture in Switzerland, and this is an opportunity for us to show off our watchmaking prowess.

“We wanted to go into ultrathin complications, but not to put record setters on the market,” he continues. “This was an internal test to see how far we could push convention. When the Finissimo first came out, it was very successful, and there was an appetite for more from inside and outside our company. We asked ourselves how we could keep pushing ourselves. We thought the automatic would be a great addition to the range, and it is the thinnest automatic movement on the market. We are confident that it will generate just as much excitement as the other three.”

Going thin isn’t easy. Reducing a watch to its bare minimum as Bulgari has done means carefully removing every bit of material possible, while still ensuring the watch’s ability to perform and survive the slings and arrows of normal life. To the brand’s credit, the Finissimo models undergo the same tests all the other watches do, and they have to pass with flying colors before they are released for sale.

Another Finissimo execution introduced this year is the…

Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Skeleton

Bulgari modified its Finissimo Tourbillon to develop a skeletonized timepiece of real distinction. Maintaining its ultrathin character, the BVL 268 Finissimo caliber is the record holder, after all, but removing even more material to showcase the high watchmaking character of the timepiece was a master stroke.

“Finissimo is thin without compromising the design,” says Babin. “This was the birth of the Finissimo Tourbillon, where people discovered that thin could be strong. For the first time, we had the thinnest watch ever with a strong pedigree. People fell in love with the concept of no compromise. The success really piled on success. We came with the minute repeater, which was acclaimed for being so thin and the coolness of the design. Octo is bringing daily enjoyment into high complications.”

And enjoy it you will, as exposing the movement showcases all the wheels, barrel and gears to great effect, making this Octo even more distinctive.

Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Skeleton

The Iconic Octo

There is no doubt that the Octo is the lead dog for Bulgari. “Since its launch, we have grown the Octo year by year, and it is now, as a collection, the most important for Bulgari,” says Terreni. “The Octo never leaves you indifferent. It is very strong and powerful, and it is undeniable watchmaking. It’s a complex execution, and it’s not something conventional. We are not about conventional design. We design objects for people who want to distance themselves from the mass of luxury.”

For the USA, the Octo leads the charge as well. “Everything starts with the Octo,” says Terreni. “Octo is actually a design that is relatively young, we only started this in 2012. Within a very short period of time, this style and the relevance of Octo has been quite incredible. It’s become iconic for us.

The design is very distinctive, it’s very bold, and it’s very different. We play with many different codes, which is quite daring. The combination of the angular plus the circular is very distinctive. The original Octo has 110 facets in the case, the way it is manufactured and assembled is quite incredible. The connection back to Italy and Rome and the DNA. Even though we are Swiss Made, the Octo combines this expertise with the DNA of the brand. The Octo really resonates-it has attained cult status in such a short period, imagine what it can do in the decades to come.”

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic

Bulgari the Company

Bulgari is a unique combination of Italian/Roman heritage and design with Swiss watchmaking know-how and attention to detail. Bulgari was founded in 1884 in Rome as a jewelry brand, and the company has been mining the rich history of Roman design and aesthetic ever since, expanding into watches, leather goods, fragrances, hotels and more.

“Bulgari, being the Roman jeweler, inherits in its style the strength and volumes of the Roman architecture,” explains Babin. “Nothing was big enough for the Romans. They are always larger than life. We inherit this larger than life attitude in our products, our events.

“When we came into the watches, on the ladies side, it was obvious, extract from our best jewelry,” he continues. “For men, it was a different game. Men in ancient times didn’t wear much jewelry, and modern men don’t wear much jewelry either. Men’s watches were born from women shopping for jewelry and the men were bored, so it was a risk of losing the sale, so in 1975 Mr. Bulgari had the wonderful idea of creating a watch to keep the men in the story longer, first as a gift, to thank them for their patience, then in 1977 as a commercial venture. Now, our watches embody strength, boldness, volumes, a monument in watches that mirror the monuments that inspired our jewelry. The Octagon has been famous for centuries, it’s the most famous geometrical shape, and the Octo was born in 2012 as a monumental watch, 110 facets, strong, a Roman monument on the wrist. This attracted men right away, it had high watchmaking in it, but it has an aesthetic that was powerful, and it had a design never seen before.”

Octo Velocissimo Chronograph

Bulgari and Complications

Bulgari has made the transition from a jewelry brand that also offered watches to a true watchmaking leader, with a collection of high watchmaking pieces to rival any other Swiss brand. And now the Finissimo collection has taken it to heights only reached by a select few other Swiss companies.

Bulgari now has the heritage, the expertise and the legitimacy to be a major player for a very long time to come

Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Ultanero

The New Octo Roma

Just in time for Basel, Bulgari has introduced a new Octo line, the Roma. Keeping the same octagonal shape for which the Octo has become famous, the Roma line softens the aesthetic, with fewer facets (58, down from 110). This makes the watch appealing to perhaps a broader range of customers, for whom the original Octo is too bold.

“The Roma is on a narrower bracelet, which is a more classic look,” Babin points out. “The lugs were external and underneath the case, so it was really bold. We redesigned the lugs to be narrower and more comfortable, which leads to a younger, easier, more urban watch. It’s easier to appreciate for people joining the category. There are 58 facets, and we’ve called it Roma.

“It’s the same size as the Octo, but it seems smaller,” he continues. “These are two different watches, which will go to two different clients.”

The new Octo Roma is available in five versions with three dial variations (white, black or brown), in either steel, two tone gold and steel or gold cases.

The New Octo Roma

Octo Ultranero

This year, Bulgari has also introduced two new Octo Ultraneros, both with black DLC treatments, one with a striking red color scheme, where the hands, numerals and indices are all in a deep red, and the other uses black in the place of red.

The Future of Bulgari

Bulgari’s future is bright. Riding a high of true success all around the world, Babin is looking forward to the challenges yet to come.

“I am having a lot of fun,” Babin says with a wide smile. “It’s more than fun, it’s excitement. Watches by themselves are a full-fledged category, but the same can be said for jewelry, hotels, fragrances and leather goods. It’s creative, full Italian and the company spirit is a joyful spirit that you would categorize with the Dolce Vita.”

Bulgari and the USA

One of the biggest markets for Bulgari is the US market, and the brand is focusing here with an eye to growing its share of potentially the world’s biggest market for watches.

“For North America, being ultrathin is a challenge, to enter the market and to make a name in something that is so difficult to do,” says Bulgari NA’s Paltridge. “We knew we had the capabilities and the manufacture rose to the challenge. Bulgari is an iconic, Roman brand, there is something that is very powerful and strong in the styling to have an ultra-thin watch on your wrist. It’s very elegant and sophisticated, and you know the craftsmanship that goes into it. Even if you don’t know anything about watchmaking and you saw this watch on a gentleman’s wrist, you would know that there is something very different about it. Some brands that have gone to chunky and big, but there is something very elegant about having something so thin yet complicated on your wrist.

“Every year, it keeps getting harder to take the next step,” he continues. “I’d rather have this problem than to not know what to do next. We have this iconic design which we will keep on reinterpreting, and we have a number of ideas yet to work on. Every year we have raised the bar and we will continue to do so.”

Bulgari is doing everything right, and has been doing so for several years now. The move into ultrathin was perfectly timed, just as consumers were tiring of the big and bulky, the Octo Finissimo collection took off.

And the Octo offers people something different. Not round, not square, but decidedly unique. The Octo is a triumph of design and style, and it suits Bulgari perfectly, as it mirrors the shape of Roman columns.

Life is not round, and neither is the Octo.

Navy evening jacket and trousers, Dunhill; cream silk shirt, Ralph Lauren Purple Label.(Portrait Photography Nico Bustos; Fashion stylist Jo Grzeszczuk)

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