Wei

I’m going to go on record and say that the watch you are wearing is the best watch I’ve seen at both watch fairs so far, and it is probably going to be the best watch of the year. It is the ultimate expression of street elegance, together with the ultimate in technical innovation, but in a package that is so charming. In addition, I feel that this is the year that the Octo has really come into its own in a brilliant way. Tell me more about the ambition behind this watch, and how it represents the culture of today.

Jean-Christophe

Thank you for the compliment, and coming from you we know that it is sincere. At Bulgari, we can only be proud receiving such a compliment. It has been years since we have been developing our grande complication skills and capabilities, and it is fantastic when it is not a normal complication but something way beyond. Our philosophy is very much about comfortable luxury. On one hand, we are obviously paying tribute to the heritage and tradition of minute repeaters, which is probably the grandest of the grande complications. On the other hand, taking the challenge of making it slim is very consistent with our identity as a jeweler. We want to bring to men the ultimate elegance, but also to bring it in a very casual and modern way.

Today, the people wearing minute repeaters also probably wear jeans and t-shirts, and are not necessarily always as dressed up as I am now. We wanted something that could not only provide the acoustics and pleasure for the ears, but could also fit this style. Octo seemed to be logically the obvious choice, but going Finissimo was an incredible challenge, because having great acoustics in a much smaller case was supposed to be impossible. Therefore, we came up with the idea of using titanium.

Titanium has a density that is much higher than gold, which allows it to have a much better sound. Using titanium also led to an unintended benefit with regards to the aesthetic. This kind of titanium is very hard to polish, and so we had to sandblast it. Thus, we ended up with an incredible look that makes it a very modern and contemporary watch. It has a petite seconde, but it is not exactly a petite seconde because it is a minute repeater. It can obviously be worn dressed up, but you can imagine the same watch worn dressed down with jeans. It’s perfect. Aside from the world record, I would say this is the first ever minute repeater that can be worn daily.

That’s fantastic. It has also such a stunning look, with the monochrome, the titanium material, and the incredible skeletonized titanium dial. Will you possibly extrapolate this look onto the other watches in your collection, and could this be the birth of a new titanium Octo family?

Well, we did not choose titanium for the sake of it, but for the functionality and to guarantee the acoustic quality of the minute repeater. We wanted to keep the acoustic pleasure, and have enough emotion to make you cry when you hear the ringing. That’s all. We did not use titanium to tell the world that we can use titanium, because so many brands can use titanium. So, I am not sure if we are going to have a range of titanium watches just for the sake of it. Maybe yes if titanium has a real value-adding function, such as the aesthetics, because sandblasted titanium provides a very special look, or for a complication with titanium, because we do not like to do things just for the sake of it. About the record for thinnest minute repeater, although we are very proud and glad to have the record, it was an unintended consequence of wanting to produce the most elegant and most contemporary minute repeater, and we had not meant initially to break the record for this.

That’s amazing. You had Luke Evans last night wearing this beautiful skeletonized piece as well. Tell us a little bit about that, and how it brings a sense of the contemporary to the skeleton design that we have never seen before.

Jean-Christophe Babin, Olga Kurylenko and Luke Evans

The beauty of the Finissimo, as suggested by the name, is that it is extra flat. Therefore, we are working with a movement that is very, very limited in height. This allows the skeleton to be really remarkable, because you are virtually on the same plane. It is not 3D. It is virtually 2D in terms of the components. So, it provides a visual effect that no other skeleton is able to provide, because they are three dimensional. We are playing with different rules, which can be an advantage. Playing with only two dimensions provides more density and more strength, which combines with the decoration to make an extremely contemporary design. It is also pretty cool because when seen from the eye you hardly see the skeleton, but paying a bit more attention you realize it is a very special skeleton because its totally transparent and you can see through it. It is a bit like the 110 angles of the Octo, which strikes at your imagination.

The Octo today has two great references in high complication, the tourbillon and the minute repeater. Also, it has become one of the great icons in the watchmaking world. Is this something that you always knew would happen, and are you happy now that you have seen the true maturity of your vision?

When I first got into the company, I was myself very impressed by the design of the Octo. It was neither round nor square, and it was very reminiscent of the huge Imperial ceilings in the city of Rome. However, it was only available in one size, 41mm, and only in two materials, gold or steel, which by the way did not fit my wrist. I was a bit frustrated with that, because I loved the watch, not just as the CEO of the brand but also as someone who is passionate about watches. However, it was a bit too big for me. At this stage, together with Guido, we decided to turn it from a model product into a true range.

We expanded to different sizes, adding the 38mm, the 40mm, and moving also in terms of functionality from a simple watch into a chronograph, and eventually to Finissimo. Last but not least, we also used different materials and not only gold or steel. We added steel and gold, or platinum, and eventually gave birth to a broad range. Not forgetting, of course, the Retro and Bi-Retro, which are very nice small complications. This attracted many more clients to the Octo, and much more media coverage, because people started to realize that this was an incredible design. It was young too, let’s not forget, coming only in 2012. Even then, it was something that I had never seen before. It had a sophistication in the case, together with strength and power, even when it was extra flat. An icon? Probably as an expert you can better judge, but to be humble, I would say we are still in the process of becoming an Icon. Claiming to be an icon after only four years seems a bit arrogant, but if we keep working properly with the minute repeater, the tourbillon, the skeletonisation, and the beauty of the watches, we will probably have the unique opportunity within our watchmaking lifetime to give birth to an icon.