Bulgari Goes Beyond ‘Ultra Thin’By Bhanu Chopra
The 10-year anniversary of the Octo line is upon us, and Bulgari plans to celebrate with a new watch and an event in Rome. It is not just a new Octo with impressive complications, it is a paper-thin watch, prevailing over Piaget’s 2mm thin Altiplano Ultimate Concept watch. Development has been a challenge like nothing they’ve taken on before, with the back case acting as a fully integrated part of the movement and using materials that can be durable at incredibly thin measurements.
This is a timepiece that will generate new patents and push boundaries on materials engineering and movement architecture. It’s hard not to get caught up in their excitement as Bulgari describes the incredible breakthroughs that this timepiece will usher into the industry.
Breaking the Rules
The concept was to change the rules on the movement, designing the components to go outside of their traditional boundaries to achieve the vision. The case and the movement are designed to be indistinguishable parts of a whole. The Octo line holds seven world records already, and this new model is expected to take the eighth with only 1.8mm thickness. The architectural elements will stay true to the Octo shape and DNA, but the movement will be a departure with the barrel and hour counters breaking through and around this defining shape to achieve these new dimensions.
“The movement is incredible,” said Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, creative director at Bulgari and designer of the new watch. “The watch looks like a three- dimensional object from the top, but it’s credit card thin on the side, like a stage illusion that tricks the eye.”
It seems incredible that Bulgari can achieve it, but the prototype is already undergoing testing with titanium so thin, that it can be folded. The integrated bracelet is just as complicated as the watch in some ways, creating a thinness of 1.8mm in the bracelet and the folding buckle all the way around the wrist. The bracelet on the Ultra will be half the thickness of the previous with a totally integrated buckle for a uniform aesthetic all the way around.
Technically, this watch can be considered a regulateur since hours, minutes, and seconds are displayed in three different subdials, but not in the traditional sense. Traditionally, minutes are the focus on a regulateur dial. However, here they are simply displayed in one of three separate subdials — the hours in top right, minutes on the bottom right, and the small seconds is overlapping the minutes subdial. The subdials violate the rules of design by overflowing into the 40mm case; however, Octo Finissimo’s angular case shape easily forgives the violation by retaining the overall design.
The partner referenced are the engineers at the La Chaux-de- Fonds based company, Concepto. Valérien Jaquet founded this company in 2006, and it has grown to produce between 50,000 and 60,000 mechanical movements each year for customer brands that include Hublot and Louis Moinet. Concepto partnered with Piaget in 2018 on their Altiplano Ultimate Concept, a timepiece that took the world record for the thinnest mechanical watch with its 2mm case height.
Bulgari wanted to challenge the world record with their new Octo Finissimo and turned to Concepto to help them realize their dream. The expectation is that this is the end- all-be-all in thin watches. The physical constraints around materials and architecture will make it nearly impossible to squeeze any more millimeters out of the design, so it’s possible this will be the final record-breaking concept.
“If you tell me this is ridiculous, I can’t say that it is not,” Antoine Pin, managing director of Bulgari’s watch division, told Revolution. “We wanted to make a statement, to push the boundaries. The materials are found everywhere, in screwdrivers even, but working with it on this scale is a challenge. It takes partners with incredible skill and inventiveness to achieve the vision. We have found those collaborators.”
The watch itself is a marvel of new ideas, but it goes much further than that. Innovation stretches beyond the timepiece itself to a unique digital experience unlike anything we’ve seen before. A QR code engraved on the Octo’s large barrel provides access to a Metaverse online experience that will give all the details of the product via a digital twin of the watch. The owner can travel inside the caliber with innovative 3D renderings, getting an intimate look at the internal workings. There will be a completely unique digital site for each particular timepiece. There is also a non-fungible token (NFT) concept in the works that will be associated with each physical Octo Finissimo Ultra edition.
“When they asked me what finishing I wanted for the barrel, it came to me that a QR code is the perfect design,” Stigliani said. “The modern square lines worked so well with the Octo shape, and the digital twin concept is such a revolutionary idea. It gives access to a whole world that is hidden in this little shape. It’s an object that sits in the middle between the old, traditional watchmaking world and the new, modern digital space.”
“This product is made to take advantage of new technologies and explore new ways to integrate the digital experience with the physical experience of watch ownership,” Pin said. “I believe we are getting somewhere that we didn’t expect back in 2019 when we first started talking about this idea. It’s been an incredible journey.”
According to Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari, “Our capability of fusing edgy, magnificent Italian design with the ultimate Swiss engineering and craftmanship – this is why I talk about Rinascimento from Bulgari. It is truly a revolution of design and technology”
First of Many
According to Pin, it is an evolving platform that will see many developments to come, but this first release of 10 watches will be a celebration worthy of the 10-year anniversary of the record-breaking Octo product line. But as far as the chase of world records is concerned, Bulgari will take a bow with the eighth record. The Octo Finissimo series will continue developing with complications and materials. Furthermore, with the introduction of the miniature Piccolissimo movement, there are a lot more surprises to come from the House of Bulgari.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra
Movement: BVL Calibre 180 manual winding movement ; 50-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds display directly fourth wheel; ratchet wheel engraved with unique QR code that links to an exclusive NFT artwork
Case: 40mm × 1.80mm; sandblasted titanium case and tungsten carbide plate with anthracite DLC treatment; water-resistant to 10m
Bracelet: Ultra-thin titanium bracelet with integrated folding clasp
Availability: Limited edition of 10 pieces
A Chronology of Breaking Through Barriers
Bulgari is no stranger to record-breaking watch models. The Octo Finissimo Collection holds seven world records from the thinnest tourbillon to the thinnest perpetual calendar. They have been tackling the challenges of creating ultra thin watches since the release of their sporty Octo Finissimo in 2014, whose octagonal shape was inspired by the Basilica of Maxentius in Rome.
Each year since, Bulgari pushed the limits by applying their Octo Finissimo design concept to an ever-increasing catalog of movements and complications. Revolution takes a look at the watches that pushed the boundaries, and broke the records, for seven years in a row.