Boom! Did you hear that? Such is the deafening roar of the incredible horological mic drop that Bulgari has just perpetuated that the sound is echoing off the walls of every watchmaking region in Switzerland.
Because Bulgari has just launched its eighth world record in the form of a watch that I can only say, is one of the most mind-blowing things I’ve ever touched or looked upon. It is, in fact, the world’s thinnest mechanical watch. Though its proportions are tiny — 40mm in diameter and an incredible 1.8mm in thickness — its ramifications are enormous.
The Octo Finissimo Ultra is Bulgari’s crowning achievement in an already staggering succession of aesthetic and technical breakthroughs, positioning what was once considered to be a jewelry brand as one of the single greatest horological overachievers in the world. This year, it will be made in just 10 examples and they will be the first watches to come equipped with an original NFT artwork and a dedicated digital universe for each watch.
What is really remarkable to me about the Ultra is that while there have been other watches that have chased this lofty goal of the world’s thinnest watch, they have, to a large degree, always felt like concept watches that are limited in terms of true wearability.
In contrast, the Ultra is something entirely different: an integrated bracelet sports chic watch that is fully realized, fully resolved and an absolute beauty. But let’s talk a little bit about the achievement related to this watch from a design perspective. The brand’s design director Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani wanted to achieve something completely unlike anything else that had ever existed. He took the barrel as a point from which all the lines of the design would radiate. Then he configured the watch to be, in essence, a regulator with the hour subdial on the top right, followed by the minutes subdial on the bottom right. But he wanted something more — a running seconds indicator. Because every single part of the Ultra had to perform double, triple or sometimes even quadruple duties, he used the actual seconds wheel of the watch as the seconds indicator.
But my single favorite element of the new Ultra is what Bulgari calls the escapement bridge. This is the bridge that retains the balance wheel and that takes the form of a three-armed, highly skeletonized bridge reminiscent of a tourbillon cage, though it doesn’t turn. This bridge is created to have the capacity to flex, so that the balance wheel and escape wheel will be isolated from micro shocks to the watch. Why? This is because the entire watch is too thin to use traditional shock absorbers. So, the brilliant minds of Bulgari decided to create an all-new form of bridge that is capable of absorbing the shocks, based on their geometry and capacity to flex slightly. Traditionally in a watch, it is the balance and the escape wheel that require the most shock protection, and this is precisely what Bulgari achieved, but by rewriting the rule book.
But the innovation doesn’t stop there. Bulgari had to completely reconceptualize how a watch is constructed. Here titanium is used for the case middle, the bezel, the lugs, as well as the bracelet. Incidentally, the bracelet also measures a precise 1.8mm in thickness, making it the world’s thinnest integrated bracelet. This bracelet is only half as thick as a traditional Octo Finissimo bracelet, which is already the thinnest bracelet in the business. For added security, Bulgari has created an all-new deployment clasp.
To maintain rigidity and structural integrity for the watch, the caseback is created out of tungsten carbide, an extra hard material often used for drill bits. That’s because the caseback of the watch also acts as its mainplate. One unmistakable element is, of course, the oversized ratchet wheel covering the barrel, which contains a mighty 50 hours of power reserve.
This ratchet wheel is laser engraved with a QR code that will lead you to your NFT artwork and unlock an entire digital universe for you as the owner of this watch. What is amazing is that the Ultra features absolutely no compromise — as I’ve mentioned, it is shock resistant, the balance beats at 4Hz, and it is water-resistant to 10 meters.
So how do you wind and set the time on this incredible watch? Instead of using a traditional crown, which would’ve been too thick, Bulgari used two horizontal knobs that are fitted to the left and right side of the case. The left horizontal crown allows you to wind the barrel, and you will see the ratchet wheel turning as this happens. The time-setting crown on the right uses a differential mechanism so that it can be set at any time without affecting the overall timing of the watch or impeding the advancement of the gear train.
What is incredible to me is that for a watch that is so insanely thin, Bulgari has created a watch with extraordinary three-dimensional beauty, unlike other ultra-thin watches, where when you looked at them, you might wonder if they were actually even working or beating. With the Ultra, the incredible animation coming from the balance and the ratchet, as well as the extraordinary architecture of the two small subdials complemented by the visible wheel train and the running seconds indication emblazoned on the seconds wheel, mean that you are never in doubt that this watch is alive and beating, and giving you its energy.
If this is a sign of what’s coming this watch year of 2022, I must say things are gathering amazing momentum.
Sometimes, watch journalists bemoan how we feel that there is not as much innovation happening today as there was even a decade ago. But now, with this achievement, Bulgari has shown us that certain brands with great vision and great courage are still leading the way in terms of writing watchmaking’s future. I would like to congratulate the team of Jean-Christophe Babin, Antoine Pin, Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani and Catherine Eberle-Devaux on the towering achievement of creating the thinnest timepiece of all time! Bravo, guys! This is truly wonderful — you rock.
Bvlgari 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