By Kien Lee
Under CEO Jean-Christophe Babin's charge, who took the helm in 2013, Bulgari has seen in the short span of 5 years, a bold alignment and focus of its key offering in men's watches.
This is exemplified by the Octo Finissimo range launched in 2014, which at the recent Baselworld fair in March, revealed for the fourth time, a world record for the thinnest self-winding timepiece (automatic watch).
This year, Babin proudly introduced the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic which at just 3.95mm thick, is the world's slimmest automatic watch, and to add, world's slimmest automatic tourbillion and world's slimmest tourbillon, period. The watch, which we had the pleasure of seeing, is a perfect blend of technical sophistication and aesthetic refinement. Within the last decade or even two, it is arguably the one timepiece that has seen a total re-invigoration, since Gérald Genta's original design. Genta himself was responsible for the Omega Constellation (1959), Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (1970), IWC Ingenieur (1976), Patek Philippe Nautilus (1976) and Cartier Pasha de Cartier (1985) so the Octo comes from an impeccable lineage. When Genta sold his company to Bulgari in 1999, Bulgari continued to honour the Swiss horological icon by continuing with and improving upon his Octo creation.
And fast forward to 2018, when earlier this year in January at SIHH, Piaget revealed the Altiplano Ultimate 910P which had at 4.30mm, briefly claimed the world record from Bulgari's 2017 October Finissimo Automatic which measured 5.15mm.
Within the span of 2 months, Bulgari wrested the title back. We asked Babin about this development.
"Initially we planned for this in 2019. When we first heard the potential of another brand taking away our beloved record, we decided, driven by a sporting spirit, to speed up. To make it happen a little earlier," Babin explained. "We are very happy to seize the record back. But beyond the record itself… we love the idea that we year after year, we continue to evolve the quintessence of elegance delivered by the Octo design."
Inside, the new automatic movement has been been additionally endowed with a tourbillon, joining the collection which rolled out the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon in 2014, the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater in 2016 and the Octo Finissimo Automatic just last year. A showcase of the Italian luxury label's watchmaking expertise and artistry, the 2017 Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève bestowed awards for both the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Skeleton and the Octo Finissimo Automatic.
A rethinking of technical solutions in the overall construction was required to achieve the new ultra-thin achievement. Building upon the basis of the Finissimo Tourbillon movement launched in 2014, the new Calibre BVL 288 measuring just 1.95mm thick and endowed with a 52-hour power reserve, handles automatic winding via an innovative and attractive peripheral oscillating weight positioned on the back of the movement. The flying tourbillon, utilizing a ballbearing system, was able to contribute to reduced overall thickness.
Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic comes in a sandblasted titanium case, with an entirely openworked skeleton movement displaying all its internal organs, with indications for hours, minutes and small seconds. The opening on the caseback is designed to depict the stylised motif adorning the entrance of the boutique on the Via Condotti in Rome, and provides a view of the tourbillon and the oscillating weight (powering the automatic movement).
The ultra-thin Octo Finissimo collection is impressive not just for its record breaking feats, but the blend of Italian heritage and mastery of Swiss watchmaking, brings it to the forefront of Haute Horlogerie, and deserving of every accolade.