A HINT OF TIME

Bulgari’s new Octo Finis­simo Au­to­matic sets a record as the thinnest au­to­matic watch on the mar­ket.

WatchTime - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Roger Rueg­ger

| Bulgari’s new Octo Finis­simo Au­to­matic sets a record as the thinnest au­to­matic watch on the mar­ket.

— Less is def­i­nitely more com­pli­cated when it comes to de­sign­ing a new watch model, es­pe­cially when said model is des­tined to set an­other watch­mak­ing world record. Af­ter in­tro­duc­ing the world’s thinnest tourbillon at Basel­world 2014 and the thinnest minute re­peater in 2016, this year, Bulgari re­vealed the thinnest self-wind­ing watch, the Octo Finis­simo Au­to­matic, with an in­cred­i­bly light, 5.15-mm-thin ti­ta­nium case and a new move­ment with mi­cro-ro­tor. For­tu­nately, we were able to get our hands on a pre-pro­duc­tion model.

The art of re­duc­tion

e moment a prod­uct de­sign re­quires re­duc­tion, be it for a more ef­fi­cient pro­duc­tion process, a cleaner look or, as in this case, to break an ex­ist­ing record, things usu­ally start to get a lot more com­pli­cated – mainly be­cause the de­vel­op­ment team will ul­ti­mately have to de­vise some­thing that hasn’t been done be­fore. So even though Bulgari has made a habit in re­cent years of break­ing horo­log­i­cal thin­ness records at Basel­world, the fact that the Ital­ian brand now has launched an au­to­matic ul­tra-thin ver­sion of the Octo most likely meant that pretty much ev­ery com­po­nent had to be re­designed or newly de­vel­oped (for ex­am­ple, the bal­ance wheel had to be re­duced to a smaller di­am­e­ter with­out im­pact­ing the am­pli­tude).

An­other chal­lenge, since thin­ness usu­ally means frailty, this might be one ex­pla­na­tion for the ti­ta­nium case Bulgari used.

Time for a mi­cro-ro­tor

When it comes to me­chan­i­cal, self-wind­ing move­ments, the ma­jor­ity of brands pre­fer to use cal­ibers with a cen­tral ro­tor, which au­to­mat­i­cally adds an ad­di­tional level to the over­all con­struc­tion. e thinnest au­to­matic move­ment

with a cen­tral ro­tor cur­rently in pro­duc­tion is the 1120 used by Vacheron Con­stantin (with­out date and sec­onds hand), mea­sur­ing an im­pres­sive 2.45 mm in height.

So, a com­par­a­tively less com­pli­cated so­lu­tion would be, there­fore, to either opt for a man­ual-wind move­ment or go with a pe­riph­eral ro­tor or an in­te­grated mi­cro-ro­tor con­struc­tion in­stead, es­pe­cially if you al­ready have an ul­tra­thin man­ual-wind move­ment in your col­lec­tion and want to set a new world record for an au­to­matic move­ment. And since the Pi­aget Alti­plano 900P al­ready took the record for the thinnest me­chan­i­cal watch in 2013 with a 2.0-mm-thin hand-wound move­ment, Bulgari more or less had to go for a self-wind­ing and, from a wearer’s point-of-view, more con­ve­nient, au­to­matic ver­sion with mi­cro-ro­tor, given the small wind­ing crowns you usu­ally find on ul­tra-thin watches.

Mi­cro-ro­tor or “plan­e­tary” move­ments were in­tro­duced in the ’50s and ’60s by Büren, Uni­ver­sal Genève, and also Pi­aget, which had in­tro­duced the 2.3-mm-thin Cal­iber 12P in 1959. One of the many chal­lenges when work­ing with a mi­cro-ro­tor is that the smaller di­am­e­ter of the ro­tor af­fects the wind­ing ef­fi­ciency, which re­quires a more com­plex bi-di­rec­tional wind­ing sys­tem along with a heav­ier ro­tor.

Bulgari’s new in-house move­ment, Cal­iber BVL 138 Finis­simo, features a Pt950 plat­inum mi­cro-ro­tor for in­creased wind­ing ef­fi­ciency and mea­sures only 2.23 mm. It is, in fact, the thinnest self-wind­ing move­ment in pro­duc­tion. It is only 0.23 mm thicker than the man­ual-wind P900 from Pi­aget (which uses the case as the main­plate) and 0.22 thin­ner than the more con­ven­tional au­to­matic 1120 cur­rently used by Vacheron Con­stantin.

e BVL 138 beats at a fre­quency of 21,600 vph. e move­ment mea­sures 36.6 mm in di­am­e­ter and stores a power re­serve of ap­prox­i­mately 60 hours when fully wound. It is dec­o­rated by hand with tra­di­tional haute hor­logerie fin­ishes, in­clud­ing côtes de Genève, cham­fered edges on the bridges, and cir­cu­lar grain­ing on the main­plate. Bulgari also claims the thinnest (anti-shock) Kif/in­ca­bloc sys­tems ever de­vel­oped for its Finis­simo range.

In short, with the new BVL 138, Bulgari has man­aged to squeeze an au­to­matic move­ment with sim­i­lar di­men­sions as its man­ual-wind coun­ter­part, the BVL 128, into a 40-mm-large, 5.15-mm-thin case.

What also sets this model apart is that the Octo Finis­simo Au­to­matic comes with the Octo col­lec­tion’s dis­tinc­tive faceted case; in this in­stance in sand­blasted ti­ta­nium, cre­at­ing an ex­tremely con­tem­po­rary look and a watch that al­most can­not be felt when worn on the wrist (weigh­ing less than 50 grams with the leather strap and around 80 grams on the ti­ta­nium bracelet).

Con­tem­po­rary el­e­gance

e multi-faceted Octo case was first in­tro­duced as part of the Bulgari range in 2012 and has quickly be­come an im­me­di­ately rec­og­niz­able, and some would say po­lar­iz­ing, con­tem­po­rary watch de­sign. Its iconic dou­ble bezel com­bines the sim­plic­ity of a cir­cle with the faceted struc­ture of an oc­tagon.

e Octo Finis­simo Au­to­matic’s case is made of sand­blasted, and there­fore, slightly grainy, ti­ta­nium and mea­sures 40 mm in di­am­e­ter. e ti­ta­nium crown is topped with a black ce­ramic in­sert. Even the dial is made of ti­ta­nium and features black, non-lu­mi­nous hour mark­ers and skele­tonized hands; a small sec­onds sub­dial can be found at the 7 o’clock po­si­tion. e case is wa­ter re­sis­tant to 30 me­ters de­spite its ul­tra-thin pro­file, mak­ing it suit­able for warmer tem­per­a­tures and in­creased hu­mid­ity.

Even though we ex­pected the (of course, small) crown to be dif­fi­cult to op­er­ate, the sharpedged de­sign made it sur­pris­ingly easy to pull out and set the hands.

e Octo Finis­simo Au­to­matic is def­i­nitely not the con­ser­va­tive, clas­sic de­sign you would ex­pect when talk­ing about ul­tra-thin watches. Nev­er­the­less, the Octo Finis­simo Au­to­matic, es­pe­cially when worn on the matte black leather strap, man­ages to be ele­gant in a very con­tem­po­rary way, de­spite its al­most high-tech look. On the bracelet, it eas­ily works with a more ca­sual out­fit, which prob­a­bly makes it one of the most mod­ern look­ing and ver­sa­tile ul­tra­thin watches avail­able.

In other words, the Octo Finis­simo Au­to­matic breaks with tra­di­tion, and if you think that an ele­gant, thin watch in this price cat­e­gory needs to be man­ual-wind, made of pre­cious me­tal, and, most of all, comes with a tra­di­tional de­sign, the Octo Finis­simo Au­to­matic is def­i­nitely not the right watch for you (the same goes for the thinnest minute re­peater in 2016 with ti­ta­nium case). If, how­ever, you agree with us that a newly launched watch model can also come with a con­tem­po­rary, mod­ern de­sign and ma­te­ri­als, the Octo Finis­simo Auto is an in­cred­i­ble watch that can al­most not be felt when worn, but un­doubt­edly has a lot of vis­ual wrist pres­ence.

Given the renowned de­sign, feel and con­struc­tion of Bulgari’s bracelets, we rec­om­mend choos­ing the ti­ta­nium bracelet op­tion first, and then se­lect­ing the matte strap for an ac­cen­tu­ated, slightly more ele­gant look.

The Octo Finis­simo Au­to­matic is def­i­nitely not the con­ser­va­tive, clas­sic de­sign you would ex­pect when talk­ing about ul­tra-thin watches.

The case and dial are both made of sand­blasted ti­ta­nium. The faceted min­utes and hour hands are skele­tonized.

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