A DIF­FER­ENT KEY

Un­cov­er­ing the world’s thinnest – and pos­si­bly stealth­i­est – minute re­peater.

The Peak Selections: Timepieces - - Blueprint - TEXT CHARMIAN LEONG

Minute re­peaters tend to con­jure images of clas­sic dress watches, sometimes elab­o­rately dec­o­rated and of­ten­times chunky. Chim­ing func­tions are, af­ter all, among the toughest to as­sem­ble and their ro­man­tic his­tory tends to skew de­signs to­wards equally old-school styles. But in 2016, Bul­gari re­leased a re­peater that was nei­ther tra­di­tional nor hefty. In fact, the Bul­gari Octo Finis­simo Minute Re­peater holds the record for the slimmest minute re­peater watch in the world – and you prob­a­bly would not even know, at a glance, that it con­tains this cov­eted com­pli­ca­tion.

Let us fi rst marvel at its svelte pro­file. With a thick­ness of 6.85mm, it eff ec­tively blows the com­pe­ti­tion out of the wa­ter. Re­cent ex­am­ples in­clude the JaegerLeCoul­tre Hy­bris Me­chan­ica 11 (7.9mm) and Vacheron Con­stantin’s Pat­ri­mony Con­tem­po­raine Ul­tra-Thin Cal­i­bre 1731 (8.09mm). Bul­gari may not have as long a his­tory in slim me­chan­ics as, say, Pi­aget, but its ul­tra-thin ma­chines mean busi­ness. Just two years ago, the brand grabbed the world record for thinnest tour­bil­lon, with its 1.95mm-thick Octo Finis­simo Tour­bil­lon.

To bring to life the 3.12mm-thick Cal­i­bre BVL 362 of the Octo Finis­simo Minute Re­peater, Bul­gari em­ployed com­mon ul­tra-thin tech­niques such as fix­ing the gongs di­rectly to the case, at­tach­ing the main­spring bar­rel and crown wheel only to the bot­tom plate so the other bridges never tower over the bar­rel, and us­ing a fl at bal­ance spring in­stead of a taller over­coil hair­spring. Ad­di­tion­ally, all 362 com­po­nents in the move­ment had to be minia­turised, re­sult­ing in per­ilously dainty parts like the 3.3mm-wide cen­trifu­gal strike gov­er­nor (and its two in­er­tia blocks). De­spite the tiny pro­por­tions that make them ex­cep­tion­ally tricky to han­dle, the parts are beau­ti­fully fi nished with Cotes de Gen­eve, cir­cu­lar grain­ing and cham­fer­ing. Op­er­at­ing at 3Hz, the move­ment of­fers a power re­serve of 42 hours.

The case is the other star in this au­ral mas­ter­piece. Ti­ta­nium works well with the aus­tere Octo case, and its strength is in­valu­able in such a slight time­piece. But Bul­gari also had the re­peater’s sound in mind. Pre­cious met­als might be pre­ferred for their value, but ti­ta­nium’s low den­sity trans­mits sound much more ef­fec­tively. The dial is also made of ti­ta­nium, and has in­cised hour mark­ers and a small sec­onds counter to help the chimes travel. The pusher, lo­cated at nine o’clock, is equipped with an “all or noth­ing” de­vice, which pre­vents it from be­ing par­tially de­pressed and re­sult­ing in an in­com­plete chim­ing se­quence.

All this is pack­aged in a sand­blasted grey case with a matte dial; the fur­thest thing from fl ashy. It’s a re­peater that could eas­ily be dwarfed by shinier ac­cou­trements, but it could sig­nify a grow­ing de­mand for con­tem­po­rary, un­der­stated com­pli­ca­tions for col­lec­tors who un­der­stand that record­shat­ter­ing time­pieces don’t have to look as bold as their achieve­ments.

01 In­ci­sions in the ti­ta­nium dial of this slen­der minute re­peater help to am­plify sound. 02 A to­tal of 362 scaled-down com­po­nents form the beau­ti­fully fin­ished Cal­i­bre BVL 362.

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