ulgari seems to be particularly fond of number symbolism: 1.80 mm thick, an eighth world record for the Octo Finissimo (“octo” means eight in Latin), and a model with eight facets. The Octo Finissimo Ultra (complete with eight patents) has set the eighth ultra-thin record for the Roman jeweller, which has made an impressive breakthrough in watchmaking and earned its horological credentials over the course of just a decade. 2022 marks the tenth anniversary of the Octo series. “It’s an apparently impossible dream come true: one that guarantees that Bulgari will forever be recognised as a company that has written some of the finest pages in Swiss watchmaking history,” notes CEO Jean-Christophe Babin.
Beyond the figures and the symbolism, the Octo Finissimo Ultra is above all the culmination of a patient quest for mechanical know-how in the field of ultra-thin watchmaking – a field that had previously been dominated by a select few brands. It’s proof that watchmaking is by no means “dormant”, even in the age of neo-vintage, and that current champions can still be challenged in creativity and engineering.
- After seven consecutive world records, here is the eighth: the Octo Finissimo Ultra. It opens a new era of ultra-thin profiles, measuring just 1.80 millimetres. A total of eight patent applications have been filed. They relate to the watch glass assembly, barrel structure, oscillator module, differential display, modular structure, bracelet, bimetallic case, middle-mainplate/caseback, as well as the Bvlgari Singvlarity software technology.
The model is proof that watchmaking is by no means “dormant”, even in the age of neo-vintage, and that current champions can still be challenged in creativity and engineering.
Making a movement into a watch
“Our goal was not to poach the territory of other brands but to apply the spirit of Italian design to Swiss watchmaking,” says Antoine Pin, Managing Director of the Bulgari Watch Division. “And elegance in Italian fashion means thinness, with materials close to the body. With the Octo Finissimo, it’s as if the centre of gravity of our watchmaking had moved to the other side of the border. But you can’t just ‘flatten’ a timepiece, of course – you have to rethink everything!”
The brand’s creative director, Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, confirms: “To achieve such dimensions, we deconstructed the watch. The key was to make the movement itself the watch. It’s still an Octo, with its octagonal shape, but the movement acts as a dial and merges completely with the case.”
It was not enough to simply work on the “face” of the watch – it had to have the thinnest possible bracelet, to avoid a mismatch between the two elements. One of the most difficult challenges was to bring the dimensions of the folding clasp into line with those of the bracelet: “The clasp must be visible but integrated,” Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani continues. “For ten years, we have constantly asked our suppliers to reduce its size. It was a long-term effort, but without constraints a designer gets bored!”
- The Octo Finissimo Ultra uses the caseback as the mainplate into which the 170 components of the BVL Calibre 180 are integrated. The volume of the bracelet links also had to be totally rethought; at 1.80 mm thick, they are a perfect match for the thinness of the case, yet they are twice as thin as a standard Octo Finissimo bracelet. In addition, the folding clasp had to be redesigned according to new parameters.
“The key was to make the movement itself the watch. It’s still an Octo, with its octagonal shape, but the movement acts as a dial and merges completely with the case.”
Bulgari worked hand in hand with Concepto to create the Octo Finissimo Ultra. “The original brief was to achieve a thickness of less than 2 mm, while being able to wind the watch and set the time manually, without having to use a tool,” explains Philippe Saltarski, Development & Quality Assurance Director. “And above all to produce a timepiece that can actually be worn, rather than a concept watch.”
“It started with the choice of a regulator-type display. To distinguish the timepiece from a quartz model, we wanted to integrate the second hand, with its distinctive motion, not just the hours and minutes,” continues Philippe Saltarski. “The distinctive feature is that it is displayed at half-past seven, directly on the fourth wheel. Because we couldn’t stack everything, we had to break all the functions apart – all while remaining within a 40mm diameter. A differential gear mechanism means the time can be set without disturbing the gear train.”
The choice of materials was also crucial – they had to be sufficiently rigid without being brittle, despite the thinness of the model. Bulgari’s watchmakers ultimately opted for a sandblasted titanium case and tungsten carbide plate with a charcoal DLC treatment. “We tried a lot of combinations,” says Philippe Saltarski. “In this configuration, titanium, combined with a flexible glue to assemble the components, makes it possible to absorb shocks.”
From Finissimo to Piccolissimo... and NFTs
What next? Bulgari will celebrate its 140th anniversary in 2024 – will we see more records fall by then? The Piccolissimo movement represents a new avenue for R&D (see our article here). Bulgari is moving from thinness to the most extreme miniaturisation, which has allowed it to re-equip the Serpenti models with a mechanical calibre. “We’re attacking a new horological fortress,” exclaims Antoine Pin. “The question we always ask ourselves is how to create the watchmaking of the future. The fact of constantly raising this question gives us a direction.”
Philippe Saltarski, for his part, emphasises the work being carried out on striking watches, another important R&D avenue for the Swiss-Italian watchmaker. “The Ultra may be our last record to date, but it is also the start of a new adventure: that of hybridsing the physical and the virtual worlds,” notes Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, referring to the intriguing QR code engraved on the model’s ratchet wheel. It is linked to an NFT, marking Bulgari’s entry into this new territory. “For the first time, a QR code is both aesthetic and functional!”
- Through the QR code engraved on the barrel ratchet, Bulgari has entered the world of NFTs and the blockchain. Each of the ten Octo Finissimo Ultra watches is delivered with an individual NFT that guarantees the authenticity and unique character of the watch and offers each owner exclusive access to a dedicated digital universe.
“For the first time, a QR code is both aesthetic and functional!” The code replaces the traditional reference number, and it also gives access to a new artistic dimension.
The code replaces the traditional reference number, and it also gives access to a new dimension, as Antoine Pin explains: “We were not born in the blockchain, we are taking our first steps and discovering innovation and opportunities we can seize. We are ready to commit to it, provided we can maintain a link between the physical object and the virtual universe.” More specifically, the QR code gives access to a certificate of ownership, guaranteeing traceability, but also to a digital artwork – a short animation specific to each of the ten editions of the Octo Finissimo Ultra. “We joined the Aura blockchain consortium several years ago. Through the QR code, we have a concrete way of starting a conversation between mechanical watchmaking and digital technology,” explains Massimo Paloni, Chief Operating Officer of Bulgari.
He continues: “We approach any innovation with the idea of generating an additional experience, aligned with the brand’s values: timelessness, elevation, sophistication. But in the world of NFTs, the user experience is often very poor. We wanted to keep the essence of this technology, which is to provide rarity in a world of copies, as well as a direct connection between creator and customer. This is our own interpretation of this new technology, and we have created something unique for this unique anniversary.”
TEN YEARS OF OCTO
2012 OCTO L’ORIGINALE BVL 193
2014 OCTO FINISSIMO TOURBILLON MANUAL first world record BVL 268 – 1.95 mm
2016 OCTO FINISSIMO MINUTE REPEATER second world record BVL 362 – 3.12 mm
2017 Octo Roma BVL 191
2017 OCTO FINISSIMO AUTOMATIC third world record BVL 138 – 2.23 mm
2018 OCTO FINISSIMO TOURBILLON AUTOMATIC fourth world record BVL 288 – 3.95 mm
2019 OCTO FINISSIMO CHRONOGRAPH GMT AUTOMATIC fifth world record BVL 318 – 3.30 mm
2020 OCTO FINISSIMO TOURBILLON CHRONOGRAPH SKELETON AUTOMATIC sixth world record BVL 388 – 3.50 mm
2021 OCTO FINISSIMO PERPETUAL CALENDAR seventh world record BVL 305 – 2.75 mm
2022 OCTO FINISSIMO ULTRA eighth world record BVL 180 – 180 mm
Mechanical ultra-thin Manufacture manual- winding movement – BVL Calibre 180 (1.50 mm thick). Winding and time-setting wheels in stainless steel; seconds display directly on the fourth wheel; ratchet wheel engraved with unique QR code that links to an exclusive NFT artwork. 50-hour power reserve; 28,800 vph (4 Hz) frequency.
Case and dial
40 mm sandblasted titanium case and tungsten carbide plate with anthracite DLC treatment (1.80 mm thick); hour and minute counters, black PVD-treated hands; water-resistant to 1 ATM.
Ultra-thin titanium bracelet with integrated folding clasp.
Limited edition of 10.