The Italian brand most known for sumptuous, splashy jewels is setting a new trend by creating high-complication men’s watches so thin and understated, they’re for clients so wealthy they don’t want their wrists screaming money.
The thinner designs of so-called “tuxedo” watches are closely linked to the global economy, explained Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, senior director of Bulgari Watches Design Center.
The watch designer was in Singapore earlier this April for the regional media presentation of the Bulgari watch collection from Baselworld 2016, including the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, record-holder for thinnest minute repeater and minute repeater movement.
“In the beginning of the century, the watches were big,” noted Buonamassa Stigliani. “They were chunky with lots of features [to show off power]. Today, [customers say] ‘I’m rich enough that I don’t need you to know what kind of watch I’m wearing.’ We have a lot of very rich clients who don’t want [to show off], because the environment isn’t safe in some parts of the world, for economic reasons or something else. But they still want something unique, with technical features from Switzerland, and also [distinctive Italian] design.”
That’s where Bulgari’s unconventional geometric dress watch line Octo comes in. First introduced in 2014 as the world’s thinnest flying tourbillon, the Octo has spawned several executions.
The latest is the 50-piece, limited-edition minute repeater, which defies conventional know-how with its crystal-clear chime in a really slim form. Its movement, BVL Calibre 362, is only 3.12 millimeters thick.
Minute-repeater watches are highly sought after by watch collectors, with their distinct complication that chimes the time on demand, or at the press of a button. Bigger cases usually mean better acoustics, but the Octo flouts that by producing the best sound from a movement with 362 components crammed in such a small space. The entire case is only 6.85 mm thick, and has a transparent caseback.
The case of the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater is 100-percent sandblasted gray titanium, a low-density metal that results in better sound diffusion. Its indexes are cutouts, also to optimize the sound. Its strap is of vulcanized alligator skin, and retails for 26,000 euros.
The new Octo also comes in Skeleton and Ultranero versions, the latter of which has three different executions.
The Octo Finissimo Skeleton displays the lace-like 2.35-mm Calibre 128SK movement in a 40-mm steel case with a DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating and 18-karat rose-gold bezel, and a total thickness of only 5.37 mm. It comes with an alligator strap.
The bold, nearly all-black Octo Ultranero, meanwhile, has three versions: the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon, whose BVL Calibre 268 movement is the world’s thinnest at 1.95 mm; the Octo Solotempo (BVL Calibre 193, 50-hour power reserve), and the Octo Velocissimo (high-frequency chrono, BVL Calibre 328). The latter two sport rubber straps.
Less is more
“It’s a great challenge for us, because only four or five brands in Switzerland are able to produce the thinnest watches,” said Buonamassa Stigliani.
“To produce these, you need components that work 100 percent. It’s the perfect example of less is more. These kinds of movement don’t have space for decorative elements, no space for anything that doesn’t make sense.”
The former auto designer likens the Octo to race cars: “Like Formula One cars, you just need the components that work in a perfect way. This mechanical approach makes the beauty of the watch. It’s pure mechanic, but it’s the mechanic itself that makes it unique and beautiful.”
He said Bulgari has taken pains to create a unique architectural design to distinguish itself from other brands that create slim watches but of generic round shape and same color of the dial.
“If you don’t see the logo you mistake them for each other,” he said.
And unlike other thin, high-complication watches, the Octo is for everyday wear, he stressed.
“They are wearable complications, because they’re strong enough for everyday wear,” he added. “In the past, thin watches were fragile. Today we have the technology, the right materials, the right approach to produce the thinnest watch in the world, with the skeleton and tourbillon execution, and the thinnest minute repeater. It’s something for your pleasure, not [to be kept in] your safe.”
Bulgari is at Greenbelt 4, Resorts World Manila, Rustan’s Tower, Rustan’s Makati and City of Dreams.