Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic first debuted in Basel 2017, and it made most of the blog and publications “Best of Basel” watch list. I remember visiting the booth and trying out the Octo in titanium, and being shocked as to how Bulgari managed to pull off the slimmest automatic watch that is lightweight, yet durable, with a micro-rotor movement for about $13,000. The story of Bulgari’s transformation from a luxury fashion brand to a bona fide Haute Horology manufacturer began in the year 2000. Watch industry was struggling after the late 1990’s financial crisis, and Singapore retailer The Hour Glass, which owned Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth, wanted to sell the brands. In July 2000, Bulgari paid 37.6 million Swiss francs to acquire Gerald Genta SA, Daniel Roth SA, as well as Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie SA, which owns the manufacturing facilities of the two brands. It took Bulgari ten years to fully integrate Genta and Roth brands, so in 2010 watches were sold under brand’s name. In 2011, LVMH group acquired Bulgari, that gave the group serious credibility to compete against industry giants Richemont, Swatch, and other independent haute horology brands.
Bulgari had all the right conditions to develop its own flagship watch series, and it did so with the help of designer Fabrizio Buonamassa. While there is some resemblance of Genta design, it feels like a natural evolution of Genta design with a modern Italian flair. The original Octo Finissimo in titanium was marketed as a sports watch with an integrated titanium bracelet. While aesthetically it may be a sports watch, the water-resistant rating of 30 meters qualified it as more of a dress watch. I personally find this original titanium version to be a great everyday watch, but can question its versatility for easy transition from the boardroom to scuba diving. I believe Bulgari was willing to sacrifice this versatility for the honor of being the slimmest automatic watch.
After achieving that honor in 2017, Bulgari this year has made the versatile Octo Finissimo sports watch, with water resistant rating of 100 meters and a screw down crown, while increasing the height by a negligible 0.1mm. This is the watch many watch enthusiasts wanted, and Bulgari has finally obliged. In addition to increasing the case height from 5.15mm to 5.25mm, Bulgari has also made it the cliché stainless steel with integrated bracelet, to cash in on the stainless-steel sports watch trend. The 2020 Octo steel (Ref 103297) cannot be mistaken for the 2018 steel model (Ref 103011), since the 2018 steel watch had a dull sandblasted steel finish. The satin-polished steel case and bracelet makes it a quintessential sports watch with a bold black lacquered dial, and faceted diamond rhodium-plated hands. Another stylish touch is the polished steel screw-down crown set with ceramic inlay. The strap design is still one the best and most comfortable, without any pushers or clasps sticking out.
Case: 40mm satin-polished steel, 5.25mm height
Dial: Black lacquered
Hands: Faceted diamond rhodium-plated
Crown: Polished steel, screw-down crown, set with ceramic inlay
Bracelet: Integrated satin-polished steel bracelet with folding clasp
Movement: BVL 138, 60-hour power reserve, 2.23mm thick
Water Resistance: 100 meters
Octo Finissimo Steel is priced competitively at $12,000 when you compare it to AP Royal Oak 15202 or Vacheron Oversees Ultra-Thin, which are more than double the price. Even though I am biased towards the lightweight titanium model, the water resistance rating of this watch makes it more versatile. The Steel Octo Finissimo makes a bold statement and is likely to command attention from others.
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