Recently, Bvlgari brought together a special group of watches for the first time in Australia, and I attended an evening organised by Bvlgari, the Australian Financial Review, and Bani McSpedden, highlighting these pieces and the Octo Finissimo line.
The stars of the horological show were the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, Tourbillon, and Skeleton.
Today is about the first of these.
The release of the world’s thinnest minute repeater last year by Bvlgari was a headline grabber not just because of the record set, but also because it came from a storied maison more widely known for high jewellery, although they have been making watches for a little while now. It was a reinforcement of just how seriously Bvlgari are taking the watchmaking part of their business, and also yet another indication that there are some interesting watches coming out of places that are not traditional watch brands. It must be noted and acknowledged, however, that complications and in fact minute repeaters, are not new to Bvlgari.
The very contemporary and almost industrial-looking sand-blasted titanium case shares the same aesthetic codes as the other ultra-thin Finissimo models. It is idiosyncratic and distinctive, many miles away from the usual more dressy look common to minute repeaters.
It is not just the case that is titanium, but also the crown, which is polished and set with a black ceramic cabochon, and the dial itself.
Apart from a small seconds sub dial, the dial is clean. So much so that at a glance, if you don’t see the “Repetition Minutes” on the dial, you probably would not realise that it is a complication of this type. There is a pusher on the left (a safety device responsible for activating the repeater), but because of the design of the case, a casual observer who is sneaking a wrist peak might not note its significance.
If you look closely, you will notice another unexpected (and modern) touch; cut-out hour markers. The cut out numerals were chosen for the same reasons as the case material choice – sound amplification.
The 40mm case is 6.85mm thick, and it is really only in the holding and wearing of it that you can properly get a sense of how incredibly thin it is. With watch and movement thickness records it can even get down to the point of 0.10 differences; this is a truly noteworthy piece of horology to handle.
Inside the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater is the in-house manual-wind Calibre BVL 362, which takes up 3.12mm of the watch’s 6.85mm thickness. Consisting of 362 parts, it beats at 21,600VPH and has a power reserve of forty-two hours.
Sound-wise, the noisy surroundings of an event held in a restaurant were not optimal for sound maximisation, but the chimes proved to be crisp and clear when activated.
The Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater comes on a suitably sporty matte-black vulcanised alligator strap on a folding titanium buckle. As I mentioned earlier, until you have it on your wrist it’s almost impossible to appreciate just how thin it is, nor how comfortably it sits.
Limited to just 50 pieces at a RRP of 160,000 CHF, this unconventional minute repeater may not be the minute repeater for everyone not just because of its looks, but even for those whose design preferences do not tend this direction, it would be difficult to see this watch and not admire Bvlgari’s achievement.
On the subject of records, the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon that also made an appearance at this event debuted with the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo collection in 2014. It also broke a record, becoming the world’s thinnest tourbillon.