The Bvlgari Octo Collection
There are some watch collections which have earned themselves the right to be titled a cult favorite. The Octo from luxury marque Bvlgari is one such series.
Hyper-stylized, it is a range inspired by ancient Roman tropes and can boast one of history’s greatest watchmakers for its inception.
But far from being all show and no go, the Octo is famous for its record-breaking mechanical ingenuity, with each new addition bringing the seemingly impossible to life.
Below, we explore the history of Bvlgari’s most adored creation and take a look at the current lineup.
The Bvlgari Octo: History
While Bvlgari itself is a manufacture with a long pedigree, having been founded in 1884, the Octo is a fairly new collection, coming into being in 2012.
By this point in their story, Bvlgari had absorbed both the Daniel Roth and Gérald Genta brands into their corporation and it was the latter which would provide the expertise for the Octo.
The legendary designer actually first penned the Octo in the 1980s, adding it as one more model in the luxury sports watch category that Genta himself had invented with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 10-years previously.
The ‘octagon inside a circle inside an octagon’ styling, complete with mandatory integrated bracelet, was typical of the man and it became, like just about everything else he touched, a success.
That design went through a number of restatements from Bvlgari’s own styling team over the years until it reached the form as we know it today, officially its third generation, in 2012.
It kicked off with the Solotempo (Italian for ‘just time’, although it had a date function as well). Those were followed up with the Velocissimo, the Octo’s range of chronographs.
In an arena dominated by perhaps the two biggest names in the industry, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus, the Bvlgari Octo arrived as a breath of fresh air. The deceptively complex cases, along with everything else, were produced in Bvlgari’s very own completely vertically integrated manufacture. Or rather, they had to be produced by Bvlgari, because no other case maker would have been able to reproduce the shape and its incredible 110 polished and satin-finished facets.
Presented in either 38mm or 41mm forms, in pink gold or steel, there was enough variety and versatility to attract buyers in large numbers. The fact that the Solotempo was powered by an in-house movement and cost as little as $4,500 on its debut only added to its appeal. Even the Velocissimo, powered as it was by a third party movement, a reworking of the legendary El Primero from Zenith, sold in droves and secured the Octo as a major contender. But even better was to come.
The Bvlgari Octo Finissimo
In 2014, Bvlgari took everyone by surprise when they introduced the first of the Finissimo range.
Although ultra slim watches were nothing new, this effort was something very special indeed. Called the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Manual, the entire model was a mere 5.15mm thick. To give you an idea of just how slender that is, the sapphire crystal alone on Rolex’s Deepsea Sea-Dweller measures 5.5mm. The dial was 0.2mm, going up to an unwieldy 0.3mm once the lacquer was on. That made it thinner than the average applied hour marker on most other watches. And the movement, an in-house, manually winding caliber called the BVL 268, measured only 1.95mm. What’s more, as the name suggests, it featured a flying tourbillon complication and smashed the world record on its release for thinnest watch of its type ever made.
The design of the Finissimo itself was also a contradiction. From square on, it looked like a fairly robust, muscular dress piece. But from the side, it all but disappeared and could slip under even the tightest shirt sleeve. And to separate the collection even further from what had come before, this was the piece which established the overall monochromatic look for the series. The platinum cased-watch was given an all-over grey matte finish.
The Record Breakers
It is fair to say the Finissimo took the world by storm when it was unveiled and propelled Bvlgari to even loftier heights than those they had enjoyed so far across their near 150-year history.
Spurred on, the brand went on to release a slew of other Finissimo variants, picking up a total of eight world records along the way. Adding to the thinnest tourbillon title, they have also racked up thinnest automatic watch, thinnest tourbillon chronograph, thinnest minute repeater, thinnest mechanical chronograph, scored a double in 2018 in one watch with the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic, breaking their own records twice for thinnest automatic and thinnest tourbillon movement, and finally, thinnest perpetual calendar.
Today, the Finissimo range is a nicely balanced one, still keeping the overall design motifs of the originals, but introducing a dash of color here and there and graduating to both matte and polished surfaces to accommodate modern tastes.
Beyond The Finissimo
The Bvlgari Octo collection is the brand’s sportiest family of watches. The lineup now includes more than 30 pieces, split mainly between the Finissimo range in all its world beating glory and another series introduced in 2017, the Octo Roma. Taking its name from a model which debuted all the way back in 1975, the look was inspired by ancient Roman coins and, given the Octo treatment, offers buyers a softer, less in-your-face aesthetic than the Finissimo.
The Roma also contains the most accessibly priced versions of the Octo, starting at around $6,500. But is has the most expensive model as well, the brand new Octo Roma Sonnerie, an 18k white gold watch swathed entirely in diamonds and emeralds and featuring a four hammer Westminster chiming Grande and Petit Sonnerie mechanism—yours for around $1,700,000.
The Finissimo range starts at about $13,000 for a steel time and date piece and tops out at $142,000 for the latest carbon edition of the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic.
All in all, the Octo collection from Bvlgari is starting to move beyond its cult status and become more accepted in the mainstream. A portfolio of watches that have subverted all expectations, they stand as a testament to what can be achieved with a combination of a long watchmaking heritage and the very latest cutting-edge technology.
Horology at its most impressive, the Octo series is an astonishing accomplishment.
Featured Photo: BeckerTime’s Archive.