So it seems, barely a year goes by without another world’s-thinnest record adding to the tally at Bulgari, whose Octo Finissimo continues to take the watch world by storm. This year, it’s the turn of the Chronograph GMT Automatic to claim the title of slimmest watch in its category, courtesy of a 3.30mm high movement inside a 6.90mm case. While this is the Octo Finissimo’s fifth record, it’s fair to say that few, if any, would have predicted Bulgari’s preponderance in ultra-thin. When it launched the Octo in 2010, – lifting inspiration from the watches coming out of the Gérald Genta Manufacture which the Italian firm took over in 2000 -, it was more concerned with vertical integration and incorporating the expertise that came with Genta into its own collections (one of the most notable outcomes being the BVL 191 Solotempo, Bulgari’s hard-working base movement).
When each tenth of a millimetre counts
All that would change in 2014. This was the year Bulgari came to Baselworld with the very first Octo Finissimo, whose 110 facets and multiple angles give a powerful architectural feel to such an elegantly slender watch. It set the ball rolling by becoming the thinnest watch with a flying tourbillon. The manual-winding movement measures 1.95mm high – about the same thickness as a nickel coin – and sits inside a case barely 5mm thick. Not bad for a first try! Proving this was no beginner’s luck, two years later the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater debuted, again with a manual-winding movement, 3.12mm high, inside a 6.85mm thick case. It’s an impressive achievement for a striking watch and all the more so considering the clarity of sound, enhanced by the use of titanium for the case and the incisions in the dial where the hour markers would otherwise be.
Come 2017, when Bulgari launched the Octo Finissimo Automatic, it looked as though the fat lady had sung and wouldn’t be coming back for an encore. Could anyone imagine topping this new record of 2.23mm for the movement and 5.15mm for the case? Piaget could, and did. A year later, in 2018, it toppled the Octo Finissimo’s crown with the Altiplano Ultimate 910P, a revolutionary, 4.30mm automatic watch whose caseback doubles up as the main plate supporting the movement components. But Bulgari wasn’t giving up without a fight. A few months later, it drove home the – final? – nail with the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic. At 3.95mm in total and 1.95mm for the movement, it remains the thinnest automatic watch and consequently the thinnest automatic tourbillon on the market.
Bulgari’s rapid growth in the watch industry cannot be dissociated from the judicious purchase of Genta Manufacture almost two decades ago.
Tribute to Gérald Genta
The rise of the Octo, Bulgari’s men’s collection par excellence, shows how much the takeover of Genta has weighed in the Italian firm’s development as a watchmaker; something it readily acknowledges: “Bulgari’s rapid growth in the watch industry cannot be dissociated from the judicious purchase of Genta Manufacture almost two decades ago. The acquisition of this exceptional know-how gave Bulgari further confidence and ambition to enter Haute Horlogerie.” Giving credit where credit is due, Bulgari is paying a twofold tribute to the Genta Manufacture, established 50 years ago in 1969, and to the brilliant Gérald Genta.
The first tribute takes the form of the Octo Roma Grande Sonnerie Perpetual Calendar. It also coincides with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the very first Grande Sonnerie by Gérald Genta, and is a perfect match for Bulgari which has produced no fewer than 90 grande sonnerie watches since 1994. For this rendition, the mechanism has been enhanced with a safety device that prevents the chimes from sounding when the movement is being wound. The second tribute is the Gérald Genta 50th Anniversary watch. Housed inside an Arena case with a wide bezel, it displays jumping hours in an aperture. The minutes and the date are both shown by retrograde hands. Powered by the BVL 300 calibre, which is visible through the sapphire back, it carries on a grand tradition: that of Gérald Genta, one of the great figures of contemporary watchmaking.