Deep Dive: The Bulgari Octo Finissimo World Record Saga

In the world of luxury watchmaking at its highest level, world records are no easy feat. Advancements in manufacturing precision and materials research have certainly changed the landscape over the last couple of decades, but even then only a handful of the industry’s leaders have remained consistently interested in truly pushing those boundaries. At the top of that list lives Bulgari — the Italian powerhouse with a record-breaker list longer than anything we’ve seen in recent (or even not-so-recent) history.

Over the last decade the Octo Finissimo collection has truly flourished — it’s thoughtful, detailed, and distinctly modern in design, drawing in collectors who are seeking something more than a typical reissue or legacy references being sold by other luxury makers in the segment. It’s the go-to recommendation for those looking for something that’s out of the ordinary, but still a classic in its own special way. That said, there’s another big draw when looking at the Octo Finissimo; the collection holds eight world record breaking watches, all launched within an eight-year span.

Under the leadership of CEO Jean-Christophe Babin, with Product Creation Executive Director Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani guiding the pens on paper, the two set to work on redefining the ultra-thin watchmaking category. A category once held firm by the likes of Piaget, Audemars Piguet, and others, each piece of this set dethroned one watch after the next. After spending some time with the complete collection during its tour through Toronto, we’ve opted to take a closer look at the entire record-breaking collection.

Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Manual (2014)

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Manual

Starting from the beginning, the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Manual set the tone for things to come, entering the market as the world’s thinnest tourbillon watch, as well as containing the world’s thinnest tourbillon movement. Perhaps the most noteworthy element of this record breaker is how hard of a record it was to take on. The watch itself is only 5mm thick, and the previous holder of the aforementioned record was a mere 0.5mm thicker — the Audemars Piguet 2870, which had held this record since 1986. With a movement as thick as a Canadian loonie (1.95mm), Bulgari had to deploy more than a few tricks to save space. One of which was the choice to open its dial to show off its flying tourbillon. Many brands will go with this “open heart” style design for aesthetic purposes but with this watch it’s rather functional; it gave its engineers a touch more space to hide the tourbillon cage without adding thickness to the watch itself.

Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater (2016)

bvlgari octo finissimo minute repeater

Hot on the heels of the brand’s first record, Bulgari set out to prove that it was capable of more than just ultra-thin records. Minute repeaters remain rarified air, even in high watchmaking, so to bring a minute repeater to the table in a format that breaks world records for thinness of both watch and caliber — 6.85mm and 3.12mm respectively — was equal parts unexpected and impressive. Often rather conservative in design, and typically reserved for execution in precious metals rather than titanium, the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater proved to be yet another example of Bulgari’s strong defiance of convention. The use of titanium, alongside the cut-out dial design make this one of the more crisp and loud chiming watches we’ve seen or heard in some time now.

Octo Finissimo Automatic (2017)

bvlgari octo finissimo automatic

After two highly complex offerings, it was time for the Octo Finissimo collection to gain an anchor; a reference for the core collection was essential in creating the model’s broader collector following. The comparatively simple micro-rotor automatic Finissimo Automatic burst onto the scene with plenty of fanfare, with watch media, enthusiasts, and collectors alike being left enthralled with the simplicity and modernity of the watch. At 5.15mm thick it only held the record of thinnest automatic watch for a brief period, but its record breaking status played only a small role in its immense popularity. To this day it’s broadly agreed that its bracelet is one of the most comfortable on the market.

Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic (2018)

bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic

Of the various moves, it was surely interesting to see Bulgari go after one of its own world records when launching the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic. Ditching the dial and letting its inner workings do the talking (for the first time in the series), the new watch cut existing records to pieces with its 3.95mm case thickness. You’ll note, that’s only two millimetres thicker than the caliber of the 2014 Tourbillon manual. One of the key bits of trickery here was sorting out how to build in automatic winding capabilities without affecting case thickness. This is where the scarcely-used peripheral rotor comes into play. Mounted to the outer edge of the rest of the caliber, its impact only plays into the overall diameter of the watch, increasing it from 40mm to 42mm.

Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic (2019)

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic

Taking a page out of the Octo Finissimo Automatic’s playbook, this Chronograph GMT is less of a technical exercise, and more an expression of what ultra-thin watchmaking can look like in non-limited production form. Its 6.9mm thick case packs in both a chronograph and second time zone indication, both with clean and legible displays alongside simple and usable functionality. the pushers on the left side of the case handle the chronograph’s function, whereas the pusher on the left allows for a rapid adjustment of the 24-hour GMT hand. For those (like myself) who are especially fond of practical complications, this reference immediately became a leader as potential “one-watch collection” candidate. Like the Finissimo Automatic, there have been a handful of additional references in different materials, alongside les monochromatic dial offerings.

Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic (2020)

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph Skeleton Automatic

Though it’s name is a mouthful, the amount of clever trickery that Bulgari packed into this watch makes the nomenclature far less of a bother. This time around, Bulgari went after a record that, to be fair, didn’t carry much competition. It arrived nonetheless as the world’s thinnest tourbillon chronograph — a record none have since attempted to contest. At 7.4mm thick, it’s not nearly as slender as its siblings thus far, but it’s fair to say that combining a tourbillon escapement and the necessary gearing required for a chronograph is not a task to be taken lightly. What remains baffling to this day is one special technique deployed by the brand to save space. Rather than using a conventional crown — one that its owner would pull out in order to set the time — a switching geartrain is deployed via the lower pusher on its case, allowing said owner to toggle between winding and time setting functions.

Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar (2021)

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar

From a simple time-only indication, to an extremely practical Chronograph GMT, the next logical step after so many record breakers was to go after the record to beat all records: the perpetual calendar. To simply make a conventional layout perpetual calendar watch in the Octo Finissimo case simply wouldn’t do, so Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani set to work and developed a new and clever way to display a calendar function that suits the brand’s design language. The end result is wonderfully simple. The date — the part of the calendar you’re likely to be looking for first, occupies the upper quadrant of the dial using a large retrograde pointer indication.. The lower segment of the dial splits the day of the week and current month displays between a pair of large subdials. finally, another retrograde hand acts as a leap year indication. The most impressive part? The watch is 0.15mm thinner than the simple Octo Finissimo Automatic, coming in at a flat 5mm.

Octo Finissimo Ultra

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Ultra

With a name like Ultra, you know you’re looking at a rather high benchmark. Here’s where things get wild. Remember how we mentioned the movement of the 2014 Tourbillon Manual was 1.95mm thick? Well, the entirety of the Ultra is even thinner than that. An entire mechanical watch, thinner than a Loonie. You’ll note the two separate dials for hours and minute — a way to cut thickness by not having to stack hands. You’ll also notice a lack of a crown, small gear teeth stick out of either side of the watch — one for time setting, and one for winding. Should you flip it over, there’s nothing at all to see — its caseback is made of tungsten carbide (for added rigidity), and acts as the mainplate of the movement. It’s an incredible masterclass of ultra-thin innovation in a package that’s still a wearable and functional timepiece. You’ll note the QR code on its mainspring barrel cover. When scanned, it leads leads to a video about the watch, with an NFT attached that makes it specific to that particular watch, as well as other assets. Though it carries a sticker price north of $500,000 Canadian, Bulgari is confident enough in the execution that 10 pieces produced and sold.