Bvlgari Does As the Romans Do

Ancient Rome turned on the strength of its society. Forennium, the empire established cities across the globe, each of which had a large building called a basilica at its centre. The last of these multi-purpose, community-minded monoliths to be erected in Rome was the Basilica of Maxentius, completed in 312 AD. And, even today, its eight-sided geometrical design continues to influence not only modern architecture, but also watchmaking — as Bvlgari’s Octo Roma collection, the first watch of which was released in 2012, was inspired by the basilica’s striking form.

This year, the Italian fashion house has introduced two new Octo Roma watches to the range: a three-hand model, and this sporty chronograph with a case in black DLC steel. It’s slightly larger than past Octo Roma releases, and this marginally increased case size of 42 mm gives the bicompax chronograph layout more room to breathe. The start-stop and reset pushers have been carefully integrated into the case itself, directly extending from the lugs in order to maintain that delicate balance between contemporary and classic design — because this is a watch developed and arranged according to the tenets of Roman architecture.

bulgari as romans do

The new chronograph faithfully reproduces the complication’s original design, with a small seconds at 3 o’clock, a 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, and a 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock — as well as a large central seconds hand. A date window — as discreet as the hidden niches of the Basilica of Maxentius — is positioned at 4:30.

Each of the three counters features a sunburst finish, while the hour-markers and hands glow with luminescence. It’s commendable that Bvlgari has achieved such a depth and diversity of tones across the new watch, given that these are the first Octo Roma models to be unveiled in completely monochrome colourways. And these textures continue outside the chronograph’s case, with one of two straps (a black alligator leather option can be swapped in) being crafted from rubber embossed with a traditional raised “Clous de Paris” pattern.

At its heart, the design is equally admirable, with Bvlgari’s in-house automatic calibre BVL 399 beating at 28,800 vibrations per hour and offering a 42-hour power reserve. It’s a suitably sturdy movement for a watch inspired by a great empire — and one that will, just as resolutely, stand its own tests of time.