One of the most remarkable watchmaking success stories of the past decade has been Bulgari's transformation from a highly regarded jeweler, which made replica watches as a bit of a sideline, to one of the world's most technically advanced practitioners of fine watchmaking.
In particular, Bulgari has carved out a niche for itself in ultra-thin watchmaking, one of the field's most challenging genres. Even ordinary watchmaking requires a remarkable degree of miniaturization; ultra-thin watchmaking increases the challenge exponentially. Clearances are reduced to almost nothing, and in order to produce a reasonably reliable and accurate watch, such a high degree of specialist skill and engineering replica rolex knowledge is required that historically ultra-thin watchmaking has been considered a complication in its own right.
The Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar, in platinum.
Bulgari has been breaking and setting records in ultra-thin watchmaking since 2014, when it launched the Octo Finissimo Ultra-Thin Tourbillon, and it has just announced its newest record-breaker. The Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar is only 5.80mm thick overall ?and its movement, the caliber BVL 305, is only 2.75mm thick. (A perpetual calendar, you'll recall, is a calendar fake watch which corrects itself automatically at the end of 30-day months, and also at the end of February, even in a leap year). The fake watch is being launched in a titanium case ?the customary metal for Octo Finissimo replica watches ?and in platinum as well. This is another first ?Bulgari has never made an Octo Finissimo case in platinum before.
The Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar, in titanium, with titanium bracelet.
The previous record-holder for thinnest perpetual calendar is a remarkable fake watch in its own right, and remains one: The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin. There are a number of major technical differences between the two replica watches ?one of the most important is that the AP uses a full-rotor automatic winding system, while Bulgari uses a micro-rotor system (as it does in all the Octo Finissimo automatic watches). This allows the rotor and the automatic winding gear train to be suppressed to the same level as the going train. (The caliber 5133 in the AP also includes a moon-phase display). Though the Bulgari is the flatter of the two, at 2.75mm, the AP 5133 ?which is an extremely highly modified version of the 2120, a design that dates to the 1960s ?is still very flat, at 2.95mm thick. How does it break down, then? The Bulgari Octo Finissimo is now the thinnest perpetual calendar on the market in absolute terms, as well as the thinnest with a micro-rotor movement; the AP can still boast that it is the thinnest full-rotor perpetual.
The platinum version of the Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar.
Another interesting feature of the Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar is that it uses a retrograde date display. Bulgari's Creative Director for Watches, Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, explained to HODINKEE that the original idea was to have a big date display, but that was discarded during the development process as it would've unacceptably thickened the movement. He feels that this was a positive development from a design perspective, and based on press images, I'm inclined to agree ?the retrograde date display feels a much better fit overall for the Octo Finissimo case.
The Octo Finissimo Perpetual, in titanium (and on titanium).The Ultra-Thin Perpetual Caliber BVL 305
As is almost invariably the case with perpetual calendars, much of the complexity of the fake watch is hidden from view under the dial ?the traditional location of the cadrature (under the dial mechanisms) for not only perpetual calendars, but for repeating replica watches as well. The caliber BVL 305 does not look all that different from the time-only version in the Octo Finissimo Ultra-Thin Automatique, at least through the caseback. (The Ultra-Thin Automatique uses the caliber BVL 308.)
The time-only caliber BVL 308, in the Octo Finissimo Automatique.
That said, even through the caseback there are still noticeable differences ?for one thing you don't exactly have to have the observational powers of Mr. Sherlock Holmes to notice that the rotor for the perpetual says "perpetual calendar" on it (very tastefully done too. The Ultra-Thin Automatique gets a platinum rotor as well, by the way). The balance, balance bridge, and placement of the mainspring barrel, as well as the general layout of the bridges, is more or less the same as well.
The caliber BVL 305, perpetual calendar, back view (or what a watchmaker would call the top plate).
Under the dial, however, it's a different story.
My first impression of the dial side of the movement is that while there is a lot going on technically to support the functionality of the perpetual calendar, and the retrograde date display, there's also quite a bit of very traditional-looking movement finishing as well. The plate is decorated with perlage (also called spotting or stippling), and much of the steel work is beveled and straight-grained. In fact, the cadrature gives a much stronger feeling of classic watchmaking than the top plate side of the movement ?it would be most interesting to, at some point, see a transparent-dial version of this watch, albeit legibility would drop pretty dramatically.
The cadrature for the perpetual calendar, which is ordinarily hidden under the dial.
The pivots for the various hands can be easily located simply by comparing them to the dial of the assembled watch. In the center are the posts for the hour and minute hand. Directly above is the post for the retrograde date hand. Draw a straight line between the two, down to 6:00, and you'll see the (small) post for the leap-year hand. Below the posts for the hour and minute hands, to the right and left at about 4:00 and 8:00, you'll find the post for the month display on the right, and another for the day-of-the-week hand on the left. Right below the post for the day-of-the-week hand, you can see a gear with seven teeth, which is indexed once per day to advance the day indication. To the right, at 3:00, is the cover for the keyless works for winding and setting (the location of the crown), and above and below are the correctors for the date (at 2:00) the month (4:00) and at 8:00, for the day of the week.
Space has been used very efficiently ?the perpetual calendar works all lie on the same plane as the plate itself and are set into recesses in it, and they're almost on the same plane as the automatic winding rotor, automatic winding gear train, going train, and balance, on the other side of the movement.
Placing the mainspring barrel.
Placing the dial.
Part of the perpetual calendar switching system.Making A Case For Platinum
Part of the reason Bulgari hasn't used platinum before in an Octo Finissimo fake watch is that the design is a pretty modern one ?titanium and carbon fiber match well with it, and it was not until fairly recently that an Octo Finissimo automatic came with a polished steel case. The platinum case for the Octo Finissimo Perpetual is all the more remarkable thanks to the fact that platinum is much tougher than gold or steel to machine ?it dulls cutting tools with amazing speed, and producing the complex facets of the Octo Finissimo case in platinum is a bit of a technical tour-de-force in its own right.
Machining the Octo Finissimo Perpetual's platinum case.
Bulgari has done it again ?broken another world record with another technically remarkable and aesthetically forward-thinking watch. The only risk I can see to their strategy is that their prowess in technical watchmaking in general, and in ultra-thin watchmaking in particular, is something people are beginning to take slightly for granted simply because they do this so often and so consistently. Starting in 2014 we have:2014 Octo Finissimo Tourbillon, Manual Wind, cal. BVL 268 (1.95mm thick) 2016 Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, with cal. BVL 362 (3.12mm) 2017 Octo Finissimo Automatic, cal. BVL 138 (2.33mm) 2018 Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic, cal. BVL 288 (3.95mm) 2019 Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT, cal. BVL 318 (3.30mm)
Seven years, six records.
... and of course, today's new introduction, which makes Bulgari's sixth world record in ultra-thin watchmaking in seven years. The rest of the industry has not exactly ceded the category to Bulgari, but it's sure starting to look that way. The achievement is no less remarkable for being obviously premeditated and extremely carefully thought out ?you might get a lineup like this just through sheer brio and enthusiastic improvisation, but that's not the way to bet.
I said a moment ago that there's a risk of people starting to take this sort of thing for granted from Bulgari, but that is what they call a good problem to have ?there's nothing wrong with achieving excellence so often that people start to expect it. It is worth reflecting, I think, just how relatively quickly this has all happened ?okay, seven years isn't exactly overnight, but I think it's remarkable that the Octo Finissimo collection is still well under a decade old, and it has become as iconic as some designs which predate it by decades.
I'm not sure where Bulgari is going to go next (although so far, they have not done much with astronomical complications, albeit the perpetual calendar is an astronomical complication in a sense), but if they were to let a couple of years go by without breaking another record, I think at this point no one could blame them. In the meantime, I'm more than happy to sit back and enjoy the embarrassment of riches.
The Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar Titanium, ref. 103200: case, sandblasted titanium, 40mm x 5.80mm; sandblasted titanium crown with ceramic insert; sandblasted titanium dial. Water resistance, 30 meters.
The Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar Titanium, ref. 103463: Satin-brushed/Polished platinum case, 40mm diameter, 5.80mm thick, white-gold crown, transparent caseback; water-resistant to 30m. Blue lacquered dial
Movement: both watches, the automatic in-house caliber BVL 305, 2.75mm thick, indication of hours, minutes, retrograde date, day, month, and retrograde leap year; 60-hour power reserve.
Pricing: in titanium with titanium bracelet, $59,000; in platinum, with blue alligator strap and matching platinum pin buckle, $89,000.Shop Talk
As you may know, the HODINKEE Shop is an Authorized Dealer for Bulgari, so if you're looking to pick one up, don't forget to check The Shop.Bulgari Ultra-thin Perpetual calendar Bulgari-octo-finissimo New-watches-2021 Watches-and-wonders-2021