The folks at Bulgari have done it again. What we’ve got here is another record-setting watch in the Octo Finissimo line, this time an automatic chronograph with a GMT function that can proudly claim the title of being the world’s thinnest mechanical chronograph. Seeing “6.9mm thick” on the spec sheet is one thing, but we’re actually having a hard time envisioning what that’s going to feel like on the wrist as a chronograph – it’s so much thinner than what we usually see these days, even setting aside the prolific use of modular chronograph movements. As with many previous Octo Finissimo watches, the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic has an angular case made of sandblasted titanium with a titanium dial and a titanium bracelet to match. It comes in at 42mm edge-to-edge and the dial’s oversized registers use minimal typography and markings to keep it from looking cluttered. The entire package appears sleek and streamlined.
At the center of all of this is a brand new movement, the Caliber BVL 318. The movement is just 3.3mm thick, setting yet another record: this is the thinnest automatic chronograph caliber ever made. When you add the fact that it’s got a GMT function, you’re getting even more bang for your proverbial buck. Looking at the caliber, you’ll notice that there’s no traditional rotor. To make the movement this thin, Bulgari had to utilize a peripheral rotor in solid platinum, hence the increased diameter. The BVL 318 offers a 55 hour power reserve and you can adjust the local time by pushing the button set into the case at nine o’clock, making it easier to quickly change time zones on the go. Finishing looks very much in line with what we’ve seen in other Octo Finissimo pieces – it’s thorough and attentive, but with a bit of a cool, industrial vibe to it.
We’ve both long been fans of Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo watches. They’re just so … well, different. There’s honestly nothing else like them on the market, which is a rare thing in this day and age. The overall design is a little aggressive, but the watches are super comfortable on the wrist and feel rich in personality without being too loud. While it’s easy to understand the technical achievements that are an ultra-thin automatic tourbillon and an ultra-thin carbon minute repeater, we want to make it abundantly clear that an ultra-thin automatic chronograph like what we’ve got here is no less a marvel. This is some really serious watchmaking at work and I’m thoroughly looking forward to getting some up-close-and-personal time with this watch and its movement in the next couple of days.
Just for some context, a new in-house automatic chronograph of any kind is a rarity – chronographs are inherently difficult to design and manufacture, and automatic chronos, even more so (which is why the Valjoux/ETA 7750 and its clones and variants are found in so many watches to this day, despite its having been originally designed, by the brilliant Edmond Capt, in the early 1970s). Extra flat chronograph movements are even more scarce, and extra flat/ultra thin automatic chronographs are an even rarer breed – so much so that the record-holder prior to the introduction of this watch from Bulgari has been around since 1987.
That movement is the F. Piguet (now Manufacture Blancpain) caliber 1185, which is 5.5mm thick and which is based on the hand-wound F. Piguet 1180, which is only 3.95mm thick. (Piaget’s caliber 883P, in the Altiplano chronograph, is only 4.65mm thick but that’s a hand-wound caliber). While relatively many companies have invested in ultra-thin watches ranging from time-only pieces, to tourbillons and perpetual calendars, no one has tried seriously to produce anything thinner than the Piguet/Blancpain calibers in decades and it is remarkable that it’s been left to Bulgari to finally break the record with this column-wheel controlled, peripheral rotor caliber. The F. Piguet 1180/85 calibers were superb technical achievements in their day but clearly, the genre was due for attack by someone with the technical ability and persistence necessary to succeed and it’s a testimony to Bulgari that it’s no longer surprising that it was in fact Bulgari that broke the record.
What really sends this watch over the top is just how customer-friendly it is. Setting records and achieving milestones is great and all, but ultimately I like seeing watches that people are actually going to wear and enjoy out in the real world. The combination of a chronograph and a GMT function in an ultra-thin watch on a well-integrated bracelet is going to put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces.