Certainly an epic and striking watch release of the 2020s is the latest ultra-thin watch from Bulgari, this time a unique piece in the form of the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble created for the Only Watch 2023 auction. Fans of the brand will know how proud Bulgari is of its Italian roots — the company was established in Rome in 1884, which is where it is headquartered to this day, and Roman cultural heritage has served as the inspiration for many of its watch and jewelry creations. This latest Octo is no different.
Green marble is widely associated with the world of architecture and art, but the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble watch is not crafted from solid marble but is instead covered with a thin layer of it. The green marble for the case, dial, and bracelet of this watch is called Verde Alpi, and it originates from the Aosta Valley, the natural passage in the Alps between Switzerland and Italy.
That is a most fitting source given the watchmaker’s active presence in the two countries — we have visited its fully integrated watch movement, case, bracelet, and dial manufactures here — but the brand claims to have chosen it also for its aesthetic properties: “Its dominant color [green] in nature evoking abundance, growth, and energy, is offset with white veins, recalling the serpentines of alpine forests and snowy peaks.” On a personal note, I would put it more simply by saying that a Bulgari watch in marble should, by all means, have existed, and I’m inexplicably thrilled that it finally does, even if the chances for me to ever handle it are as thin as the watch itself. Perhaps at Geneva Watch Days at the end of August.
Bulgari claims the piece required almost five years of research and “untold hours of painstaking work” before the front and sides of each link could be set with a sliver of marble, leaving only the interior surface (nearest to the wrist) in black DLC titanium. Marble was adopted by Bulgari as early as 1934 when the famous architect Florestano Di Fausto expanded and renovated the Bulgari flagship boutique in the Via dei Condotti in Rome, where Bulgari’s flagship boutique resides to this day. (It was renovated once again, in marble, in 2014, and it is definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Rome.)
The Venus de Milo, the Carrara Cathedral, the Taj Mahal — from ancient Greece to Italy to Mughal architecture in India, marble has held a special place in the history of art, across continents and cultures. Bulgari adds, “Italy has contributed decisively to this fixation, as the Italic Peninsula’s artists and architects who shaped this material left their eternal imprint on European culture and history can attest — such as cathedrals of Pisa, Siena, and Florence, or Michelangelo’s David. Marble was first imported during the Roman conquests — from Numidia (today’s Tunisia), Greece, and Egypt — and then extracted closer to the capital of the Empire.”
It is a brilliant material, sure, but not something one would expect to find on a watch. A dial, maybe, but not fully clad in a stone better known for larger-than-life statues and entire buildings. (For the record, green marble pillars on historic churches and such tend to also be “wrapped” in the material and are not solid marble.) The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble, whose octagonal design is directly inspired by the geometric motifs of Rome’s Pantheon, responds exceptionally well to this material, although, to be fair, it also looked impressive (and hysterical) when brought to a complete and absolute mirror polish with the Sejima Edition we covered hands-on here.
The Octo Finissimo case and all its 110 facets had to be covered with a thin veneer (between 0.4 and 0.5mm-thick) of marble, each a tiny and delicate sliver of marble that was carefully matched to those on the nearby surfaces to create the impression of the entire watch being milled from a single block. The bracelet, Bulgari claims, “no doubt proved the most delicate part; together with the case of the watch, the work took about 190 hours to complete.” Each slice of marble is delicately set on each one of the bracelet’s links with a three-dimensional element covering both the top and sides of the link, leaving only the interior surface of the bracelet in black DLC titanium. The dial is the thickest, if we can call it that, comprising a 0.6mm-thick wafer of marble with indices on the top and a tourbillon cut-out at 6 o’clock.
Inside the 40mm-wide marble-covered black DLC titanium case lives the BVL268 manufacture caliber of Bulgari. Measuring just 1.95mm-thick, this in-house designed and produced movement combines a 52-hour power reserve with a 3Hz operating frequency and a flying tourbillon. The packaging is also unique, of course, and it is covered in green marble for good measure. The price of the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble watch will be determined on the Only Watch 2023 auction on November 5, 2023, in Geneva. You can learn more at the brand’s website.