April 10, 2016
by David Bredan
The Bulgari L’Ammiraglio Del Tempo minute repeater has another trick up its sleeve: thanks to the skeletonized dial, three of the four hammers are on display on the dial side (two gongs are overlapping, as testified by the video’s segment when you can hear the minutes’ chime but cannot see a hammer moving). Still, while the curved gongs beautifully frame the oval-shaped dial, there appears to be no pusher or slider protruding from the side of the case – just a lonely, albeit very intricately crafted crown.
The answer? To initiate the minute repeater mechanism, the lower left lug has to be grabbed and pulled upwards, along the side of the case – a unique and actually quite fun solution. The strap is attached to the part of the case that falls in between the lugs so that it won’t fall off when you twist the lug. Once you have pulled the piece all the way to its outermost position, a most reassuring click can be heard, and the four hammers begin their dance on the gongs.
The tune they chime is the Westminster carillon melody, with sound quality so rich and accurate that one wants to reach for the lug and start up the melody again and again. On the quarter chime, all four hammers come to play to deliver this melody – again, with virtually perfect timing, coming from an excessively complex and hence challenging-to-tune mechanism.
The brand says that the Bulgari L’Ammiraglio Del Tempo is the only watch to feature both a detent escapement and a minute repeater. We are on the topic of the latter, so without getting lost in the details of the former, let us be brief and say that detent escapements have traditionally been used in marine chronometers, thanks to their promise of greater accuracy and higher efficiency, delivered by a layout of crucial contact points that make the transfer of energy much more efficient.
The last piece in our video is the all-new Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, officially the world’s thinnest minute repeater. Ariel discussed it at length in his hands-on article here, but what you absolutely need to know about it is this: “the in-house-made Bulgari caliber BVL 362 manually wound movement is just 3.12mm thick.”
Bulgari is not at all new to ultra-thin timepieces: their 5-millimeter-thick, hand-wound Octo tourbillon (hands-on here) is the thinnest of its kind in the world, and the “regular” Octo Finissimo is even a tiny bit slimmer in its profile. The real challenge when it comes to minute repeaters, though, is not merely thickness – in fact, many chiming watches are unusually large and thick, because of their massive and massively complex movements. The most important matter, then, is the quality and delivery of the sound – and that applies to all chiming watches, regardless of whether they were designed to break records or not.
As is captured by the video footage, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater’s chime conceals flawlessly the thinness of its caliber and case. The sound is rich, even if of a higher pitch than the other three pieces that we listened to, and the rhythm of all chimes is spot on, as well. Despite the extraordinary thinness of the movement, its plates and hammers have received every bit of high-end finishing one would expect. Hand-beveled and -polished edges, perlage and Geneva striping, plus some black mirror-polished elements render the BVL 362 an haute horlogerie caliber.
To enable the sound to better escape towards the wearer, the large, grey dial has been cleverly skeletonized, with all the indices and the seconds sub-dial’s frame having been cut out from the plane of the dial. The chiming mechanism is set off through a snappy pusher, which in this instance, actually is also used to wind up the device. The chimes are relatively fast-paced and not as laid back in their tempo as some of the pieces – even so, a testament to the careful timing of the movement is how one can hear the high-pitched sound fade out completely once the quarters chime is over but before the minutes count begins.
It is certainly no news that minute repeaters are extremely complicated and very delicate machines; but to hear four pieces which, although made by the same company, sound so different is a very unique experience, for sure. It illustrates the mind-bogglingly complex nature of this complication, and how diversely challenging it can be to achieve the perfect sound. All four pieces have their very own character and specialty, thanks to a wide range of ideas, diverse technical solutions, and their hand-tuned, unique sound and rhythm. Price for the Bulgari Carillon Tourbillon Minute Repeater is roughly US$270,000, the Bulgari Magsonic Grande Sonnerie is priced around US$950,000, the Bulgari L’Ammiraglio Del Tempo is about US$350,000, and the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater has a price of 160,000 Swiss francs. bulgari.com