It is 10 years now since Bulgari set off on its course to become the new king of ultra-thin mechanical watches. When the first Octo Finissimo debuted, little did we — or anyone — know Bulgari would want to attain more than a one-off feat, let alone such a hot streak. The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra is the brand’s eighth record-thin luxury watch, and with a watch case that’s 1.80mm-thick, it marks a thinness world record for a mechanical watch.
It is rare for long-established world records to be beaten by a margin as great as 10%. That, however, is what the Bulgari Octo Finissimo has pulled off by dethroning the previous record holder, the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept. When we saw that watch in 2018, it was so incredibly thin and fragile that we were barely allowed to touch it — with everyone from the brand, understandably, on edge so that none of us would inadvertently bend (borderline tear apart, like a piece of paper) that watch.
Ultra beats Ultimate, this time, as the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra comes in a 40mm sandblasted titanium case that is just 1.80 millimeters-thick.
That’s thinner not only than the Piaget but also than a €0.10 coin (1.93mm) or a ¢5 coin (1.95mm). When it comes to especially thin watches, we normally say something like “this is owing to the ultra-thin movement.” But this time around, it’s not just a thin movement in a regular-constructed case. No. The layout, design, way of fabrication, and material of every component you can think of in a mechanical watch had to be specially developed to support the ultra-thin goal and the structural integrity of the finished piece.
You see, at the time of its launch, Piaget’s “ultimate-thin” watch was exactly what the brand called it: a concept. It took several years of tweaks (including major ones affecting the material used) for an annual production of three pieces to be made available to purchase. By contrast, the Octo Finissimo Ultra is introduced not as a concept but as a limited edition of 10 pieces —still bordering on haute couture production levels, with all 10 doubtless being snatched up in no time but appreciably more than a mere concept exercise.
Bulgari’s workshops in Vallée de Joux and Neuchâtel worked with movement development specialist Concepto in La Chaux-de-Fonds over the course of three years to create the Octo Finissimo Ultra. The vertically integrated Swiss-Italian watchmaker draws the comparison to a sprinter “for whom each hundredth of a second gained represents exponential efforts.” I’d prefer 0-60 acceleration times, but I get where they are going with that. Bulgari, therefore, had to install the 170 components of the BVL Calibre 180 on the caseback directly, eliminating the need for a separate (and thick) mainplate and a caseback. So, when you are touching the caseback of the watch, you are actually touching the delicate plate that carries the movement itself — a thought scary to some, amazing to others. To add rigidity to the structure, Bulgari developed some components (like the caseback/mainplate) in tungsten carbide, a particularly dense, hard, and ultra-resistant combination of carbon and tungsten. The bezel, lugs and bracelet are in lightweight titanium with a sandblasted finish, as is customary for most Octo Finissimo watches.
It may be fun to look at the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra and try to reverse-engineer its solutions to record-breaking thinness. It probably doesn’t take a technical explanation for one to figure that a 1.80mm-thick watch can’t have a regular crown; it would either be too large next to the watch or too small and flimsy to allow for actual use. The front view gently reveals two rotating “knobs” on either side of the case and the complete absence of a regular dial reveals their connection to various parts of the Bulgari BVL 180 movement. To the left, the “crown” is linked to the mainspring barrel to recharge the (mighty impressive) 50-hour power reserve. Operating frequency is 28,800 vph (4 Hertz) — again, impressive stuff.
If you’re wondering, that thing over the mainspring barrel is a QR code that links to an NFT artwork by the watch’s designer, Fabrizio Buonamassa, exclusive to the piece guaranteeing its authenticity and uniqueness.
Back to stuff us watch lovers are more likely to appreciate: The crown to the right can be used to adjust the time. This is done through a differential gear mechanism that allows time to be set without disturbing the gear train. This and a total of eight patent-pending engineering solutions were required to attain the 1.50mm thickness of the BVL 180 caliber.
You can let us know in the comments below if you know of any others, but as far as we know, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra stands alone in the already highly rarified segment of ultra-thin watches by featuring a metal bracelet. Comprising remarkably thin links in sandblasted titanium, the bracelet also had to be specifically designed to go with the ultra-thin watch case — your average luxury watch metal bracelet is several times thicker than the entire Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra. That said, do let us know if you are one of the 10 lucky individuals to own one of these and if you’ve managed to put it on an Oyster bracelet.
Time displays have been separated into two, with hours and minutes being shown on two subdials. It is mind-bending to think that, when going for 1.80mm overall thickness, you can’t even afford to have overlapping hands over a single dial, you have to set them up separately, but in the same plane. The hands are black PVD-coated for better contrast against the gray background.
Price for the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra is €400,000, including taxes, and you can find other ultra-thin watches on the brand’s website.