Back in 2017, Bulgari released these two Octo Mono-Retro watches as part of its relationship with Italian automobile maker Maserati. aBlogtoWatch first covered the Bulgari Octo Maserati Mono-Retro GrandSport (DLC-coated steel case) and GrandLusso (18k rose gold case) watches when they were released. Today, I’d like to go hands-on with these two limited-production watches that offer a look at what Bulgari was doing and thinking before the current popularity of the Octo Finissimo collection. Note that while these two Bulgari Octo Mono-Retro watches were sold via BVLGARI brand stores, for at least the limited-edition Octo Maserati Mono-Retro GrandSport (in DLC-coated steel) model, the availability to purchase was one contingent on having purchased a Maserati GrandSport car. The first 30 customers of GrandTurismo and GranCabrio (from around the same circa 2017 period) cars were given a chance to purchase the watches. Who these watches ultimately went to is unknown. The gold GradLusso model (which was more expensive) was apparently not a limited edition and thus could be sold to anyone with a penchant for Italian luxury, whether or not they had a Maserati in their garage.

The Octo Mono-Retro wasn’t Bulgari’s first rodeo with its neat retrograde minute jumping hour automatic movement that it inherited back when the company purchased Gerald Genta. With that purchase also came the Octo case, and since then the Octo has been dutifully transformed by Bulgari into its most popular wristwatch profile for men. This movement layout was always a challenge for artists to make pretty (aside from perhaps Gerald Genta himself), and yet Bulgari has produced some beautiful dials with this difficult-to-design around movement, and for that, it deserves lots of credit. Despite having a minute hand that is too polished to be easily read all the time, the textured dial and brushed hour markers on the face of the Octo Mono-Retro GranSport and GranLusso watches are divine to admire. The mechanical system works well too, even though I understand that compared to traditional perpetually rotating in a single direction, retrograde hands require a lot more maintenance. One nice feature for a jumping hour complication is the ability to set the time in both directions.

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The name of the movement inside the Octo Mono-Retro is the in-house Bulgari caliber BVL 262. An automatic caliber, it operates at 4Hz with 42 hours of power reserve. The retrograde minute and jumping hour system is a module over the base automatic. You are supposed to be able to see the mechanical movement through the tinted rear sapphire crystal, but on the units I shot (pre-production prototypes) the crystal tint was too opaque. Also, on the rear of the watch is the most conspicuous Maserati branding, which is where it should be. Accordingly, there is little Maserati branding on the dial of the watches, aside from the car maker’s distinctive trident logo.

In the DLC-coated black steel “GranSport” or the 18k pink gold “GranLusso” versions of the watch, the case is all Octo without any special changes for Maserati. I’m not saying that I would have wanted a new case per se, but ever since Hublot (both Hublot and Bulgari are part of LVMH) went all out in making a totally original version of its Big Bang watch for Ferrari (Ferrari and Maserati are also part of the same group), the bar was set pretty high. Ferrari gets its own case but Maserati didn’t? I suppose at the time it was unclear how deep the relationship between Bulgari and Maserati would go. Plus, there is an argument to be made at Bulgari that Maserati owners mostly want a Bulgari watch as opposed to some product that was in between the styles of both brands. When these Octo Maserati Mono-Retro watches came out, they represented the second or third collaboration between Bulgari and Maserati. At least the Maserati watches had some interesting changes and were not mere color variants (I’m thinking about Girard-Perregaux and Aston Martin as I write this, even though those pieces are pretty cool). The relationship between Bulgari and Maserati didn’t really go long or deep enough for there to be much focus on products with novel cases or other design features, which could have been interesting.

There was an attempt at a car/watch strap connection. Bulgari apparently used car leather for the Octo Maserati straps and created a stitching pattern to evoke the look of Maserati’s perforated leather car seats. The padded straps were quite nice and offered a look very different than most other Octo watches at the time. The watches were very comfortable on the strap. Looking back on the Octo Maserati Mono-Retro GrandSport and GrandLusso watches, we see a collaboration watch that has aged well and still feels as though Bulgari is respecting this design language. The company continues to dabble in automotive interest with a relationship related to the Gran Turismo racing video game series. Since the Gerald Genta brand is now back (under LVMH ownership just like Bulgari), we will probably not see many if any retrograde minute, jumping hour movements in Bulgari models. So that makes these and the other relatively rare Bulgari watches with the retrograde minute, jumping hour movements rare and special in my opinion.

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Retail prices for the two watches were about what you’d expect, and don’t feel particularly expensive by today’s standards. The limited edition of 30 pieces of Bulgari Octo Maserati Mono-Retro GrandSport in black-colored steel retailed for $12,800 USD. The 18k rose gold Bulgari Octo Maserati Mono-Retro GrandLusso has a retail price of $30,700 USD. Learn more at the Bulgari website.

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