It’s been almost 10 years now since Bulgari introduced its Octo Finissimo collection with a bang: A record-thin tourbillon. At the time, I remember, we wouldn’t have dared to imagine the Italian-Swiss brand making a name for itself in the historic niche of ultra-thin watchmaking, let alone ruling it for the decade to come. Yet here we are, dozens of different Octo Finissimo references and eight ultra-thin world records later, after having photographed and seen virtually every one of those Octo Finissimo models over the scope of nine years, the time has finally come for me to have one in for long-term review. This is the review of the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton 8 Days watch, which is ultra-thin and all-titanium.
It’s obvious that seeing a watch, any watch, for a few minutes, or hours, even, is an experience incomparable to wearing one for weeks or months. This is all the more true for the Octo Finissimo. Unquestionably impressive from a technical point of view right from its 2014 debut, it is only through long-term wear that one can fully assess what it’s like to live with such a low-volume watch. When I say “low-volume,” that’s true both in terms of quantities produced and dimensions. In a nutshell, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton 8 Days is a peculiar watch with a lot to unpack, delivering a consequently unique wearing and ownership experience.
The renaissance of luxury watchmaking has given us the big watch trend that peaked in the late 2000s and early ’10s. This has given us plenty of opportunities to grow used to having high-volume watches with hefty cases and expansive surfaces on our wrists. Importantly, the same trend has also allowed watch designers to go to town with styling. Yes, there have been a handful of mildly successful thin watches, but they were very few and very far between, hardly ever coming into play to highlight the benefits and challenges specific to ultra-thin watchmaking. This has, of course, changed over the last decade, and the brand that has ruled this segment above everyone else has been Bulgari with the Octo Finissimo.
The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton 8 Days follows a long series of ultra-thin watches from the brand, and while this particular piece (reference Bulgari 103610) is not smashing any records, it deservedly bears the Finissimo label (the word stands for “superfine” or the “finest” in Italian and is reserved for exceptionally thin renditions of the Octo). The titanium case is said to be 40mm-wide but wears considerably larger than that seemingly modest measurement would suggest, as is the norm when it comes to square cases. It is also 5.95mm-thick “bumper-to-bumper,” which is a bit thick by Octo Finissimo standards, but extremely thin by luxury watch standards. To give you some context, the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A measures 8.3mm-thick, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo is officially called “Extra-Thin”at 8.1mm-thick, and these watches have 45- and 40-hour power reserve, respectively, as opposed to the 192 hours in this Octo Finissimo.
Over the course of this review, I have worn sweaters (and even a shirt) that appeared to have had sleeves thicker than this watch at 5.95mm. Sitting on the shuttle, on my way to Watches & Wonders 2023, I had this watch on one morning and I remember looking down at my wrist and seeing the gray titanium discreetly blend into the shade cast by the sleeve. It was then and there that I discovered how the watch was as thin as the sleeve itself, if not thinner.
I thought to myself what a ludicrous idea it would be to go to a tailor and commission a shirt that had an 8-day power reserve mechanical watch integrated into the sleeve.
I thought to myself what a ludicrous idea it would be to go to a tailor and commission a shirt that had an 8-day power reserve mechanical watch integrated into the sleeve. This is not to say tailoring can’t be every bit as impressive as horology. However, it’s important to reflect on how we, so deeply involved in the latter field, might sometimes take for granted watches that would, off the cuff, be labeled as impossible to make if just described to people outside this hobby.
To have one’s passion for watches be driven by an appreciation for exceptionally fine mechanisms is extremely common, but often that appreciation is experienced through comparable watches and movements with rather more nuanced variations to them. By contrast, the Octo Finissimo offers a very new, very different, and very involved way to evoke those oohs and aahs. Finissimo by itself is a complication and, unlike, say, a perpetual calendar, it’s tangible and exciting at every single interaction with the watch. It is difficult to overstate how stunningly impressive this item is from an engineering point of view and, again, many of us watch enthusiasts have fallen under the spell of horology precisely because of our appetite for such high levels of refinement in a functional package.
Even if the Octo Finissimo weren’t a perfectly wearable watch, but simply a collectible object, it would still be lots of fun to own, have around, interact with, and admire.
We’ll cut to the wearing experience and movement specs soon, but here’s something to consider: Even if the Octo Finissimo weren’t a perfectly wearable watch, but simply a collectible object, it would still be lots of fun to own, have around, interact with, and admire. The way the dial reveals so much of the movement and then the immensely packed layout of the movement itself, these should tell a lot about the unique effort and engineering prowess that allowed this thing to come into existence. Those with a trained eye for inspired movement constructions, familiar module layouts, and recycled engineering solutions will likely revel in a hands-on encounter with the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton 8 Days — there is nothing familiar and nothing recycled, either in the whole or in any detail of this movement and dial.
There is an entertaining contrast between the exterior and interior of this watch. The movement (to my eyes at least) appears to have a very natural randomness to it, reminiscent of how nature finds seemingly arbitrary combinations of materials and layouts and patterns to push a certain species beyond others in one field or another. Bits of the going train can be seen around 6 o’clock, a mainspring barrel up at 1 o’clock, but the rest is scattered around and further camouflaged by two of the biggest and most hectic-looking plates (on both the dial and caseback side) in any modern movement with innumerable amoebae-shaped cutouts and straight bridges. One gets the impression that this is the only way this many components and this much power reserve could be crammed into a 2.5mm-high space, and usually, it’s nature that finds these random combinations of hundreds of components to create odd records. The end result lacks structure and logic but is beautiful, hence this analogy.
By contrast, the 110-facet Octo Finissimo case and one-piece link bracelet look as man-made as they get. The case and its combination of angles, edges, and perfect circles harken back to ages-old architecture — a most artificial and structured field of life and a frequent source of inspiration for Bulgari, a brand understandably proud of its Italian heritage reaching all the way back to ancient Rome. Bulgari apparently knew it had to have a clean sheet and an open mind to make its exceptionally thin watch not only specific to it but also entertaining. The majority of comparably thin watches (meaning 5-6mm, not 8-9mm-thick) tend to have squished versions of traditional cases with a round design and short, curved lugs, or longer, straight ones. They are impressive in their wafer-thin execution, but hardly exciting from a styling point of view.
Bulgari claims to have reveled in the opportunity to make the absolute most from the absolute least amount of volume, and it shows. The 110 facets endow the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton 8 Days with a confident presence — it’s definitely not one of your apologetically slim gold dress watches. Oh no, it isn’t. As a result, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, either. A seldom discussed yet fundamental element of watch design is the width-to-thickness ratio of a watch case. Just as a 38mm-wide and 17mm-thick case will look odd, it makes sense that an over 40mm-wide, 6mm-thick case will have a curious appearance, too. Every single Octo Finissimo will look off to the eye at least from this one important aspect because it is highly unusual not only in its lack of thickness but its complex geometrical design, as well. It is normal, then, that some will helplessly lust after one of these as they have been craving just such a package while others will seek something else that’s normal in at least one of those two departments — thickness or design.
That said, you might be surprised to learn that on the wrist the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton 8 Days looks more understated than attention-grabbing. This is primarily because of its sandblasted titanium guise. Titanium tends to have a mud-like brownish-grayness to it. It’s a rather tame, subdued, natural color that I doubt our brain is wired to identify as a look-at-me hue. The fact that it is sandblasted and therefore perfectly matte, without a single reflective surface anywhere on the case, bezel, or bracelet, only enhances the stealthy nature of this particular reference. The only reflective bits you’ll find are the hands and hour markers, and arguably the sapphire crystal that will always reflect at least a little bit, even if as impressively anti-reflective coated as this one.
Add a sleeve, and the stealthiness of the Octo Finissimo reaches peak levels — you actively have to make it reveal itself, otherwise, it will just find its way back under the sleeve. Thanks to its light weight, any sleeve more robust than those on a loose linen summer shirt will keep this all-titanium Octo Finissimo locked in place. If you want your ultra-thin Bulgari to attract all the attention from those on the same street as you — and also those traveling in low Earth orbit — you’ll probably be very happy with the hilariously shiny Sejima Edition (hands-on here), the polar opposite of the matte reference 103610 we are reviewing here.
Sizing the bracelet isn’t easy, as there are no half-links and no micro-adjust of any kind in the clasp. Thankfully, the individual links are as slim as some half-links in other watches, so eventually, getting the size right is possible. An ingenious feat that is yet to stop amazing me is the integration of the clasp into the bracelet: To ensure that the entire bracelet was a match to the ultra-thin construction of the Octo Finissimo case, Bulgari designed a bracelet where the last few links directly by the clasp are hollowed out so that the folding clasp has some space to fold into, making the bracelet, once secured around the wrist, look thin and elegant all around. A regular bracelet with a closed folding clasp is actually thicker than the entire watch head here. This is yet another little detail that serves as a very real reminder of the work Bulgari has put into having everything bespoke for the Octo Finissimo.
This, and we’ll get to the movement right after, is another valuable ingredient of the “Finissimo-appeal.” There are a handful of fully integrated watch manufactures out there like Bulgari. These are brands that not only say they do, but actually produce not only most of the components for their movements, but — perhaps more importantly — their cases, bracelets, and dials. It’s easy to overlook the fact that the Octo Finissimo is so impressive because it is a fully bespoke watch in an endless and bottomless sea of regurgitative, generic watches — yes, often even from some of the most prestigious and historic watchmakers. Being fully integrated could and arguably should be about creating fully bespoke watches, as opposed to being the provider of bragging rights to back tame vintage-inspired re-releases. There is something special and uniquely entertaining about interacting with watches that are bespoke in every single component, down to their bracelet, clasp, and crown.
Speaking of bespoke, we already touched on the apparent randomness of the movement’s layout. The Bulgari BVL199SK is an in-house Bulgari caliber, produced by the brand’s movement factory in Le Sentier in the Watch Valley of Switzerland. If its layout and feature set weren’t enough, its perfect integration with the case should make it clear that this is not a supplied movement or something one has seen anywhere else. The BVL199SK (or BVL 199 SK) movement is just 2.5mm-thick and yet it provides eight full days of power reserve. I was skeptical about that reserve de marche claim and had to test it to make sure: It actually ran several hours longer, naturally keeping more and more inaccurate time the further it reached beyond its claimed power reserve. Eight days is long enough to lose track of winding your watch, and so there is a neat power reserve display — because somehow there was still plenty of space left in there for this handy complication — to the left of subsidiary seconds display. A white bar crawls up from what would be 9 o’clock to 12 o’clock on this sub-seconds dial, indicating a fully wound movement. Having worn the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton 8 Days all day some days and stored dial side up on others, it has gained an average of six seconds per day.
In closing, we must point out the obvious: The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton 8 Days won’t be to everybody’s taste. All ultra-thin watches are quirky in their own way, but the Octo Finissimo owns that quirkiness and turns it up to 11 with a one-piece link design, 110 facets, a largely open-worked dial, and a fully sandblasted titanium exterior. It is a bonkers watch not only in its every detail but also when viewed from afar — and yet it isn’t your typical wrist jewelry. There are other Octo Finissimo models out there if you are after all that glitter, but this particular reference poses as one of the more technical renditions of Bulgari’s ultra-thin collection. It is dripping with horological prowess and you just know the world would have stopped spinning if any of the segment’s usual suspects would have launched such a movement in such material and execution. However, they didn’t, and Bulgari did.
The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton 8 Days watch (reference 103610) is priced at €23,360 without taxes. You can learn more at the brand’s website.