MILAN — Bulgari is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Octo watch by setting a new record with the launch of its latest model, the Octo Finissimo Ultra, expanding into the metaverse and staging a performance with a strong AI component.
“This is an apparently impossible dream come true and a revolution, ” chief executive officer Jean-Christophe Babin told WWD. “Nobody believed we could go thinner in watch making. However, with a thinness of only 1.80 millimeters — less than a 2 Swiss franc coin — and not for the movement alone, but for the watch as a whole, from the caseback to the top of the sapphire crystal — the Octo Finissimo Ultra is setting a record as the thinnest mechanical watch in the world.”
The timepiece is being launched in a limited edition of 10 units with a price of 400,000 euros each.
With its QR code engraved on the barrel’s ratchet wheel, the Octo Finissimo Ultra is delivered with an individual NFT artwork, “partially inspired by the watch,” said Babin, that guarantees authenticity. It will also offer each owner exclusive access to a dedicated digital universe, featuring interviews, making-of segments, a virtual 3D tour of the movement, and an exploration of the visible/invisible concept linked to the watch.
Asked about the decision to launch the NFT project, Babin said this is “a new world that is becoming very important,” in particular to Gen Z and Millennials, who “spend more time gaming than on TV.”
The executive underscored that “this is a new kind of art, that is evolving. We believe that we stand for beauty and that a beauty lover will seek this experience.” A watch “cannot be as emotional as staying in one of our hotels, so we are adding value and emotion to the watch itself, creating a new experiential dimension, unique for each customer,” continued Babin. “We are combining beauty with superlative watch making.”
Although Bulgari’s parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault is officially taking a cautious approach to the metaverse, the world’s biggest luxury group has been exploring the possibilities of the digital environment and its adjacent innovations. For example, as reported earlier this month, LVMH created a virtual ambassador to present its brand innovations at the next edition of the Viva Technology conference, scheduled to run from June 15 to 18 in Paris.
Babin was speaking ahead of the event Monday evening at the Pantheon — the first time a private event was held at the Roman landmark. Thanking the minister of cultural heritage, activities and tourism, he explained that conductor Edoardo Giachino would lead the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia through a musical performance while wearing a special helmet that would mirror his brain’s emotions through an AI algorithm. “The music, light and emotions will set the pace for the show and the event will evolve with the emotions.”
Bulgari’s connection to Rome is unquestionable and the company has supported several restoration projects in the Italian capital. But there is also a strong link between the Octo and the Pantheon, which is marked by a unique octagonal hall, and the watch is inspired by the geometrical motifs that adorn the arches of the monument.
Eight is also “a symbol of good luck and infinity,” noted Babin. In addition to the eight facets of the watch, the Octo Finissimo Ultra is setting its eighth record in eight years, in this case as the finest watch, and Bulgari filed eight patent applications for the following: watch glass assembly; barrel structure; oscillator module; differential display; modular structure; bracelet; bi-metal case middle-mainplate-caseback, and software (the Bulgari Singularity technology).
Three years of research and development were required for several technical teams involved in the Vallée de Joux and Neuchâtel watch plants, as well as avant-garde movement development specialist Concepto in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
“Never say never, but commercially this watch is probably impossible to beat,” said Babin. “The team has built an icon in one decade. Icons are essentially aesthetic, but here is a reliable and accurate icon that combines technology with unique design. Each Octo is a benchmark in each segment, and is making the history of contemporary haute horlogerie. It will help Bulgari to be recognized as a company that has written some of the finest pages in Swiss watchmaking. And the fact that this is an Italian house makes us particularly proud.”
The monochrome style in sandblasted titanium has a 40-mm octagonal case and an integrated bracelet as thin as the watch. The seconds display on the wheel at six o’clock is once again off-centered — another collection signature — in relation to the indication of the hours and minutes on two regulator-type counters.
This thinness also plays on the perception of the visible and the invisible: the Octo Finissimo Ultra appears to be both a two-dimensional and a three-dimensional object. From the front, the timepiece reveals the depth of the mechanism, but viewed in profile, the watch as thin as a sheet of paper becomes a two-dimensional object, mused Babin.
The Octo Finissimo Ultra uses the caseback as a mainplate on which the 170 components of the BVL Calibre 180 are integrated. The volume of the bracelet links also had to be totally rethought since they are twice as thin as an ordinary Octo Finissimo bracelet.
Another issue for a watch measuring 40-mm in diameter and only 1.80 mm thick was the overall rigidity required, which was achieved by developing the case middle, bezel and titanium lugs as well as the caseback/mainplate element in tungsten carbide, a particularly dense, hard and ultra-resistant combination of carbon and tungsten.
A classic vertical crown would have been too small and impossible to handle properly in such a thin watch, so Bulgari used two horizontally placed knobs – one for winding and the other for setting — enabling easy handling when the watch is on the wrist.
Finissimo Ultra follows three previous lines: Octo L’Originale from 2012; Octo Finissimo, 2014, and Octo Roma, 2017.
The Octo has received more than 60 international awards, and Bulgari is the first Italian company to have won the “Aiguille d’Or,” the Best in Show award of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2021.