One hundred meters. On its own, not really a big deal, as it’s more or less the minimum expectation for any modern sports watch. But for Bulgari’s newly upgraded Octo Finissimo in stainless steel, this is uncharted territory — a categorical shift of sorts that places it among a totally new field of competition: the luxury sport crossover in steel. And if you’ve been keeping score, you already know that, though this white-hot category is hardly lacking for options, there are precious few truly high-end options that could compete directly with its three titans: the Royal Oak, the Nautilus, and the Overseas.
Now with 100 meters of water resistance, the stainless steel Octo Finissimo comes equipped with a screw-down crown, but thankfully, everything else from a visual standpoint has been entirely preserved — including the case’s wispy 5.15mm thickness. At 40mm, the Finissimo is by no means a “big” watch, but due to the broad diameter and super-wide lugs, it looks quite large. However, the thinness, short lug-to-lug length, and generous bracelet taper collectively enable it to wear far more comfortably than it looks or feels like it should — an optical illusion that’s all part of the delight of wearing the Octo.
Now, it’s worth bearing mention that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen an Octo Finissimo in steel – the collection got its first entry-level case material two years ago at Baselworld, but like the rest of the Finissimo watches, it came in the same all-matte finish and only 30 meters of water resistance, continuing to skate by in the “luxury sport category” on perception and aesthetics alone. To be fair, Bulgari’s entry-level Octo already had 100 meters of water resistance and could also be classified as a true sport watch, but none of those watches exhibits the incredible movements, finishing, or record-breaking thinness that characterize the Finissimo (“finest” for those looking to brush up on their Italian) collection. Ultimately, the real reason this otherwise minor detail is such a big deal is that there is a marked dearth of competition for sporty and capable watches with this degree of finishing — and the aforementioned trio that do already fit the bill remain as scarce and, consequently, difficult to obtain as ever.
Introduced this week in Dubai at LVMH’s new Watch Week summit concept, the new stainless steel variant completes the Octo Finissimo’s quartet of material offerings, which already included precious metal, ceramic, and the signature titanium around which the collection was built. Each of these offerings, including the new entry-level steel option, is fitted with Bulgari’s BVL 138, which once held the record for the world’s thinnest automatic movement. That honor now goes to Piaget, but it does little to diminish how impressive it is to now have a stainless steel luxury sport watch that’s only a hair over 5mm-thick. If you’ve been following the evolution of the Finissimo line, the BVL 138 remains something of a mechanical triumph whose specs should seem somewhat familiar by now: 21,600 vph, a 60-hour power reserve, and an off-center platinum microrotor. The whole movement also gets a healthy dose of gorgeous hand-applied perlage, complemented by Geneva stripes and polished chamfers, all of which remains a treat to behold under the exhibition caseback.
Despite being the collection’s entry-level offering, the new stainless steel variant delivers a much more “active” wrist presence than the titanium. Not only is it markedly heavier and more assertive (not a knock against titanium — some wearers just prefer the added weight), it exhibits some really dynamic brushed and polished finishes throughout the case and bracelet that catch the light from pretty much any angle, in ways that rival even the Royal Oak wearing experience. It’s a dramatic departure from the all-matte-everything approach in the Finissimo line established by the original titanium variant, and its full ceramic follow-up from last year. The vertical brushing is particularly cool, though, as in nearly every instance (like the angled case steps just beneath the bezel), it follows the physical “path” of the surface upon which it’s applied, preserving that richly angular, architectural feel throughout.
Who knows how long we’ll have to wait, but the potential for Bulgari to bring stainless steel to 2019 GPHG-winning Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT is impossible to ignore. Rendered with the same water resistance as the three-hand variant, you’d be left with what is quite possibly the perfect travel watch, and some extremely compelling competition for the Patek Philippe “Travel Time” offerings. Hopefully, we won’t have long to dream this dream.
In the meantime, the Octo Finissimo isn’t just Bulgari’s bestselling men’s watch (and deservedly so), it’s also the brand’s fastest growing collection and one that’s quickly turning into a cornerstone for the brand, which has seemingly struggled for the better part of the last decade to figure out what to do with its ownership of the trademark Gerald Genta name. Well, they’ve managed to do this one without Genta, but the real challenge now will be to learn from their peers and exercise the modicum of restraint that Audemars Piguet never had with the Royal Oak, to keep the Octo collection fresh, innovative, and only slightly exclusive — because let’s be honest: none of us needs another waiting list. The price for the Bulgari Octo Finissimo in stainless steel on bracelet is $12,000 USD. You can learn more at bulgari.com.