The subtle and not-so-subtle changes to the Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph The subtle and not-so-subtle changes to the Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph

The subtle and not-so-subtle changes to the Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph

Borna Bošnjak

In recent years, Bulgari has continued to impress with their ultra-thin Octo Finissimos and ultra-complicated takes on the Octo Roma. The Roman jewellers haven’t forgotten their watchmaking roots, however, choosing 2023 to celebrate the Bulgari Aluminium, originally released in 1998. Alongside a couple of Solotempo special editions, Bulgari also released a trio of Aluminium Chronographs. The first is a matching pair with the Aluminium Solotempo Capri Edition, rendered in chrono form, while the other two size the case up by a millimetre to 41mm, and introduce a new Sellita-based chronograph movement.

The dial

bulgari aluminium chronograph capri edition dial

Let’s begin with the funkiest of the bunch, and that’s undoubtedly the Capri Edition. Named so for the gorgeous azure waters surrounding the island, Bulgari equipped it with a gradient darkening towards the bottom, contrasted by yellow sub-dial hands and the tip of the main chrono hands, while the rest of the dial is a tonal blue. The only detractor from this ensemble is the 04:30 date window, which sticks out somewhat awkwardly due to its positioning and black-on-white colour.

bulgari aluminium chronograph grey wrist

The two larger Aluminium chronos are a lot simpler, going for a black or creamy white main dial colour. The azurage-finish sub-dials are black on both, also sharing the red-tipped chrono seconds hand. Despite the increase in diameter, I struggle to find any discernible differences in dial layout or design when compared to that of the 40mm Aluminium Chronograph models, save for perhaps the azurage finish of the sub-dials and just a tad more blank dial space – but don’t quote me on that last one.

The case

bulgari aluminium chronograph capri edition wrist

The Aluminium has always been a curious watch across multiple categories. It’s unusual in shape, design language, and material choice, and those three all become clear when looking at the case. First of all, it’s mostly made of aluminium, a material that is seldom used in luxury watches, with manufacturers preferring titanium for their lightweight watches for its superior hardness. The Aluminium Chronographs also incorporate rubber and titanium into their designs, used for the bezel and caseback, respectively.

bulgari aluminium chronograph black wrist

Then, there are the two sizes. The Capri Edition follows the dimensions of the 2020 Aluminium Chronograph refresh, with a 40mm diameter and 11.1mm height, whereas the new black and grey-dialled pieces grow to 41mm, while retaining the same thickness. Due to its compact lugs and slim height, these won’t look oversized on the majority of wrists, and the 100-metre water resistance will help with occasion versatility.

The bracelet

bulgari aluminium chronograph cream dial bracelet

The one challenge when it comes to fit may be because of the unique – even strange, perhaps – bracelet. It’s made of rubber and aluminium links, with the first two articulating akin to that of a metal bracelet, before ending in a pin buckle. I’ve found these can wear a little awkwardly depending on the shape of your wrist, owing to the first two links which are quite wide.

The movement

bulgari aluminium chronograph black dial close up

Apart from the change in size, the most notable difference between the two sizes on paper is the movement. The 40mm Aluminium chronos are all equipped with the B130 – an automatic, ETA 2894-based chronograph movement – basically an ETA 2892 automatic with a chrono module on top. It’s a great choice compared to something like the Valjoux 7750 and its derivatives, as it allows for a much thinner profile due to its modular construction. Things get a touch more confusing with the 41mm variants due to Bulgari’s nomenclature, but the reality is quite a bit simpler. The B381 calibre is in reality a Sellita SW300 with a Dubois Dépraz chronograph module. For the nerdy among you, you’ll know that the SW300 is essentially a clone of the 2892 – add a chronograph module to both – and you have very similar movements between the two, both with a 42-hour power reserve.

The verdict

bulgari aluminium chronograph capri edition wrist 2

Bulgari’s Aluminium collection is a bit of a love-or-hate affair. Yes, the branding is overt, but… that’s kind of the point. It’s not like someone sticking M badges all over their BMW 330i – the Bulgari Bulgari bezel is integral to the Aluminium’s design. Hell, even the GMT models use a smaller internal scale for the second time zone rather than the bezel. And yet, they have this unique charm about them that I can’t deny. If you’re in the market for a truly distinct watch, backed by a respected design house, the Bulgari Aluminium could be just the thing.

Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph pricing and availability

The Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph is available now, in all three colourways, from Bulgari’s website. Price: A$7,250, US$4,640 (Grey, Black), A$7,500, US$4,800 (Capri Edition).

Brand Bulgari
Model Aluminium Chronograph 41mm
Aluminium Chronograph Capri Edition
Reference Number 103722
Case Dimensions 40mm (D) x 11.1mm (T) (Capri Edition)
41mm (D) x 11.1mm (T) (Black, Grey)
Case Material Aluminium, titanium rubber
Water Resistance 100 metres
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Dial Taupe panda, black, gradient blue
Lug Width Integrated
Bracelet Rubber link bracelet, pin buckle
Movement B130, ETA 2894 base, modular chronograph, automatic (Capri Edition)
B381, Sellita SW300 with Dubois Dépraz module, automatic (41mm)
Power Reserve 42 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph
Availability Now, Capri Edition is limited to 1,000 pieces
Price A$7,250, US$4,640 (41mm)
A$7,500, US$4,800 (Capri Edition)