If variety is the spice of life, Bulgari are condiment connoisseurs when it comes to the Octo Finissimo collection. Available in titanium, ceramic, carbon, sandblasted gold and now stainless steel, the many faceted cases of the range offer a dizzying array of different finishes. These external variations are hardly superficial either, they make a profound difference to the overall look and feel of each watch.
Of the 2020 releases, the show was stolen by the new satin-finished Octo Finissimo in steel, but an equally interesting new reference is the ceramic version, now with a polished case. This makes the ceramic Octo Finissimo the first time-only interpretation of the watch that has been finished in two different ways in the same material, begging the question: which is better? The silky sheen of the space-age polish, or the industrial chic of the sandblasted matte finish?
Taking stock of the dimensions, both the matte and polished expressions of the ceramic Octo Finissimo are housed within a 40mm diameter case that sits only 5.5mm off the wrist. Yes, it’s extremely thin — in part, thanks to the award-winning thin movement inside, the Bulgari BVL 138 caliber (the thinnest time-only automatic movement in the world). It features a platinum micro-rotor, and despite its slender form, still delivers a healthy 60 hours of power reserve. Both watches are pared back in how they communicate the time. A study of jet black in vogue. But that is the point where the similarities finish, and the different surfaces become truly significant.
While not quite Vantablack-like, the sandblasted ceramic of the Bulgari Octo Finissimo from 2019 does almost seem to absorb the light around it. The sharp angles, combined with the matte finishing are reminiscent of Lockheed’s F-117 Nighthawk, the famous stealth aircraft that takes a similarly ruthless pursuit of function over form.
Both designs are so unusual, so aggressive in their shape and so magnificent in the power they radiate, that it is impossible not to be attracted to them, even if only through a sense of curiosity. The F-117 Nighthawk doesn’t look like any plane you’ve ever seen, just as the matte ceramic Bulgari Octo Finissimo is unlike any watch you’ve ever seen, all thanks to the hard angles and dulled surfaces you don’t normally see in each industry. This aesthetic is at odds with traditional watchmaking and aircraft design, where objects are typically created to carefully curved to flow in harmony with the shapes around them, and to do so with a gleaming glory.
In this context, it begins to make sense why the polished expression of the ceramic Bulgari Octo Finissimo feels so familiar, despite being only months old. It is more coherent with the rules of watch design we are used to, because typically the greater attention to detail — especially when it comes to finishing surfaces — the better the execution of the watch. With it’s almost liquid surfaces, the polished ceramic stands out an exquisitely well-finished timepiece. It is certainly more traditional, even if executed in the relatively contemporary material of ceramic. It also bears a stunning likeness to a fictional character’s helmet, as referenced in this video with Andrew and the watch’s designer…
When you see a Bulgari Octo Finissimo in ceramic, do you see a watch playing within the codes of industrial Brutalism, or a glinting expression of fine watchmaking techniques applied to new shapes and materials?
Both could be true for you, or neither, which goes to show how interesting the ceramic Octo Finissimo design is, in a world of similar luxury sports watches. Regardless, if you have a passion for polish or a soft spot for sandblast, you’ll agree that there aren’t many watches where a simple shift in surface treatment can create such different experiences of the same material. Without a doubt, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo in ceramic is a very different proposition to its peers, something the watchmaking landscape is all the better for.
Pricing and availability:
The Bulgari Octo Finissimo in ceramic with polished finish is AUD$23,400 and will be available in boutiques from August. The Bulgari Octo Finissimo in ceramic with sandblasted finish is also AUD$23,400 and is currently available.