HANDS-ON: The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Sejima Edition reflects on the “Invisible Train”Zach Blass
When people call watches “art” it may seem like fluff and romance. Prior to smartphones and quartz timekeepers, mechanical watches were known as tools – the only means to track the time portably. Today, the art of watchmaking is primarily acknowledged due to the obsolescence of wristwatches, the luxurious maintenance of a traditional craft and the artisanship required to execute it well. Us watch geeks, of course, see the art form in the geometrical cases, the build of a bracelet or strap, and especially in the finishes and decorations of various components. But distinct special editions, like the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Sejima Edition we are going to dig into today, reveal just how much a watch design can be a canvas for something obviously artistic to anyone who sees it.
Bulgari has teamed up with Japanese designers before to create novel entries into the collection. Entries that respect the lauded Finissimo framework while offering something exciting and new. Their latest collaboration, with renowned architect Kazuyo Sejima, does this once again. Inspired by the Invisible Train, the Sejima Edition leverages a never-seen entirely polished Finissimo design meant to replicate the mirrored invisibility of the train that reflects the nature around it as it passes through. But on the wrist, this design is anything but invisible. It is captivating.
As a steel model, the Octo Finissimo Sejima edition utilises the S variant of the case that measures in at 40mm in diameter, 6.4mm thick, and 46.5mm lug-to-lug, with a heightened depth rating of 100m that is screw-down crown secured. The baroque sculptural geometry has been respected, something a modern icon requires even within the context of a collaborative design. But, something as seemingly simple as rendering a watch entirely mirror-polished, especially within the thoughtful context of Sejima’s Invisible Train muse, gives the design new meaning. First the Octo Finissimo was born in matte titanium – stealth and fashion-forward. Then it later arrived in steel, with brushed and polished finishes that offered a more traditional decoration within the context of the Finissimo’s distinct design. The full polish of the Sejima makes it appear like a watch brought back from a minimalist future. The standard Finissimo is certainly ahead of the curve and future-forward in design. But the Sejima Edition is a watch that, had it made a cameo in Star Wars or Blade Runner, would not seem remotely out of place.
The dial continues the mirrored minimalism, with zero indices or text to be found on the mirror-polished disc that serves as the dial plate. The only three components that occupy the dial are the semi-skeletonised and polished hands, the hours and minutes found at the centre and the smaller sub-seconds hand once again asymmetrically placed near the 7′ position. Normally, the conversation that extends around a crystal is limited to the material and its coatings. Is it acrylic or sapphire? Is it AR-coated? On how many sides? The sapphire crystal on the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Sejima Edition, however, is an integral part of its aesthetic. Subtle yet powerful, the sapphire crystal is adorned with a metallised pattern that casts a shadowed grid onto the mirrored dial plate beneath. This livens up the look of the watch without detracting from its minimalism, utilising shadow to create the depth and the illusion of three dimensions.
In line with the case, its bracelet is also fully mirror-polished for the first time – the Y-shaped links polished on every facet. The rest of the bracelet follows the familiar format, super thin like the watch to respect its thin profile with a top-notch three-blade folding buckle that sinks into the bracelet to ensure there is no added bulk. The ample number of links assuages concerns of a lack of micro-adjustment, each link in of itself a relatively fine adjustment per addition or removal. This is due to a higher quantity of links, each of which are shorter in length from top to bottom than links you typically see on the market. The wide stance of the bracelet provides ultimate comfort as well, and will allow the watch to remain balanced on the centre of the wrist once appropriately sized.
Inside, you once again find the ultra-thin, in-house BVL 138 automatic calibre. The calibre is wonderfully decorated with striping, chamfers, and perlage, with a Bulgari-engraved platinum micro-rotor that allows the movement to be more fully viewed as well as remain thin. While the calibre as whole is a mere 2.3mm thick, its small balance wheel is situated on a full-balance bridge that better protects it against shock – something most designers would not bother to consider for their ultra-thin calibres. It also manages to offer 60 hours of power reserve, which is quite incredible considering its size. To commemorate the special edition, the sapphire crystal found on the exhibition caseback is etched with the words “Limited Edition” and Sejima’s childish yet charming signature. Usually such etchings would bother me – just let me see the movement! But fortunately it is done in a manner that by no means obstructs or diminishes the calibre’s aesthetic beneath.
Now, I am sure many of you are thinking “scratch-magnet”. It was my first concern when I saw it myself at Geneva Watch Days. Incredibly though, once it arrived in my hands I could not find a single blemish to the case or bracelet. As a model exhibited to the press, it was handled throughout the fair – but not one still or video – ours or anyone’s -revealed any major markings. To be fair, this sort of watch with an elevated artistic aesthetic is highly unlikely to be someone’s sole watch. It is a watch that elevates an existing collection further. Were I to be fortunate enough to own one, and believe me I would like to, it would probably not be the watch I wear when I type-up articles on my laptop (at least without long sleeves on) or that would join me on the tennis court. This is a watch best suited in moments of leisure and luxury, whether taking a stroll in the park, floating in the ocean, or flexing at a gala. Of all Finissimo designs, the Sejima Edition is the most distinguished in finish and feel. To wear a Finissimo already separates you from the herd, the Sejima Edition will distinguish you that much more – and that’s what I love about it.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Sejima Edition pricing and availability:
The Bulgari Finissimo Octo Finissimo Sejima Editions is available now for purchase as a limited edition of 360 pcs. Price: $14,100 USD (excl. VAT)
|Octo Finissimo Automatic Sejima Edition
|40mm x 6.4mm x 46.5mm
|100 metres (screw-down crown)
|Sapphire front and rear
|Mirrored dial with metalized dotted crystal
|Steel bracelet with folding buckle
|Limited Edition of 360 pcs.