Escapement Watch Review: The Bulgari Octo Chronograph


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Not long ago, Angus Davies had the opportunity to get “hands-on” with the Bulgari Octo Chronograph. His in-depth review of the timepiece, which originally appeared on his Escapement watch blog, discusses the many attributes of the Octo Chronograph, which features 110 surfaces and an impressive column-wheel chronograph movement.  

Angles have always been inextricably linked with time. Sundials have utilized the angle and position of the sun to denote the time. Children have been taught about angles in mathematics lessons with a clock face used to aid understanding. The hour angle is used in the equatorial coordinate system to give the direction of a point on the celestial sphere.

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Angles and time seem to be soulmates destined to be together forever.

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Looking at the 110 surfaces of the new Bulgari Octo Chronograph, delivered in a mix of polished and satin-brushed planes, I am reminded of the relationship between angles and time. It would seem that Bulgari has explored geometric shapes and the interfacing surfaces to wonderfully reinforce the relationship between angles and time.

The Octo can trace its origins to the late Gérald Genta, who, in my opinion, was the greatest watch designer of the modern era. His prolific success is marked by the numerous iconic designs including the Royal Oak, Nautilus, Ingenieur SL and the Bulgari Bulgari. Like many admirers of sports watches, I have huge respect for Monsieur Genta and the legacy he has left for future generations of watch fans to enjoy.

However, without wishing to appear disrespectful to Gérald Genta, Bulgari refined the Octo back in 2012, delivering a crisp dial and stunningly intricate case, fusing circular and octagonal lines with amazing aplomb. The timepiece, whilst still recognizable as the Octo, has a fresh and sharp appearance, typical of the exalted Italian design flair synonymous with the Bulgari name.

Last year the brand provided the press with a pre-Baselworld glimpse of the new Octo Chronograph. On seeing the press images, I made a few phone calls and, courtesy of the wonderfully obliging lady in the UK press office, managed to schedule a moment of intimacy with this new watch from the luxury brand.

The dial:

I am conscious that as I accrue more grey hairs, I often repeat myself. I hope you will forgive me for saying this once again, but, few images in magazines or on websites can ever truly convey the nuances of a watch design. Indeed, this timepiece is absolutely stunning when placed upon the wrist.

The first aspect to arrest your attention is the dial.

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The blank canvas that greets your eyes is adorned with details that seem optimally placed, both in terms of aesthetic appeal and flawless functionality.

The sword-shaped hour and minute hands are faceted and openworked, majestically toying with light with delightful charm.

Applied hour batons indicate the hours, save for at noon, where elongated Arabic numerals impart the midnight hour. The batons vary in length and, in common with the numerals at noon, feature a straight brush to their surface which is a telling reminder of the care the brand has exercised with each element of this new model.

The tri-compax layout delivers a harmonious balance to the dial. The subdials at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock are larger in size than the 12-hour chronograph counter positioned at 6 o’clock, forming a V-shape, which follows the contours of the white chapter ring.

A date aperture is positioned between 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock. The white text is very legible against the black background and, because the movement is fully integrated, the date disc sits close to the dial surface enhancing ease of read-off.

The case:

The upper bezel is circular and satin brushed on its horizontal flank. Interestingly, a lower octagonal bezel with a polished surface peeps around the edge of the upper bezel, reminding the wearer of its comely presence. It is a recurring theme throughout the design and is a notable aspect of the composition.

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While the watch is stunningly handsome, I feel a pang of sadness for the team responsible for bringing the design to life. The case is incredibly complicated and intricate, necessitating much effort to bring to fruition. I am sure there have been many sleepless nights in Neuchâtel as the creative minds at Bulgari’s watch atelier tried to realize the imaginative sketches produced by the design team.

I cannot overstate how complex the case construction is. However, I am pleased the Bulgari personnel persevered, as it is fantastic and a worthy successor to Genta’s original design.

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The watch is available in steel or rose gold, with both versions available on a black alligator strap. Ordinarily, I would always favor a timepiece presented on a strap, as I feel straps exhibit a greater warmth than metal bracelets. However, in this instance I am breaking with my conventional stance and advocating the merits of the bracelet version. It is only available on the steel model, but its appearance and fit are superb.

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The Octo Chronograph is fitted with an exhibition caseback, which reveals the Caliber BVL 328, a movement begging to be admired, such is its obvious beauty.

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