The watch maisons of the LVMH luxury group (Moët Hennesy-Louis Vuitton) take center stage in the horological universe this week, unveiling their newest models for 2020 at an exclusive event in Dubai. Among the presenters is Italian jeweler-watchmaker Bulgari, whose new timepiece releases include a version of its Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, the world’s thinnest timepiece equipped with this high complication, in a striking (no pun intended) sandblasted 18k rose-gold case.
The new model follows up the original Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater from 2016, which came in a titanium case and represented the upper echelon of Bulgari’s modern-day expertise in fashioning timepieces with extraordinarily complex movements of unprecedented thinness. The minute repeater is, of course, one of the most complex of all horological complications, with only a handful of prestigious brands even possessed of the expertise to make one. Any striking watch, in fact, carries with it several specific construction constraints, and the need for a high level of expertise, to achieve the challenging goal of an intense, crystal-clear chime with a uniform, consistent cadence when the mechanism is activated. In general, a timepiece that can accomplish this feat tends to be on the large side, due to the need for sufficiently generous interior volume for optimal diffusion of the sound within the case, thus ensuring ideal acoustic quality. With the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, however, Bulgari set out to achieve this “perfect sound” within the smallest possible space. To this end, the brand developed the in-house BVL Caliber 362, which measures just 3.12 mm thick. The 40-mm rose gold case is also impressively slender at 6.9 mm thick, just a smidgen thicker than its titanium predecessor at 6.85 mm.
Bulgari’s expert watchmakers at its manufacture in Le Sentier, Switzerland, rose to the challenge of solving the inherent technical characteristics of a striking mechanism. Among the clever touches was the cut-out hour-markers on the dial (here made of sandblasted rose gold, like the case for a harmonious, monochromatic look) and cut-out ring around the small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock, which created openings that serve to amplify the resonance inside the case and thereby optimize the sound effect.
The circular-section gongs directly affixed to the case are individually fashioned and finished by hand throughout the production process. Many separate stages are involved in producing the completed gongs, from preparing and shaping the steel parts to defining the notes and the harmonics. The two hammers are also crafted with meticulous care. The centrifugal strike governor features a total diameter of just 3.3 mm, including its two inertia blocks. The pusher activating the striking mechanism, fitted with an “all or nothing” safety device, is positioned on the case middle at 9 o’clock, and designed to guarantee continuous water resistance to 50 meters. Finally, the power reserve of this 362-piece, hand-wound movement is 42 hours when fully wound. The open sapphire caseback shows off the caliber’s hndcrafted finishes, including côtes de Genève, circular graining and chamfering.
The latest iteration of the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater comes on a matte brown alligator leather strap with a rose-gold ardillon buckle to match the case. It is priced at $170,000.