When you think of Haute Horologie and high-end watchmaking, Bulgari is not often a brand that you would jump to. However, in recent years, the brand has been making great waves in the industry, not only challenging long established brands such as Rolex, Omega, Audemars Piguet and Patek, they have also been crushing long standing records and pushing the boundaries of technically complicated watchmaking.
Back in 2000, when Bvlgari were very much a luxury jewellers, they purchased two watch brands. The first was Daniel Roth. Now Daniel Roth, whilst not a household name, are responsible for some fairly bonkers watchmaking, including a tourbillion with a staggering 8 day power reserve, as well as an instantaneous perpetual calendar, not a brand to be taken lightly. They also acquired the name sake brand of a certain well known watchmaker… a Mr Gerald Genta. The Gerald Genta brand, in a similar vein to Daniel Roth, is a brand that is not often spoken about. The same of course cannot be said for Mr Genta himself, who within watch circles gets mentioned one hell of a lot! However, the Genta brand has been responsible for some fairly innovative and unusual watches…
Two stunners that many of you might not know of...
Now, these two purchases gave Bulgari an automatic “in” into the watchmaking industry. The expertise and tooling ability of the two brands that they had acquired meant that they could not only build on the designs of the two brands, but they could inject some of their own design language into watchmaking. This combination has meant that in recent years, Bulgari has become a pretty heavy hitter in the serious watchmaking world.
Whilst Bulgari still manufacture their more jewellery lead pieces, such as the serpente, they also make what is without a doubt my favourite intergrated steel sports watch. And yes, I am aware that me saying that means I like it more than the Royal Oak and the Nautilus… and frankly if you are sitting there thinking I am an idiot for that, then I don’t care. This watch is not inspired by either of theose two designs, it is affordable in comparison, and you can actually buy one for retail… something that cannot be said about the two aforementioned pieces.
The Octo Finissimo comes in a number of iterations and complications, but for the purpose of this review we are going to be looking at the steel time only with sub seconds *pictured below*. For me this is the “entry level” Octo Finissimo, and in my eyes is the competition for the Royal Oak 15202 and the Nautilus 5711. The watch itself is a masterpiece, coming in at a very wearable 40mm, and a truly bonkers depth of 5.15mm… Let that sink in.
The Steel Sports Intergrated Bracelet conundrum…
One of the most hotly discussed topics in the modern day watch world is ‘who makes the best steel integrated sports watch?’ and why is everyone from Bell and Ross to A Lange and Sohne jumping on the bandwagon? The reason for this can be boiled down to one word… Hype. Hype is the sole reason why everyone is introducing their own interpretation of this classic piece of watch design. The undisputed success of both the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Phillipe Nautilus has driven these other luxury brands to have a go, with incredibly mixed results.
A number of watches that have been 'Inspired' by the Royal Oak and the Nautilus...
However, the issue with a lot of the watches pictured above is that there are too many of the same design cues that feature, for example, rivets or bolts on the bezel, which is a clear give away of embellishing a successful design trait for your own gain. What I like about the Bulgari is that you could put one next to a 5711 for example, and whilst it looks similar, it is most certainly a stand-alone watch.
The other problem with this watch, and in fact the brand, is recognition. The problem that Bulgari are facing reminds me of a few years ago when Grand Seiko decided to cut ties with Seiko group and operate as a standalone outfit. The problem for them was that people had the connotations with Seiko, and could not get over paying £5, 6, 7k for what they considered “a Seiko”. Of course all of you reading this know the watchmaking pedigree of GS, and know that the people who think that you are just buying Seiko are completely ridiculous. But this, I believe is the same issue faced by Bulgari. Bulgari have been historically a jewellery brand, and whilst they have had the watchmaking prowess of owning the Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth brands, it has only been recently that people have started to take them seriously.
The Octo FInissimo was released in 2014, and comes in a variety of iterations, including a chronograph, GMT and skeleton dial. I believe the octo is a cracking alternative option for those of you out there who are fed up with the hype of a submariner at the lower end, and are probably as fed up as we are with the CRAZY hype of the Nautilus and the Royal Oak mentioned above. The watch comes in at anywhere between £7,500 and £12,000 depending on complication, metal and so on and can be had for around £4k second hand (For the basic 3 hander).
For me, this watch is the epitome of watches that do not sit within the 'traditional' sphere of watchmaking. As I mentioned earlier, it is from a brand that a lot of us would not jump to when considering a luxury watch. However, similar to Grand Seiko, if you can get over the fact that Joe Bloggs wont recognise it, this is a truly unbelievable watch...
Even if you are a purist, it is hard to argue with the technical brilliance of this watch....
To summarise, I love this watch. For the same price as a submariner; which is considered THE luxury sports watch, you are getting a fantastic piece of kit. This watch is technically superb, fantastically built, and just stunning to look at. The movement architecture is subtle, but also beautiful, and it comes in at such a slender thickness you honestly would forget that you had it on half the time. For me just seeing this watch in the flesh takes away the argument that is not from a 'traditional' watch brand. If you are reading this and are even a little skeptical, please go and try one on, you will be shocked and amazed at just how brilliant it is.
As always geeks, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to read this article. We honestly love writing about watches, and frankly wouldnt care if people read our stuff or not! But the fact that you all take the time out and enjoy what we have to say means the world to us. Please subscribe to our mailing list, and jump over to our instagram where we post daily photo's, stories and Q&A's.
Thanks for reading,
Editor and Co-Founder
Time and Tide