Bulgari Octo L’Originale: With Enough Ice To Alleviate Climate Change And A Million-Dollar Price Tag To Match
by Martin Green
For most of us, seeing a diamond-set watch carrying a price tag close to a million dollars “in the wild” is something that is highly unlikely to ever happen.
Yet at the 2020 Golden Globes ceremony in Los Angeles, there was a fully diamond-set Bulgari Octo L’Originale peeking out from under Nick Jonas’ cuff. If he was looking for a statement piece (and there is no lack of those at the Golden Globes) from the roots of a more understated watch, then this Bulgari is exactly what he needed.
Talk of the town for all the wrong reasons
I think it’s a pity that when on the rare occasion that a watch like the Bulgari Octo L’Originale hits the spotlight, it is all about two things to the public: 1) how many diamonds it has – 1,172 diamonds/50.25 total carats, by the way – and 2) how much it costs (a whopping $928,000 in case you wanted to know).
Nearly every serious brand could put a truckload of diamonds on a watch and attach a phenomenal price tag. But very few could create a watch like the Bulgari Octo L’Originale.
What most people don’t know is that there is no shortage of diamonds in the world whose quality is high enough to be used for jewelry. An extraordinary gemstone due to its extreme hardness and the way that it reflects light when properly cut, the diamond is not an exceptionally rare one.
What is rare, though, are natural diamonds that have almost no inclusions or none at all (called flawless in jewelry vernacular – see Joshua Munchow’s Detailed Primer On Gemstones And Their Appreciation).
These rare delicacies are graded “very very slightly included” (VVS) or “internally flawless” (IF). In grading the former, an experienced diamond grader can see with difficulty some small inclusions under 10x magnification; for the latter, these inclusions are not present at all.
Bulgari only used colorless diamonds of these two grades on the Octo L’Originale. Furthermore, except for a single brilliant-cut diamond in the crown, the remaining 1,171 sparklers are all baguette cut.
In essence, though, this is not correctly described as many of them have an adapted baguette cut ensuring that they seamlessly retain Bulgari’s signature Octo case shape throughout.
Generally, inclusions are easier to see in baguette cuts, especially with larger stones as is the case on this Bulgari. Because they are also not cut like brilliant-cut diamonds they are more substantial, which also explains the very high carat weight of this watch’s stones.
Sadly, high-quality diamonds are not a guarantee for an exceptional watch. They are still only an ingredient needing a master chef to turn them into a creation that tantalizes the senses for all the right reasons.
While the Bulgari Octo L’Originale is still a you-love-it-or-you-don’t kind of watch, with seemingly little ground between the two camps, there should be no discussion that it is a superbly executed watch in a technical sense.
And I am not talking about the movement here, but rather the way that the diamonds are set. The case shows only the bare minimum of white gold, the metal in which the diamonds are set.
There is no gold visible at all between the diamonds, and even on the bracelet segments only the outline of the link metal remains aside from the view of these precious gemstones. Even the sides of the bracelet are meticulously set with diamonds.
Only the most accomplished gem setters can turn out such a result, and they are far rarer than even the rarest diamonds they work with.
It is not about the movement, either
A diamond-set watch of this caliber is like a Rolls-Royce. For many years the British marque didn’t mention the amount of horsepower that its engines produced, merely noting that it was “sufficient.”
While a classic Rolls-Royce (its modern-day cars are a slightly different story) was never about acceleration and top speeds, a watch like this Bulgari is likewise not about its in-house automatic movement. The fact that the brand opted to power the Octo L’Orginale with Caliber BVL 191, an automatic base manufacture movement that beats at a modern 4 Hz and offers a 42-hour power reserve, is perfect.
But don’t think that the Octo L’Originale is just a pretty face. While diamond settings like this shouldn’t be banged around to the extreme on purpose, I could make the case that this Bulgari is, in fact, more a sporty watch than a dress watch.
Caliber BVL 191 is very robust in its architecture, including a full bridge over the balance wheel. But perhaps even more surprising is that this Bulgari has a water resistance of 10 atmospheres (100 meters).
Especially given its extensive pavé setting of baguette-cut diamonds, this is quite the accomplishment. And it might make this Bulgari the only watch you need in your life – if you can afford it.
For more information, please visit www.bulgari.com.
Quick Facts Bulgari Octo L’Originale
Case: 44 mm, white gold, including bracelet set with 1,172 diamonds (50.25 ct)
Movement: automatic manufacture Caliber BVL 191, power reserve 42 hours, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes