The Perfect Bulgari Octo Finissimo That I Can’t Wait to Buy (If/When It Launches)
by Perry Heim
An introduction by editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr: at Quill & Pad we are often contacted by readers. Most are requests for information, but some lead to an interesting exchange of opinions. Back in 2020, collector Perry Heim contacted us with his thoughts on one of today’s blue-chip watches, the Patek Philippe Nautilus. You can read his thoughts on it at Why The Patek Philippe Nautilus Is King: A Collector Weighs In.
Perry recently contacted me again, this time with very organized thoughts on his perfect Bulgari, which I believe also makes for a great conversation starter.
Perry Heim writes:
I’ve waited. The good lord knows, I’ve waited. And far be it from me to cast doubt on the judgment of the powers that be. But I thought that maybe, just maybe, I’ve waited long enough. Maybe we all have.
To start, credit should be given where credit is most definitely due. With Jean-Christophe Babin at the helm and under the direction of head of watches Antoine Pin and head designer Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, the extraordinary people of Bulgari have done more than break world records these past eight years. By sheer force of will, determination, and, no doubt, a liberal application of funds to the R&D department, the fabled maison of fine jewelry has marvelously repositioned (or co-positioned) itself as a first-tier firm of haute horlogerie.
To be clear, I’m writing as a firm proponent of the notion that watches should be made by watchmakers and I confess I have no shortage of stigmas on the subject as well as a preconceived reluctance to the thought of purchasing a timepiece from pen makers, fashion designers, or jewelers. Bulgari, however, has completely changed my conception of them and, for some reason, the fact that to the general public this firm remains known mostly for its jewelry and perfumes mainly brings a sense of satisfaction to the watch connoisseur in me.
The line of watches that is nearly solely responsible for this epic transformation is the Octo Finissimo. Other Bulgari collections deserve respect as well, but none have done as much for Bulgari, or for me personally, as the Octo.
The consistent, coherent, and masculine design language – combined with technical prowess that seems to be growing exponentially – makes for formidable timepieces. For me they instill a sense of need to rise to the occasion, to be worthy to own and wear them. This is a rare and powerful sentiment that only very few brands – the likes of Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin (at its best), and select independents – ever evoked within me.
It has been stated before that the definitive factor of what made the Royal Oak Jumbo Ultra Thin such a luxurious watch was its ever-so-slim profile. I have previously argued that what makes a luxury sports watch is the combination of a luxuriously thin and elegant profile coinciding with a sufficient degree of water resistance (thus allowing for some sports). In this sense, Bulgari has already surpassed anything the vaunted folks from AP have ever achieved and has done so with the entry point to the Finissimo range – the 100-meter, satin-polished, time-only watches.
I find the tradeoff of running seconds on the Finissimo as opposed to the date on the Jumbo to be more than fair, even preferable. The fact that a Bulgari Reference 103431 (for instance) undercuts an Audemars Piguet Reference 15202 by roughly a millimeter and a half while adding an additional 50 meters of water resistance and a screw-down-crown would cause me some soul searching were I an executive in Le Brassus, Audemars Piguet’s hometown.
While every Octo Finissimo model has its strong suit and a different kind of appeal, it is the simple, and simply sublime, black-dial Reference 103297 that speaks to me the most (something I alluded to last time I wrote for Quill & Pad). Yet, for all my love for this timepiece, I cannot bring myself to purchase it due to what at first might seem like a simple and esoteric issue: its lack of lume. I think it is very important that a luxury sports watch – that any sports watch – should be capable of relaying the time legibly, even in the dark.
All the other watches in this category – incidentally none of which quite measure up (or down) to the Octo Finissimo – have lume. Why not the Bulgari? At first, I thought it was a matter of design integrity, but then came the 100-meter variant of the Octo Finissimo GMT Chronograph, which – lo and behold – is lumed. Alas, it is also a larger timepiece than the time-only model, too big for my puny wrist. But it gives me hope.
It has occurred to me that perhaps, much in the way Rolex initially released its ceramic bezel on the platinum Daytona, only some years later making it available on the stainless steel models (to great fanfare), perhaps Bulgari is planning the same thing with the lumed 100-meter Finissimo models, starting out with the GMT Chronograph before allowing the goodness to “trickle down” to the time-only model. A bit frustrating as much like the “Platona” doesn’t suit every wallet the GMT Chronograph doesn’t suit every wrist.
By now you might know where I’m going. Bulgari has already made the perfect watch. Almost. Just. Almost. All it needs is to glow in the dark. And as the brand has already showed us, it can be done. May the great Gérald Genta’s ghost come back to haunt me if I’m not first in line to buy it, sight unseen, if and when it is made available.
I don’t expect you to take the leap of faith with me, but surely I’m not the only one who would like to see a lumed 100-meter Octo Finissimo? Just the other day I saw an article regarding the writer’s love of luminescence. There must be more of us out there.
How about you? Let us know in the comments below.