The perfect Bulgari Octo Finissimo I can’t wait to buy (if/when it launches)

An introduction by editor 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. In 2020, collector Perry Heim reached out to us with his thoughts on one of today’s premier watches, the Patek Philippe Nautilus. You can read his thoughts on this at Why The Patek Philippe Nautilus Is King: A Collector Weighs In.

Perry recently contacted me again, this time with some very curated thoughts on his perfect Bulgari, which I think makes for a great conversation starter as well.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic in satin-brushed stainless steel with blue dial

Perry Heim writes:

I waited. God knows, I waited. And far be it from me to question the judgment of the powers that be. But I thought maybe, just maybe, I’ve waited long enough. Maybe we all did.

To begin with, credit should be given where credit is most certainly due. With Jean-Christophe Babin at the helm and under the direction of Head of Watches Antoine Pin and Chief Designer Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, the extraordinary people at Bulgari have done more than break world records over the past eight years. By dint of willpower, determination and, no doubt, a generous application of funds to the R&D department, the legendary home de haute joaillerie has wonderfully repositioned (or co-positioned) itself as a leading fine watchmaking firm.

To be clear, I write as a strong supporter of the idea that watches should be made by watchmakers and I confess that I am not without stigma on the subject as well as a preconceived reluctance to the idea of buy a watch from pen makers, fashion designers or jewelers. Bulgari, however, completely changed my conception of them, and for some reason the fact that to the general public this company remains primarily known for its jewelry and fragrances primarily brings a sense of satisfaction to the watch connoisseur in me.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic in stainless steel on the wrist

The watch line that is almost solely responsible for this epic transformation is the Octo Finissimo. Other Bulgari collections also deserve respect, but none have done as much for Bulgari, or for me personally, as the Octo.

The cohesive, cohesive and masculine design language – combined with technical prowess that seems to grow exponentially – makes for formidable timepieces. For me, they instill a sense of needing to rise to the occasion, to be worthy of owning and wearing them. It’s a rare and powerful feeling that only very few brands – like Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin (at its best) and some independents – have ever evoked in me.

It’s been said before that the defining factor in what made the Royal Oak Jumbo Ultra Thin such a luxurious watch was its ever so slim profile. I’ve argued before that what makes a luxury sports watch is the combination of a luxuriously slim and sleek profile coinciding with a sufficient degree of water resistance (thus enabling certain sports). In that sense, Bulgari has already surpassed anything the vaunted folks at AP have ever achieved and have done so with the entry point of the Finissimo range – the 100-meter time-only, satin-polished watches.

I find the trade-off of running seconds on the Finissimo versus date on the Jumbo to be more than fair, if not preferable. The fact that a Bulgari reference 103431 (for example) undermines an Audemars Piguet reference 15202 by about a millimeter and a half while adding another 50 meters of water resistance and a screw down crown would cause me some introspection if I was a setting in Le Brassus, birthplace of Audemars Piguet.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Reference 103297

While each Octo Finissimo model has its strong point and a different kind of appeal, it’s the simple and simply sublime black dial reference 103297 that speaks to me the most (which I alluded to the last time I wrote for Quill & Buffer). Yet despite all my love for this timepiece, I can’t bring myself to buy it due to what might at first seem like a simple and esoteric problem: its lack of light. I think it’s very important that a luxury sports watch – any sports watch – be able to tell the time clearly, even in the dark.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT

Every other watch in this category – none of which matches (or falls short) the Octo Finissimo – has 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 – surprisingly – is illuminated. Alas, it’s also a larger timepiece than the time-only model, too big for my small wrist. But it gives me hope.

It occurred to me that maybe, just as Rolex originally debuted its ceramic bezel on the platinum Daytona a few years later, making it available on the stainless steel models (to much fanfare), perhaps Bulgari is planning the same with the 100-meter Finissimo models, starting with the GMT chronograph before letting the goodness “ripple through” to the time-only model. A little frustrating as the “Platona” is not suitable for all wallets and the GMT Chronograph is not suitable for all wrists.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic in stainless steel on the wrist

Now you may 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 shown us, it is possible. That the big gerald Genta’s the ghost will come back to haunt me if i’m not the first to buy it, without seeing it, if and when it becomes available.

I don’t expect you to take the leap of faith with me, but surely I’m not the only one who enjoys seeing a 100-meter Octo Finissimo lit up? The other day I saw an article about the writer’s love of luminescence. There must be more of us there.

And you? Let us know in the comments below.

You can also enjoy:

Why is the Patek Philippe Nautilus queen? A collector speaks

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic: To Live With Is To Love

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic: Bewitching Ultra-Thin In Titanium, Gold, Ceramic And Now In Steel

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic: the timing is shrinking

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