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A Gold Watch for Wallflowers That Want to Stand Out

This Bulgari Octo Finissimo is about as much gold as one can fit under the radar, or indeed, under any shirt cuff.

A Gold Watch for Wallflowers That Want to Stand Out

This Bulgari Octo Finissimo is about as much gold as one can fit under the radar, or indeed, under any shirt cuff.

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Source: Hodinkee

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Source: Hodinkee

Originally published by James Stacey on Hodinkee.

And now for something quite a bit different. In my continued exploration of gold watches at large, it seemed a wise move to consider some options outside of the typical old-world offerings, some alternatives to the known quantities – as lovely as they often are. Within such a survey as this, if you're looking for something that manages to be both outside the usual math while still offering a very similar score, few brands have been hitting as hard as Bulgari over the past few years. 

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Distinctive, super slim, stylish, and intrinsically Italian, the Octo Finissimo in any guise is the Alfa to your BMW. It's romance and charm before pragmatism and traditional blue-chip branding. But here's the thing, while I can (and most certainly will) wax less-than-poetically about the extra Italy you get on your plate with the gorgeous Octo Finissimo, make no mistake, Bulgari has the specifications to match the sprezzatura

While the above sentiment could apply to just about any Octo Finissimo, I figured it was more fun to stack the deck in my favor and take a spin with the Octo Finissimo Automatic in full sandblasted rose gold (ref 102912). I've experienced very few watches that manage to mix high and low key with such grace. In one glance you get a face full of textured angular gold that sits low and quietly on wrist and, while I'm not convinced any Octo Finissimo is noteworthy in its subtly, this example is subtle for the overall format (that is, a gold watch with a full gold bracelet). Regardless, if you like the shape but want to roll in a much lower key, Bulgari makes a version in steel (but we're here for the gold, baby). 

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Did I mention this puppy is thin? Bulgari says a little over 5mm, but I think that is just the case as my calipers read 6mm inclusive of the bezel (the sapphire crystal sits flush in profile). The square case, wafer-like profile, and nicely matched bracelet make chonkers out of even the most svelte offerings in my personal collection. While I'm sure all of you have tried on a thin watch or two, the actual thickness of the Octo Finissimo is only one aspect of how it sits on your wrist.

Nothing wears like an Octo, and this automatic version is 40mm wide and 45mm lug to lug, with a flat caseback that keeps the entire watch evenly placed on the flat of my 7-inch wrist. With extra wide lugs offering a similarily wide and flat connection point between the case and the bracelet, the Octo Finissimo wears like a cuff, with none of the wobble or high center of gravity that can be common not only to watches that perch over their own caseback, but also to watches on bracelets. Fitted correctly, the Octo was lighter than I expected, supremely comfortable, and offered a wrist presence that is unlike any other watch I've ever worn. 

Part of the effect is derived from this design's novelty in contrast to what I normally have on my wrist, but that's not the whole story. While, yes, variety is the spice of life, understanding requires experience and Bulgari applied a skilled hand in developing a design that was distinctive but not alien. With elements of Genta's design language sprinkled throughout, this is more like Graceland than Ezulwini Siyakhona – a combination of things many of us know and like with an aesthetic that is modern, stylish, and really fun on wrist.   

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Housed inside that rather fetching case design, we find Bulgari's automatic BVL 138 movement. Only 2.23mm thick, this movement is an expansive 36.6mm wide and is easily appreciated through an equally expansive display caseback offering a lovely view of the detailed finishing and the recessed platinum micro-roter. With 36 jewels, a rate of 3 Hz, and 60 hours of power reserve, the BVL 138 is beautifully finished and offers hours, minutes, and small seconds. In any version, the Octo Finissimo is a resolutely luxurious and costly offering, and this is just the sort of movement execution required to play at this level. 

While I see the Octo Finissimo as something of an Aperol spritz to the champagne of the usual big Swiss players, no watch in this lofty category is without competition. Additionally, it's worth considering not only watches at a similar price point, but also watches that would be of interest to the same sort of buyer. In this case, a well informed (and well-heeled) fan of both design and legit watchmaking that is seeking a watch to make a statement (albeit a deft one). 

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At the highest level, this is a time-only automatic gold watch in a very thin case that retails for $43,400, but I have trouble imagining the guy or gal that is cross-shopping an Octo Finissimo like this with a "similar" offering like a Cartier Tank or JLC Reverso (neither are specific matches for the Octo, and both are substantially less expensive). Lange has options, but not on a bracelet. Rolex has plenty on a gold bracelet, but the Octo feels vastly elevated in terms of statement and style – a very different thing. My guess is that the average Octo Finissimo buyer already has a Rolex or two. 

I think you know where I'm going with this as it's hard to consider competition without pulling the Genta thread that connects the concepts of a thin gold case and bracelet with a select group of very in-demand watches. Consider the $55,400 Royal Oak "Jumbo" Extra-Thin (aka the 15202, I'm partial to the gold on gold BA version, but you're likely going to have to buy whatever is available). Likewise, and also with a date complication, there is the Patek Philippe 5711/1R. Also one of the hottest watches on the planet, the 5711/1R comes in at a cool $53,300 – if you can get one. In making the Octo Finissimo Automatic, I think Bulgari set their sights on the Genta waitlist kings, and if it's a case of "go big or go home," they went big. Not only does the Octo Finissimo Automatic cost less, but it's also, you know, much more readily available for purchase.

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While I will forever love a solid gold Royal Oak, and it's nearly impossible to go brand vs. brand with Patek Philippe, Bulgari is approaching the game from a different direction and they are hungry. At a time when a handful of brands revel in the Instagram-fueled unobtanium of a few classic designs, Bulgari has been in the gym, putting in the hard work that separates the pros from the poseurs

The Octo Finissimo shows a level of cultivation that demands the attention of any considered enthusiast. It's a distinctive offering among an increasingly derivative marketplace and, unlike many of its peers, the Octo is a specifically modern take on watchmaking. It's a watch that I implore you to try on your own wrist, even if (like me), you haven't even a 6mm-thin chance to one day call it your own. 

The Bulgari Octo Finissimo  Automatic Blasted Gold: case, 40mm x 5.15mm, sandblasted 18k pink gold; sapphire front and back; water resistance, 30 meters. Movement, in house Bulgari caliber BLV138, automatic with platinum micro-rotor; 60 hour power reserve; 21,600 vph running in 31 jewels. Ultra-thin, at 36mm x 2.23mm. Shown, matching pink gold bracelet with double folding clasp. Price, $43,400Find out more at Bulgari.com. 

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