One of the most consistently interesting brands to watch at large scale watch shows like Watches & Wonders over the last few years has been Bulgari. Love it or hate it (personally, I love it) there’s no denying that the brand has used the Octo Finissimo platform to great effect to break all kinds of records for thinness, complications, and thinness combined with complications. It seems like every year they have a new novel achievement to boast about, and this year is no exception, with the release of the Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar, the world’s thinnest automatic watch with such a complication. It’s a great achievement, and is rightly attracting a lot of attention this week, but my personal favorite Bulgari release at this year’s fair is at the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of complexity, both in terms of the caliber and complications, and the design itself. It illustrates just how much variance is possible within the Octo Finissimo line, which itself would seem to underscore how important this series of watches is to Bulgari, and how influential it may be in years to come. Let’s take a look at the Octo Finissimo Tadao Ando.
Tadao Ando is a Japanese architect who has collaborated with Bulgari before, lending his name to two prior limited edition Octo Finissimo models. Ando’s Octo Finissimo’s takes a watch that already has a minimalist vibe running through it and strips it down even further – his earlier watches feature no numerals and rings of concentric circles emanating from the small seconds pinion, and not much else. This new watch takes that signature design element and places it on a blue lacquered dial. Octo Finissimos have a tendency to be a little monochromatic, but on this watch there’s a pop of color opposite the running the seconds hand in the form of a yellow crescent moon shape. This is a reference to the Japanese concept of Mikazuki, which essentially uses the moon as a symbol for the transient nature of time itself. This sort of poetry and storytelling through design is not something we typically associate with the Octo Finissimo, so it’s fun to see Bulgari and Ando give it a shot with this watch. More than that, however, it’s simply a beautiful and eye catching design that can easily be enjoyed for its aesthetic sensibilities alone.
The watch’s 40.5mm case and bracelet are crafted from black, sandblasted ceramic, which provides an appropriate complement to the blue dial, and also differentiates itself from the other Bulgari x Ando watches while still making sense within the complete set. Taken together, there’s a certain coherence between the three watches Tadao Ando has made with Bulgari, and it’s an altogether fascinating mini-collection within a larger group of watches that’s becoming evermore cemented into watch culture year after year. It will be interesting to see how Ando and Bulgari iterate on these ideas in the future, should they continue working together.
This is an expensive watch – the retail price is set at $18,100, and it’s a limited edition of only 160 pieces. When looking at watches at this price point, I like to think of it in terms of “relative value,” and asking what else can be had for the same or similar amount of money. It’s easy to pick on Rolex these days, but when you consider that their (mass produced) stainless steel GMTs regularly trade for figures approaching that $18,000 number, it crystalizes the value apparent in a watch made with more exotic materials, with a finely finished movement, and a truly unique design. Of course, someone looking for a Rolex sports watch in stainless steel might not be cross shopping ultra-thin haute horlogerie integrated bracelet (or nearly-integrated bracelet) watches, so looking to the likes of the Royal Oak and Nautilus which are similarly unobtainable and trade for above retail further illustrate that the Octo is truly competitive in this area. Bulgari