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Watches and Wonders 2023: Bulgari

The Bulgari Octo Roma Striking Papillon Tourbillon and Striking Tourbillon Saphir.

Although it’s not participating directly in Watches and Wonders 2023, Bulgari took the opportunity to present new models of the Octo Roma, including a few high-complication models.

While Bulgari did not participate in this year’s Watches and Wonders fair, it set up a showroom at the President Wilson Hotel called So-Octo. And a day before the fair opened, it too took the opportunity to introduce a refreshed design for another collection – the Octo Roma.  
 
The Octo is an iconic collection in the industry today. Originally a design by Gérald Genta under his own atelier, it was translated into a Bulgari collection when the brand acquired it. Since then, it’s found a unique segment of watchmaking that it specialises in: ultra-thin watches. The 110-faceted, angled and chamfered octagonal case with a round bezel sitting atop is a striking design. Coupled with powerful movements, it’s become a defining line for the brand. 

The Bulgari Octo Roma from 2017.
The Bulgari Octo Roma from 2017.

But if Octo is the haute couture collection of Bulgari’s watchmaking, then the Octo Roma is its ready-to-wear line. Octo Roma was introduced in 2017, just six years ago. It’s a watch that combines elements of two collections within the house of Bulgari, the Bulgari Bulgari and the Octo. The former is a sporty and casual watch line inspired by Roman coins. So when the brand decided it needed a new, versatile collection, it merged aspects of the two to create Octo Roma. Now that the Octo has celebrated its decade of success, it’s turned its attention to the Octo Roma. 

The Bulgari Octo Roma in blue Clous de Paris pattern dial.
The Bulgari Octo Roma with blue Clous de Paris pattern dial.

The Octo Romas

Think of the Octo Roma as an Octo with a super clean, simplified design. Gone is the additional octagonal bezel insert that sits between the round bezel and the octagonal case middle. That makes the number of angles on the case an easy 58 instead of 110. The octagonal case middle is also a little softer on the angles, with lugs that branch out from the body. On the right, the octagonal case doubles as crown guards for the watch. A simple round bezel that is vertically brushed tapers down to the edges. It gives a strong contrast against the polished case.

The Bulgari Octo Roma in stainless steel, with dial colours in white, blue and anthracite.
The Bulgari Octo Roma in stainless steel, with dial colours in white, blue, and anthracite.

Because the case is simplified, the bezel and case middle are also sized closely. That makes the watch look compact compared with the very structured style of the Octo. But don’t be mistaken, the time-and-date is 41mm, and the chronograph is 42mm. The bezel is a hair smaller than the middle on the left, and on the right, the crown and guards stick out just a little. But it remains very well-balanced. A screw-down exhibition caseback shows off the BVL movements developed by the brand for the Octo collection and is coupled with a quick-change solution for the bracelet and strap.  
 
Two new models have been introduced this year, and one of them is a chronograph, a first for the Octo Roma. The dials of each watch are decorated with a fine Clous de Paris guilloché pattern that’s so subtle, they look almost like raised dots. In fact, they look so tactilely interesting, you almost wish you could reach in to touch them. This design was used on some Bulgari Bulgari watches long ago and still looks great today.

The Bulgari Octo Roma time-and-date model and chronograph version.
The Bulgari Octo Roma time-and-date and chronograph models.

The time-and-date watch has three dial colours – white, anthracite, and blue. The chronograph is available with a blue or black dial that’s similarly decorated. The watch’s three counters are circularly grained and indicate the small seconds, 12-hour, and 30-minute totalisers at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, respectively. The chronograph is powered by the BVL 399 calibre with a 48-hour power reserve, and within the time-and-date model runs the BVL 191. 

High Watchmaking Octo Romas

Along with the two basic models, we also have four skeletonised high watchmaking models. The Striking Papillon Tourbillon and Striking Tourbillon Saphir are the futuristic Tron-inspired designs of the Octo Roma. Or perhaps high-end automobiles are more likely the case here, given Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani’s background. In black DLC-coated titanium with luminous green treatment on the movements or dials, the Octo Roma Striking Papillon Tourbillon has a central tourbillon, and the Octo Roma Striking Tourbillon Saphir’s resides at 6 o’clock. 

The Bulgari Octo Roma Striking Papillon Tourbillon and Striking Tourbillon Saphir.
The Bulgari Octo Roma Striking Papillon Tourbillon and Octo Roma Striking Tourbillon Saphir.

The Striking Papillon Tourbillon is an interesting watch. It features a jumping hour display with a retrograde minute display on the lower half of the dial, but unlike typical retrograde displays, the indicator doesn’t actually jump. Instead, the brand has two minute indicators on a disc that lies below the skeletonised display and swivels 90 degrees to minimise movement stress. The Striking Tourbillon Saphir doesn’t have a central tourbillon, though that could be nice, but offers a highly skeletonised view of the watch movement that’s largely hidden, rendering the watch almost invisible in its operation.  
 
Neither is new, and both have sapphire crystal case middles, a design adapted from the Octo Striking, hence their names. But there are also two more conventional versions of the Octo Roma Tourbillon, housed in full gold cases with gemstones decorating the watch. After all, we are talking about a brand that’s both a watchmaker and jeweller. 

The Bulgari Octo Roma Precious Lumière and Precious Naturalia.
The Bulgari Octo Roma Precious Tourbillon Lumière and Octo Roma Precious Naturalia.

The Octo Roma Precious Tourbillon Lumière features a classically skeletonised tourbillon movement with curved bridges and a skeleton minute track that sits atop the movement and flows into the tourbillon bridge. The minute track is decorated with diamonds and rubies that double as minute and hour markers. The bezel and lugs are also set with diamonds, and the watch is paired with a red alligator leather strap.  
 
The Octo Roma Precious Naturalia has the same skeleton design as the Striking Tourbillon Saphir, with 12 spokes that double as bridges and hour markers around a centre ring. These are set with tiger’s eye, a stone that complements the rose gold case of the watch. It’s discreet and sophisticated, a perfect synonym for the new and elegant Octo Roma.

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Editor

Darren has been writing about, and admiring the craft of watchmaking for over a dozen years. He considers himself lucky to live in a golden age of horology, and firmly believes that the most difficult watches to design are the simplest and the most intriguing to discover.


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