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Octo all grown up

Though still new, the Octo collection is quickly putting Bulgari on the map as a watch brand.

Octo Automatic
Octo Finissimo Skeleton.
Octo Chronograph
Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater
The Octo Finissimo Tourbillon made its appearance in 2014.
The Octo Finissimo Tourbillon made its appearance in 2014.

FOR a collection that's started barely five years ago, Bulgari's Octo has come far in making its presence felt in the luxury watch world. Just two years after it kicked off, the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon made its appearance in 2014; it was the slimmest hand-wound flying tourbillon ever made. Now, two years after its launch, the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater is unveiled; this is the world's thinnest minute repeater.

Apart from these two high complications, the Octo collection also includes a chronograph and an ultra-skinny skeleton-worked and self-winding timepieces. These timepieces also showed up in more stylish guises when Bulgari presented its 2016 Octo selection.

Sure, the Octo did not start from scratch. Bulgari, while it has been better known for its jewellery, was also already making watches long before the Octo arrived.

And these watches included complications such as tourbillon and minute repeaters. Yet the earlier efforts have not made quite the impact which the Octo has in a shorter period; Bulgari was still seen as more a jeweller than watchmaker.

With the Octo, the Italian brand is now more recognised as a watchmaker, as well as jeweller. The bigger marketing push for the collection has helped - there was for a year or two when the Octo was seen in every major newspaper and magazine. The record-breaking feats also haven't hurt. Bulgari is bent on telling the world that Octo is now a mainstay in its watch collections.

The name "Octo" takes after the shape of its timepieces, which is octagonal. But the bezel is round. The dial is uncluttered, easy to read - only the number six and 12 may appear on it, as has been the custom with all Bulgari watches since the 1940s.

The hours are indicated by added markers, the facets of which have been subtly worked in support of the case's angles and sides. The original Octo's case is 41.5mm, but there's now a 38mm version - the Octo Solotempo.

The case of the new minute repeater (S$225,000, limited to 50 pieces) is 40mm, but more notable is its thinness - only 6.85mm high, thinner than Jaeger-LeCoultre's Hybris Mechanica 11 (7.9mm) and Vacheron Constantin's Calibre 1731 (8.1mm), the previous two slimmest minute repeaters.

It's hard enough to make a minute repeater, harder still to make such a thin one. How do you squeeze the sound box into it? To begin with, the movement is just 3.12mm thick. This is fitted into a case made of titanium which, apart from being tough and light, is a low-density metal offering the best possible sound diffusion. The dial is also titanium. Instead of sticking markers on it to indicate the hours, cut-outs are made on the dial to represent them. This turns the dial and sapphire crystal into an audio chamber that provides maximum loudness.

The Octo Finissimo Tourbillon (S$143,000) resurfaces in a cool-looking DLC-coated (diamond-like carbon) black titanium case, with a matching black lacquered dial. Equally striking is the slender Octo Finissimo Skeleton (S$35,100), a skilful display of understated yet complex architecture.