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HAVING spent nearly a decade developing and putting the Octo Finissimo line of watches on the horological map, Bulgari has now shifted its focus back to the brand's classic collections. It has refreshed the popular Bulgari Aluminium first launched 20 years ago, producing an updated version of the watch; it has also revived the Gerald Genta range by rolling out a model that's closely identified with the legendary watch designer. Yet Bulgari hasn't shut its eyes altogether on the Octo Finissimo; it has knocked out yet another record-breaking slim timepiece to wow watch fans.
Luxury came in aluminium and rubber in 1998 when Bulgari - a name associated more with precious metals and stones - rolled out a new watch with these materials as its defining features. Held by a black rubber and white aluminium strap, the timepiece bears not only the Bulgari name, which is coyly inscribed around its bezel, but it's also a darling of the jet set who worshipped its cool modern casualness and unisex appeal.
Two decades after, the Bulgari Aluminium is back in an updated incarnation and marketed as "smart and cool, immediately recognisable as part of the Bulgari DNA, while embodying sophisticated, sporty and modern expression".
It has reappeared in two models: A time and date watch sporting a black or grey dial; and a chronograph timepiece with a white dial. But their resemblance with the original is unmistakable, save for the lugs which have been reshaped to adapt to a bigger 40 millimetres-wide aluminium case with a titanium caseback, while offering at the same time greater comfort on the wrist.
The aluminium in the latest models is said to be "more resistant" and the "rubber technical features have been improved" as well. A more substantial change is the replacement of the quartz movement with a mechanical self-winding mechanism with 42 hours of power reserve.
Bulgari is known for its high price point, but the new Bulgari Aluminium watches, while not inexpensive, come in closer to the entry-level end of the brand's price range - US$2,950 for the time and date model and US$4,250 for the chronograph.
Bulgari - The Gerald Genta 2020 Arena Bi-Retro Sport
The Gerald Genta 2020 Arena Bi-Retro Sport is just the watch Bulgari needed to signal the return of the Gerald Genta line.
Gerald Genta, the legendary designer (he created Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak and Patek Philippe's Nautilus), was the first to combine the jumping hour and retrograde minute features on a wristwatch in 1996. Jumping hours had introduced a higher level of precision in time-keeping and retrograde minutes offered a new way to read time.
The original Gerald Genta Arena, which has become a signature of the Gerald Genta name, is essentially an amalgam of these two functions - and it was the first retrograde watch on the market. It's recognised by its chunky, round case - the "Arena case" - which has an architectural shape inspired by the structure of areana found in ancient Rome. Gerald Genta Arena is also famous because it's identified with the case of the classic Mickey Mouse watch design, a testimony of Gerald Genta's sense of playfulness. The Gerald Genta brand was acquired by Bulgari in 2000 and integrated with its watchmaking operations.
Announcing the relaunch of the collection, Bulgari says the Gerald Genta 2020 Arena is only the first. "Additional models (are) in the works for upcoming releases," it says. Housed in a 42mm titanium Arena case, the sports watch features a smooth, wide-curved bezel in brushed titanium. The jumping hours are displayed in a window at 12 o'clock, while the minutes are tracked on an arc spanning the top half of the black anthracite dial, across which the minute hand travels and snaps back to zero every 60 minutes.
The Gerald Genta 2020 Arena, which retails for 15,000 euros, is powered by an automatic movement whose complex mechanism is visible through the scratch resistant sapphire caseback.
Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic Watch
At the rate Bulgari's Octo watches are going in breaking records for slimness, the collection will soon be synonymous with ultra-flat timepieces. The Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic, in a limited edition of 50 pieces, is the sixth Octo watch in six years that's beaten the record for thinness - this time in the ultra-thin and ultra-complicated automatic watches category.
And the feat has not come at the price of performance.
The double complication watch combines a single-push chronograph and a tourbillon and is driven by a self-winding movement just 3.5mm thick. Bulgari says there's no equivalent timepiece this thin in the market today. The height of the 42mm wide titanium case is 7.44mm. Price of watch: 150,000 euros (S$240,000).