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History of Timepieces Record Breaking Ultra Thin Watches from Bulgari

Before, the trend was to go large, now brands are racing to be as thin as possible. Bulgari has not just created the thinnest automatic movement, they also hold the titles for thinnest minute repeater and tourbillon.

Thinnest Automatic Movement

At Baselworld 2017, Bulgari unveiled the Octo Finissimo Automatic. Unlike their other two record breaking watches and as it’s name may let on, the newest Octo Finissimo is an automatic winding timepiece rather than manual wind. This in it’s own right makes this even more impressive as the rotor needs to be taken into consideration when designing.

Octo Finissimo Automatic

This ultra thin watch is found in a reasonable 40mm titanium case. The combination of titanium and a case thickness of just 5.15mm makes this watch feel feather light on the wrist. The watch features an industrial design, breaking free of traditional (round) conventions and features a distinctive shape based on Gerald Genta’s Octo.

The grey titanium case houses a matte finished grey dial with printed black indices and hour markers. The simplicity of the dial complements the simple yet complicated case, adding a touch of elegance. Matching the black hour markers are black faceted skeletonised hands with PVD coating.

Bulgari has released the Octo Finissimo with both an integrated leather strap as well as a matching sandblasted titanium bracelet. Each of these creates a new look for the watch; the strap adding a more formal feel while the titanium is more sporty.

Also adding to the thinness of the overall case, Bulgari developed a case made of two parts rather than three. The baseplate and the caseback are one component rather than two. The movement is placed within the case from the top rather than the back and then secured with screws going through to the bezel.

Caliber BVL 138 Details

The BVL 138 has beaten all other holders of the thinnest automatic movement, including the most recent Vacheron Constantin caliber 1120 at 2.45mm thick, and is just 2.23mm. The automatic movement features a micro-rotor made from 950 Platinum.

Due to the slim size of the movement and size of the micro-rotor, it needed to be designed in a dense material to generate energy and store a full 60 hour power reserve when full. The micro-rotor allows the movement to stay smaller, at 36mm across, unlike a peripheral rotor which would sit outside the movement.

Watchmakers were able to shave off .7mm from the balance wheel without sacrificing amplitude. Looking at the movement, you can see that watchmakers didn’t sacrifice decoration. Polishing and decorating the movements remove material so the entire process was very delicate.

Ultra Thin Tourbillon

In 2014, Bulgari released their Octo Finissimo Tourbillon in platinum, featuring a movement that is a mere 1.95mm thick. To give you a better understanding of just how thin this is, the movement is the same thickness as a US nickel.

As you may or may not know, a tourbillon is a small rotating cage designed to fight the effects of gravity on a movement. To fit this into a movement measuring 1.95mm and a case thickness of just 5mm is a true technical achievement. The design utilized ball bearings to mount the tourbillon rather than a traditional pivot to keep it slim.

The thickest element of this manual wind movement, BVL caliber 268, is the Tourbillon cage itself. Bulgari has also removed part of the balance wheel regulating system to remove other aspects that may make the movement thicker.

World’s Thinnest Minute Repeater

Just two years after their Octo Finissimo Tourbillon was released, Bulgari was back at it again. This time their Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater was released, capturing the title of the smallest striking watch.

A minute repeater on its own is one of the most complex complications. Being able to make a movement 3.12mm thick housed inside a 6.85mm thick case while achieving a perfect sound is quite a challenge. The watchmakers at Bulgari rose to the occasion and released their minute repeater powered by the BVL caliber 362 in 2016, a movement composed of 362 micro components.

Unlike the tourbillon, the minute repeater was made in titanium making it lightweight and an excellent sound diffuser. The watchmakers also made the dial out of titanium and cut out where traditional indices or hour marks would be, as well as a cut out ring around the sub-seconds dial to amplify the sound inside the case.

Flipping over each of these ultra thin watches, you can see each of the movements through an exhibition caseback. Typically, this adds thickness to the case due to the secondary sapphire crystal, but with Bulgari and their two part case design, the back of the watch is all on one plane.

Bulgari has managed to create not one, but three record breaking ultra-thin timepieces. These watches are slim and light to the point you may even forget you’re wearing one but you’ll never forget the technological feat that went into producing each of them. Each of them are slim, comfortable and casual with a touch of elegance. With already having three of the thinnest watches across different complications on the market, it will be interesting to see if anyone can design something thinner.

About Emily Smith
Emily loves the history of watches and loves learning how they work. She prefers Rolex and Omega watches but is learning the history behind other brands. She is excited to learn about new models and build her collection.

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