To celebrate the Only Watch 2023 charity auction in the most beautiful way, this iconic watch is now the subject of a unique edition made of… marble!
In 2014, the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon began the epic run of 8 ‘thinness’ world records set by Bulgari over a period of 8 years. To celebrate the Only Watch 2023 charity auction in the most beautiful way, this iconic watch is now the subject of a unique edition made of… marble! A material dear to Bulgari, often associated with the world of art and architecture, it transforms, for this unique occasion, a watchmaking feat into an artistic masterpiece.
Bulgari, renowned for its mastery of miniaturisation again demonstrates its know-how by creating a watch in marble.
The case of the Octo Finissimo, consisting of 110 facets, has been carefully clad with a thin layer of marble, with every care given to preserving the delicate components and achieving visual harmony. The dial, too, features a thin marble wafer (just 0.6-mm thin). The bracelet, the most delicate part, required untold hours of painstaking work: the front and sides of each link had to be set with a sliver of marble, leaving only the interior surface in black DLC titanium.
The green marble used for this spectacular watch, named Verde Alpi, comes from the Aosta Valley, the natural passage linking Switzerland and Italy, though the Alps. Its dominant colour in nature, evoking abundance, growth and energy, is offset with white veins, recalling the serpentines of alpine forests and snowy peaks.
Artistic expression in marble
What better material than marble to express the distinctness of Bulgari and dare the Roman brand to transform a watchmaking feat into an artistic masterpiece? The answer is obvious and refers to the history of Bulgari and its relentless drive to keep pushing boundaries and ‘set in stone’, for all eternity, artistic and technical feats. But exemplary human endeavours, too, such as the biennial Only Watch charity auction, which since 2005 has been raising funds for research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
This year again, the great cause has spurred Bulgari’s designers, engineers and watchmakers on to surpass themselves and create a unique and extraordinary timepiece for the 2023 edition of the Only Watch charity auction. Truth be told, it has taken almost five years of research, of encountering obstacles, exploring different avenues and fine-tuning to finally complete this unparalleled project: a watch in marble! And yet, this feat is deeply rooted in Bulgari’s history, which is inseparable from this material, sublimated by brilliant artists and craftsmen throughout the ages.
The Venus de Milo, the Carrara Cathedral, the Taj Mahal… – from ancient Greece to Italy to Mughal architecture in India, marble has held a special place in the history of art, across continents and cultures. Italy has contributed decisively to this fixation, as the Italic Peninsula’s artists and architects who shaped this material left their eternal imprint on European culture and history can attest – just think of the cathedrals of Pisa, Siena and Florence, or Michelangelo’s David. Marble was first imported during the Roman conquests – from Numidia (today’s Tunisia), Greece and Egypt – and then extracted closer to the capital of the Empire. Only the splendid white marble from the quarries in the Apuan Alps (Carrara) would do for the main monuments of Rome.
Throughout its history, Bulgari has been steeped in this great Roman tradition. For the Italian brand, the use of marble is a natural nod to its roots. And so it has been for almost a century. Marble was adopted by the Maison as early as 1934 when the famous architect Florestano Di Fausto expanded and renovated the Bulgari flagship boutique in the Via dei Condotti in Rome. Marble was again the main material used by star architect Peter Marino during the boutique’s refurbishment in 2014 for Bulgari’s 130th Anniversary. Bulgari took a bold step in 2012, using marble as a material for a piece of jewellery, which was both unexpected and, at the same time, an artistic tribute – transporting an ancient stone long associated with enduring luxury and sculptural beauty into modernity and the industrial lines of the B.zero1 collection.
An unparalleled creative feat
In keeping with this unique history, Bulgari has taken on a far more daunting challenge: to produce a piece of fine watchmaking clad in a thin layer of marble. To meet it, the Maison chose the Octo collection: in just a decade it had become a true icon of contemporary horology, recognised by both watchmaking experts and enthusiasts of minimalist design with uncompromising engineering. The 60 or so international prizes awarded to the collection since its inception in 2012, including the Aiguille d’Or at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, bear witness to this. Neither round nor square, the Octo harmoniously unites two primordial shapes in one octagon – the geometry of perfection.
Its eight-sided architecture is directly inspired by the geometric motifs of the Pantheon in Rome. It proclaims the collection’s unwavering link to the heart of Bulgari’s heritage, rooted in this Roman spirit. As for the Octo Finissimo collection, it redefined the contours of traditional Haute Horlogerie, reinterpreting classic and sophisticated horological complications in a resolutely contemporary way. Just as deliberately, it symbolises Bulgari’s own Estetica della Meccanica – the art of absolute innovation in form and substance – echoed in 8 world records for ‘thinness’, the first of which was set in 2014 with the hand-wound Octo Finissimo Tourbillon. This same model served as the foundation for Bulgari’s donation to the 2023 edition of the Only Watch charity auction: the first Bulgari watch in marble.
The green marble used for this watchmaking coup – Verde Alpi – comes from the Aosta Valley, the natural passage between the Alps of Switzerland and Italy. A dominant colour in nature, green exudes a sense of abundance, growth and energy. The bright green of the rock, criss-crossed by white veins, recalls the snowy serpentines in the Alpine forests on the flanks of the Valle d’Aosta. The continuity of these irregular patterns creates a striking visual effect on the timepiece.
The unprecedented combination of marble and watchmaking finesse
Even though the art of miniaturisation is one of Bulgari’s hallmark skills, it took all the brand’s know-how in this particular domain to overcome this complex challenge. Indeed, the Octo Finissimo’s case (40 mm in diameter) is composed of no fewer than 110 facets! That many elements had to be covered with a thin veneer (0.4 – 0.5 mm) of marble, taking care not to shatter the delicate slivers and at the same time achieve a visually harmonious design.
Before being affixed, the minutely thin ‘slabs’ of marble had to be machined, then smoothened and finally polished by hand. The bracelet no doubt proved the most delicate part; together with the case of the watch, the work took about 190 hours to complete. Here, it should be noted that each slice of marble is delicately set on each one of the bracelet’s links with a three-dimensional element covering both the top and sides of the link, leaving only the interior surface of the bracelet in black DLC titanium.
The dial, meanwhile, consists of a 0.6-mm wafer of marble with indices on top, and reveals the tourbillon at 6 o’clock. The caseback, fitted with a sapphire crystal sporting the Only Watch logo, offers a generous view of the BVL 268 calibre, an ultra-thin (1.95 mm) hand-wound manufacture movement with a flying tourbillon. For the occasion, Bulgari created a custom-made box which, too, is enhanced by a fine layer of marble.
With this Octo Finissimo Tourbillon, produced as a one-off and with no equivalent in the watchmaking world, Bulgari intends to etch the 2023 edition of Only Watch in stone for all time.