More accurate, more robust, smaller, thinner...these are goals that have motivated watchmakers for centuries. Now, however, the watch world has just seen a milestone in the latter: the newly announced Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra, which is barely thicker than a U.S. quarter — and the thinnest mechanical watch in the world.
Sorry about your still highly impressive 2mm-thick Altiplano, Piaget, but Bulgari has snatched the mantle with a mechanical watch measuring a fraction of a millimeter thinner; the new one is just 1.8mm thick. A difference of 0.2mm might not sound significant, but cramming all 170 of the movement's intricate little parts into that space is no mean feat; in fact, it involves eight patented solutions.
Like the Piaget Altiplano, part of how Bulgari achieved this extreme svelteness was by combining elements of the case and dial into the movement itself. For example, the movement's mainplate (its foundational structure) doubles as the caseback. Materials like titanium for the 40mm-wide case and and tungsten carbide for the caseback/mainplate were used to maintain overall rigidity — because at this level of thinness you have to worry about things like the watch itself bending or breaking. The crown has been replaced with two horizontal knobs (one for winding and one for setting the time), and even the bracelet and its clasp required new engineering solutions to match the case.
Bulgari's Octo collection turns 10 years old in 2022, and it's long been the brand's technical playground in its competition for thinness and world records. The Finissimo Ultra is its eighth record, following very specific achievements like the "thinnest automatic watch with monopusher chronograph and tourbillon." Of course, the "thinnest mechanical watch" overall (without all those qualifiers) is the grail of Bulgari and the other brands with a horse in this race.
The Finissimo Ultra is notable for its thinness, but also for highlighting ten years of the Octo collection which has become the brand's flagship. It derives from the pen of Gerald Genta, the designer of watches like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (which is turning 50 this year) and the Patek Philippe Nautilus, which are very much in the zeitgeist right now. Sharing some common design traits with those watches, Bulgari's announcement is timely in a few ways.
Aside from its nearly two-dimensional appearance, a striking visual element of the Octo Finissimo Ultra is the QR code laser-engraved on the movement's ratchet wheel. Each watch also comes with (sigh) an NFT that helps authenticate it, as well as offers "exclusive access to a dedicated digital universe."
It's hard to imagine watches getting any thinner than this, and if they do it'll be by minuscule increments. But technical challenges such as this are where innovation still feels most relevant in the watch industry. While it might be hard to get your hands on one of the only 10 examples of the Octo Finissimo Ultra being produced and costing ~$440,000 each, the solutions used here may ultimately trickle down to thin watches that might be more affordable.