When In Rome

Based on the record-shattering 2013 Octo Finissimo Tourbillon, the Italian watchmaker etches its legacy in stone with a one-of-a-kind, marble-finished edition

By MW Desk

Only Watch, the biennial charity auction of luxury timepieces, recently announced its tenth iteration this year, boasting over sixty incredible timepieces, all of which will be sold to raise funds for research on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The event has gained considerable renown since its first introduction in 2005, showcasing the most extravagant creations in the realm of contemporary timekeeping. That said, this year’s standout seems somewhat unassuming; at least until you look a bit closer.

The Octo Finissimo Tourbillion Marble is, as the name suggests, a rendition of the famous ultra-thin titanium design, clad in a thin layer of Italian marble. Released just about a year after the recordbreaking Octo Finissimo Ultra 103611, Bulgari’s latest work takes things to even further extremes. Apart from the Marble edition’s exclusivity — just one example in existence — the timepiece offers a glimpse at the very cutting edge of watchmaking technology and artisanship, as well as nodding towards the Italian Maison’s Roman roots.

SET IN STONE

Marble itself has a special place in the realm of art and luxury. From the Taj Mahal to the Venus de Milo, it has been used as a material to signify perfection and opulence across the world, especially in Italy. Rome, for instance, which Bulgari calls home, is chock-full of marble-made masterpieces; first imported from as far as Egypt, the material has been used by countless generations of artisans and architects hailing from the Italic Peninsula. Bulgari itself has had a long history with the material in its boutiques, dating back to a century before it was considered by the marque’s current watchmakers. This tradition began when famous architect Florestano De Fausto expanded and renovated the Bulgari flagship boutique in the Via dei Condotti in Rome, all the way back in 1934. Marble was once again used by star American architect Peter Marino when reworking the establishment for Bulgari’s 130th anniversary, while its jewellery designers also adopted the material in 2012 for the industrial-themed B.zero1 collection.

And so, it wasn’t surprising that Bulgari would attempt the task of using the material on a timepiece; in fact, managing director Antoine Pin claims that the first talks surrounding the watch came up five years ago, only for manufacturing concerns to get in the way of production. When Only Watch entered the picture, undertaking the herculean design feat seemed feasible, and Bulgari’s studio began to work on the long awaited project.

PRODUCTION EXTREMES

The technique itself, as Pin explains to Revolution, is reminiscent of the actual marble finishes found in Roman columns. The marble itself is finely dusted and agglomerated into a ‘powder’ of sorts, before being applied in the form of a paper-thin 0.4-0.5 mm veneer onto the watch’s surface. Each one of these layers is incredibly easy to shatter during the manufacturing process — a task made even harder owing to the 110 different facets on the surface of the Octo Finissimo’s 40 mm case.

Of course, the choice of marble reflects further historical context. “In the [ancient] Roman era, you will see a lot of white marble; now if you look at the palazzos and churches of 16th and 17th century Roma, you will see green and red marble. The studio’s decision was to go with green,” explains Pin, noting how the largely monochromatic colour scheme echoed the original Octo Finissimo design principles. Bulgari sourced their marble for the project from the Aosta Valley; the natural passage between the Alps of Switzerland and Italy. The bright green of this ‘Verde Alpi’ marble — crisscrossed by striking white veins — reflects the geography of the source region itself, a winding series of snow-clad moun

Before being affixed, the minutely thin ‘slabs’ of marble had to be machined, then smoothened and finally polished by hand. According to Pin, the bracelet was the most delicate part to work with. Taking six attempts to successfully layer the marble, the work took nearly 200 hours to complete, and covers nearly every visible element on the bracelet and case. Within, you’ll find the interior surface of both the case and bracelet is black DLC titanium— a finish also seen on the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton from 2018.

The dial, meanwhile, consists of a 0.6 mm wafer of marble with indices on top, with the exposed tourbillion 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 — the ultra-thin (1.95 mm) original Octo Finissimo 52-hour manufacture movement with a flying tourbillion. Finally, Bulgari created a special, custom-made marble box for the one-off timepiece. The watch will go on auction this November 5th; marking a special date for one of modern watchmaking’s most ambitious studio.

Reproduced with permission from Mansworldindia.com

+ posts

Preserving Heritage in a Modern World

Lost in Language

Q/A with Golam Sohrab Dodul

Monument to Sustainability