Review: Bvlgari Octo

We test the new Bulgari Octo for 14 days just before its 2012 release in Asia. Despite an unconventional design, the watch makes an excellent dress watch but is robust and flexible enough to work for daily use

Some watches win you over at first glance; something about the shape of the case is appealing, seductive even. To use a non-watch analogy, this is sort of the feeling one has upon seeing a Mercedes-Benz Gullwing or a pair of John Lobb shoes. To push the analogy even further, it is even like Humphrey Bogart's legendary meeting with Lauren Bacall on the set of To Have and Have Not - love at first sight.

The new Bulgari Octo watch has this same feeling or quality to it. When Bulgari asked us if we would like to review the watch and get a good feel for it over two weeks, we jumped at the chance. This sort of review is new for us, hence we shall not be going into the details of the manufacture movement and how it works. First of all though, we suggest getting acquainted with the watch, with a bit of information from the press release.

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The presentation box from Bulgari, standard for non-high complications or special editions. The ribbon is also standard

The Facts

The Octo is a simple three-hand watch with date, not much mystery there. The seconds hand is central and the date is shown via a window at 3 o'clock. Hands and date are on the same axis. Bulgari has gone to great lengths to produce a complex case and paired it with a simple dial. The three-part case (bezel, middle and caseback) has a total of 110 facets, which are either polished or brushed; even the 10 hour markers are facetted. It is worth noting that these facets are quite often rounded off gently but sometimes end in angles as steep as 90 degrees. 

With a case this complicated (it requires hand-finishing), the new Bulgari Octo watch is set to become a new pillar of Bulgari's watches for men. The watch comes with a standard alligator strap but the version we had for this story was in simple cow leather.

All September's Parties

Wearing the Octo to all the usual media events in September, including the Formula One parties had the desired effect: people took notice.

With a watch like this one, from a brand like Bulgari, you want to command the gaze of casual onlookers. The shape of the Octo, basically an ingenious octagonal base and profile married to a round face that frames an octagonal flange, lends itself to curious glances; those who like round watches will be just as intrigued as those who prefer shaped watches. The model we had was in stainless steel but we imagine the effect will be amplified in gold; the watch is also available in 18k rose gold.

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The unboxing process, so to speak, is a key part of the fine watchmaking experience. There's nothing like that feeling of anticipation...

Of course, an illustration of this appeal is needed. At a gathering of watch collectors, enthusiasts and connoisseurs, the watch was roundly praised, so to speak. Basically, the shape was a winner and some even suggested that this new pillar of Bulgari's watch collection was its most handsome ever. High praise indeed and it is unfortunate that we cannot name names!

Collectors will recognize the Octo as an evolution of a case made famous by the late Gerald Genta for his own brand, which was subsequently acquired by Bulgari (2000) and, relatively recently, absorbed as part of the brand's regular offerings under the Bulgari name (2010). Indeed, this octagonal shape loomed large in the great man's work, including in the Patek Philippe Nautilus and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.

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As is evident here, the Bulgari Octo is a big and brash watch but it still doesn't dominate small wrists


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We shot the watch at the St. Regis Singapore, during an impromptu gathering for drinks, using only available lighting. Our thanks to the good people at the hotel

The original octagonal case is a little thicker (1mm according to Bulgari) and is still in use for complications of course (the Octo Bi-Retro for one, the Octo Maserati for another). Bulgari transitioned the octagonal case into the new Octo collection by making it slimmer and making the round face figure more prominently. This kind of pedigree is certain to appeal to collectors, especially those with an interest in classical watches that are not round.

We find the effect riveting, making one feel like touching the watch all the time. Of course, wearing any Bulgari is a sumptuous experience and this watch shares that quality. Brand loyalists will be pleased but, by the same token, more austere or restrained sorts will not be impressed. Bear in mind that by the standards of the Bulgari Bulgari and Assioma, the new Octo is not flashy at all. To put it yet another way, the Octo is to the Bulgari Bulgari as Aston Martin is to Lamborghini. Interestingly, Genta originally designed the Bulgari Bulgari.

Discreet Charm of the Rotor

Having settled into wearing the watch almost every day, we discovered some interesting if not immediately obvious characteristics of the watch and its manufacture movement, the automatic calibre BVL 193. At 41.5mm in diameter, the Octo is quite large and appears even larger thanks to that wonderful shape. Normally, this would challenge smaller wrists but the clever design of the lugs keeps the case from sliding around uncomfortably. Our test model did exceptionally well to stay in place all day long but in rose gold, the additional weight might lead to some slipping and sliding.

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The anti-glare properties of the sapphire crystal are impressive. As you will notice, the watch looks like it could be any number of shapes, depending on how the light strikes it

Another facet of this gem of a watch (no pun intended) is the 11.5 ligne round movement with 50 hours of power reserve from two barrels. We would have preferred a shaped movement to match the case, which would have been the perfect way to showcase the totally integrated and synchronous development of both case and movement. This impression grew on us as we put the watch through its paces. This is not to say calibre BVL 193 is in any way deficient.

While we did not test the watch for accuracy, we did give the power reserve a run for its money. Left alone for more than 48 hours after a full wind, the watch showed no signs of stopping. The finish of the watch is at the level one would expect for a base model of a new collection, which is to say it is competent and consistent. The mainplate is circular-grained while the snailed bridges are decorated with Cotes de Geneve

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Dial-side view from the press release. Picture courtesy of Bulgari


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Despite its heft, the Bulgari Octo is slim enough to fit easily under the cuff. In fact, we had difficulty getting shots where the watch was fully visible

One thing we note about the movement is the feel of the rotor, which is quite powerful. In fact, to match it with a watch in an entirely different order, the experience reminds us of the MB&F HM3. In a quiet room, the rotor can be heard to whir but it can usually be felt, if one pays attention. We find the effect charming and somewhat comforting even. It is a nice reminder that we are in the company of an exceptional mechanical construct.


Overall, the Bulgari Octo is a winner for the Italian brand. The complex shape of the case translates into pure sex appeal, as does the combination of polish and satin finishes. Despite what is quite a contemporary case, the Bulgari Octo qualifies perfectly as a classical watch that can be worn easily as a dress watch. At the same time, Bulgari states a water resistance of 100 meters for the Octo so it is quite robust enough to make for an everyday affair.

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In this shot, the watch really does look, at first glance, like it is round

We think the round bezel of the watch lends it the dress watch feel, along with the black lacquered dial of course but there is one downside here. At first glance, the Octo looks like a three-hand watch with an elongated marker at 3 o’clock. This is because the date window is just a little too small for comfort, even for the wearer. To put it in perspective, the numerals are about the same size as the letters of the 'Bulgari' on the dial. 

The Bulgari Octo is easy enough to adjust, with all indications controlled by the crown. While we encountered some reports that the crown is not intuitive to use we find this to be untrue. It is worth noting that the crown has eight segments or grooves, mirroring the eights sides of the case, just as previous complicated Octo watches have had. We would like to see what an octagonal crown would to the aesthetics of the watch, although that might be too much.

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Publicity image courtesy of Bulgari. This profile shot illustrates the curved and hard edges of the facets. The lugs are perfectly comfortable, despite looking a little aggressive


  • Bulgari Octo
  • Dimensions: 41.5mm
  • Thickness: 10.55mm
  • Case:  Stainless Steel; also available in 18k pink gold
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, date
  • Case back: Sapphire crystal
  • Water resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Alligator in black, with deployant clasp in stainless steel; clasp matches case material
  • Movement: Manufacture calibre BVL 193, mechanical with automatic winding, Diameter: 25.60 mm) Thickness: 3.70 mm Number of jewels: 28 Frequency: 28,800 vibrations/hour
  • Power reserve: approx. 50 hours


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