Bulgari Octo Finissimo US launch against backdrop of Nicola Bulgari’s classic car collection
The record-breaking ultra-thin minute repeater was presented on the personal estate of Nicola Bulgari.
For the North American unveiling of its record breaking, ultra-thin Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater earlier this summer, Bulgari selected a venue that embodies the passion of Nicola Bulgari, the great-grandson of the brand’s founder, Sotirios Bulgari. Rather than gather at some glamorous Midtown Manhattan restaurant, we went to Allentown, Penn., where Mr. Bulgari has built not only a garage and restoration workshops for his incredible collection of vintage American cars, but also a studio facility that is painstakingly documenting and photographing historically significant American cars for inclusion in the Library of Congress, so they can be preserved for posterity.
The centerpiece of the NB Center for American Automotive Heritage compound is Bulgari’s estate, a sprawling stone manor with an old drive-in movie theater in the backyard, where party guests sat in vintage convertibles and watched Will Ferrell’s NASCAR comedy, Talladega Nights after an al fresco dinner.
When Bulgari visits on his own, however, he prefers to sleep in his garage apartment with a glass wall overlooking dozens of his automotive treasures. More than 100 cars, representing the bulk of Bulgari’s vast collection, reside at the compound in Allentown, whereas the rest are housed in Rome.
Much of Bulgari’s collection dates from the 1920s through the 1940s and includes many Buicks, such as a meticulously restored 1934 Buick 98C Convertible Phaeton. There are also arcane American marques - Hudson, Nash, and others - that disappeared many decades ago, plus notable cars, such as the taxi from the 1946 holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Bulgari’s collection focuses on the everyday cars of the American middle class rather than elitist Bugattis and Rolls Royces. And most importantly, they all run, as we discovered on a joyride around the 21-acre estate.
“If you can’t drive them, he doesn’t want them,” says Keith Flickinger, who oversees the collection for Mr. Bulgari. “Art is for the walls. Cars were made to be driven, that’s why they were built.”
In a similar vein, Bulgari built its Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater to be worn. “We wanted the minute repeater to be put on the wrist, not stay in a safe,” says Guido Terreni, managing director of Bulgari Watches, drawing the comparison to Mr. Bulgari’s cars. The svelte, disruptive design with a faceted sandblasted titanium case puts a modern spin on the traditional complication. Yet, it does so with restraint. “You can mistake it for the Petite Seconde, if you are not a watch lover,” adds Terrini. “It’s a complication that is very understated, and you bring it to life when you press the lever.”
Building an ultra-thin minute repeater presented a set of unique challenges as watchmakers sought ways to resonate sound through the condensed case, which measures a mere 6.85 mm thick. Among the solutions are cutaway indexes on the dial and the use of titanium, which has superior sound transmission qualities.
The minute repeater marks the culmination of the ultra-thin Octo Finissimo collection that includes the aforementioned Petite Seconde, a Skeleton, and a Tourbillon powered by the world’s thinnest flying tourbillon movement, measuring only 1.95 mm thick. “We are doing things that are contemporary and expressions of Italian style, which is never decorative, but about proportions,” explains Terreni. “The beauty of these objects has to win time - like the cars, which have won decades in terms of appeal, in terms of aesthetics. We still find them fascinating.”
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