When Bulgari acquired Daniel Roth back in 2000, it acquired the designs and watchmaking know-how that included Roth’s patented “Papillion” time-display method. Fifteen years later, that acquisition led to Bulgari’s creation of the Papillon Tourbillon in a large 45mm Roth-inspired case.

In 2021, we see the Papillon take on a new form as it joins the celebrated Bulgari Octo family. However, the addition of the central tourbillon created a beautiful harmony, with the butterfly and the whirlwind in the classy Octo Roma case: call it The Butterfly Effect.

The Papillon reborn

The original Roth-inspired 45mm Papillon is a large and oversized watch by current standards. This year, Bulgari decided it was time to revisit the Papillon and inject a healthy dose of modern beauty by shedding 4mm and shrinking to a much more palatable 41mm, housed in the stunning Octo Roma case. The Octo design language harkens back to 2012. It took its constructional inspiration from the arches supporting the Basilica of Maxentius in the Roman Forum in Rome. The resulting geometrical architecture went on to form the spine of what would become the luxury brand’s best-selling men’s watch line.

Roma: the “other Octo”…

In 2017, Bulgari introduced a softer, more rounded version of its Octo case with the Octo Roma. As the name suggests, the core tenets of the Octo DNA remained, but Bulgari capped the new case off with a smoother, rounded, brushed bezel. To add some context to the evolution of the Octo to the Octo Roma, instead of the 110 sharp facets of the Octo Finissimo, the Octo Roma reduced them to just 58. The new Octo Roma Papillon Central Tourbillon has a beautiful rose gold case with a brushed bezel and contrasting polished accents on the mid-case. A rose gold crown with a black ceramic insert complements the dial’s elegant matte-black and gold color scheme.

A circular journey

The Papillon shows hours using a jump-hour mechanism displayed in the gold-framed window at 12 o’clock. It’s the minutes that are the focal point, though. At first glance, you could be forgiven for assuming that this is some kind of retrograde display. Instead, the Papillon display uses two independent “hands”. The 18k gold hands follow a 180-degree arced minute track across the lower half of the dial. When the active hand reaches the end of the minute track, the opposite, inactive hand rotates 90 degrees and readies itself to assume an active position, ready to start its journey across the minute scale for the next hour. Once the new hand is in position, the exiting hand switches off and disengages from the arc.

While a retrograde display may be slightly more visually appealing, the Paillon system is superior from a technical standpoint. You may enjoy watching a hand “snap” back into place, rewarding you for your attention, but these actions make the mechanism more susceptible to wear and tear, as well as requiring more power to operate. Shorter service intervals and power reserve aren’t exactly a selling point. The continuous rotation of the two Papillon hands around the dial uses significantly less power and less stress on the movement. Want to check your power reserve? You can do so via the handy indicator visible through the case back.

Bulgari’s beautiful Calibre BVL 332

While we’re round the back, let’s take a look at the beautiful hand-wound Calibre BVL 332 that drives the Octo Roma Central Tourbillon Papillon, visible through the display case back. Bulgari decorated it simply but nicely. The dark, anthracite finished backplate feature an excellent radial sunburst motif, with partial open working to allow a glimpse of the geartrain below. As we established, the sophisticated Paillon mechanism consumes less power than a traditional minutes display. This, of course, has a positive knock-on effect on the overall power reserve, allowing for 60 hours of power once fully charged.

But how does the Bulgari Octo Roma Central Tourbillon Papillon wear?

The Bulgari Octo Roma Central Tourbillon Papillon is not traditionally a “me” watch. I feel like a bit of an imposter wearing this watch on my wrist. That’s because I don’t tend to wear dressier pieces like this, but you know what? I could get used to this — even the gold! The weight of the 41mm rose gold case is reassuring in the wrist, offering a comforting presence. I don’t love the alligator leather strap, but that’s a personal preference. I can’t imagine many other straps being entirely as appropriate for such a classy piece.

Bulgari has done a fantastic job of allowing the work of Daniel Roth to live on as a part of the Octo collection. Much focus of the Octo family goes to the rightly-celebrated Octo Finissimo. Still, the Octo Roma Central Tourbillon Papillon shows that the Roma still has much to add to this sibling rivalry.

The Bulgari Octo Roma Central Tourbillon Papillon costs €130,000. Find out more here on the official Bulgari Website.

Follow me on Instagram: @davesergeant | @fratellowatches