Hands-On Watch Review Of The Bvlgari Octo Roma Carillon Tourbillon
In a recent video I recorded for Fratello, I introduced the Bvlgari Octo Roma World Timer. To date, that watch is my favorite model in the Octo Roma line because it brought a touch more visual complexity to the wearable and identifiable case shape boasted by the model line. If I thought that model was interesting, imagine my surprise when I first met the Bvlgari Octo Roma Carillon Tourbillon. This is one of the most complex watch movements ever added to the fast-becoming-iconic case design that evokes the architecture of Rome and went on to inspire the perhaps more famous Bvlgari Octo Finissimo — a line of watches that we have, on these very pages, extolled as one of the finest modern sports watch designs the industry has to offer.
As I’ve said countless times before, the Octo Finissimo is a generational classic. However, that high praise (which I believe to be fully deserved) does not stop with the Finissimo line. While the thinness of that model may grab the headlines, it still shares its DNA with the Octo Roma line, which is a more wearable and, shall we say, “mainstream” take on the brand’s most visible men’s watch.
Visibility is key
I thought it was worth describing the Finissimo as “the brand’s most visible men’s watch” because it is so ubiquitous in the brand’s promotional material and on blogs and online magazines like Fratello (sorry about that) that it is really easy to forget Bvlgari makes anything else. But beyond the Finissimo, there is much to discover. The Aluminium range is back. Don’t sleep on the classic Bvlgari Bvlgari line. Although both the Magnesium Concept and Scuba ranges — two of my all-time favorite Bvlgari families — are currently on an indefinite hiatus, there is still much to choose from. But the collection that I think gets ignored the most often (and certainly doesn’t deserve to) is the regular Octo Roma. With a model like the Octo Roma Carillon Tourbillon in its ranks, however, that surely cannot continue…
And now I have one on my wrist…
The pandemic has made trying on watches we might be interested in purchasing all the harder. Watch fairs are not as common as they used to be, and travel restrictions have made attending them occasionally impossible. Consequently, I hadn’t gotten the time I would have liked with the Octo Roma core line, so seeing this next-level horological monster on my wrist was a nice change of pace.
On paper, this is just the kind of thing that turns me off. I like clean and clear aesthetics. I like silhouettes that can stand the test of time. Dial embellishments and frivolous complications (yes, Mr. Tourbillon, I am looking at you), rarely pique my interest. And then you find yourself confronted with something like this and the rule book goes out the window. Would I buy it for €262,295 excluding taxes? Hell, no. I’d sooner buy 20 Octo Finissimos and throw each one in the bin every time I allowed the power reserve to run to zero (because that is real luxury living).
However, I am more likely to now buy 20 Octo Finissimos than I was before I saw this beast because my appreciation of what Bvlgari is and what Bvlgari can do has never been greater (and I’m saying that on the back of the recent world records set by the brand). Simply put, Bvlgari’s star has never been higher, and while pieces like this will appeal to the very few, their existence acts as a reference point for the rest of the collection and elevates the brand in its entirety to a totally new level.
The wearability cannot be overlooked
I love the Octo Finissimo from purely academic and aesthetic perspectives, but, as I mentioned in the recent Octo Roma World Timer review, it is actually a bit too thin for me in real life. While some wearers fawn over the seamless connection between the bracelet and the watch head, describing the wearing experience as more akin to a bracelet or a bangle than a regular watch. Honestly, I find it a bit unnerving.
Comfortable but almost discomforting
And that really is the word: it isn’t uncomfortable at all. The lightness and the quality and proportions of the slim links give this highly-articulated bracelet one of the finest drapes in the industry. No, I genuinely mean I find it almost emotionally disturbing. I cannot fathom that there is a watch on the end of my arm. And while I’ve never been one of those weight=quality dunderheads, I must admit to preferring a tiny bit of heft. Not much, just a little. What can I say? I want to know I’m still wearing my watch without having eyes on it at all times.
If I’m being totally honest, I like to feel the watch head sitting on top of my wrist. I’m actually a bit of a stickler for how and where exactly watch heads sit on wrists, so not being able to blindly distinguish between the watch head and the bracelet (although the rigidity of the watch head and the articulation of the bracelet makes that kind of possible with practice), is unsettling for me.
Now, that’s just a personal preference. It isn’t the gospel of how to wear a watch. You may be an avid bracelet wearer, and that’s cool. I’m not. I only wear watches on my wrist. Of course, it’s totally possible that I’m nothing more than a creature of habit. But why I am the way I am is by the by. I like a more traditional watch when it comes to the timepieces I choose to strap on in the morning. I mean, we only have a limited number of wrists to which we can dedicate watches. It’s okay to be picky as a result…
A masterpiece versus a mainstay
I stand by my assessment of the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo as one of the most significant wristwatches of our times. I think it is a pretty easy position to defend even under the heaviest scrutiny you can throw at it. However, I would prefer to wear an Octo Roma on a daily basis. It has all of the architectural charms of the Finissimo but boasts the more “traditional” proportions with which I am personally more at ease. And this piece, the Octo Roma Carillon, while certainly imposing, does not overawe even a slim wrist like mine.
The Bvlgari Octo Roma Carillon Tourbillon is 44mm wide and just 12.83mm tall. That’s pretty impressive stuff for such a complicated watch. The blue grille dial provides a surprisingly legible backdrop to the blasted silver-colored hands, and this watch, despite being as much a piece for the mind as the eyes, remains pleasingly useable as a result. The minute repeater is activated by the large button at 9 o’clock, and thanks to the open structure of the resonant case, the sound of the three chimes is clear, loud, and distinguished.
What you get for the money
Beating away inside the Bvlgari Octo Roma Carillon Tourbillon is an aesthetically stunning 21,600vph manual-wind tourbillon with a 75-hour power reserve. The case is made of platinum. That accounts for a big portion of the €262,295 pre-VAT price. Although I think platinum makes sense for a complication of such import but, sometimes, I do find myself wondering if it is necessary. Wouldn’t this watch be cool in steel? Maybe it only drops the price by €100k, but despite clinging to my gut feeling that anyone buying a €100k+ watch can just as easily buy a €250k+ watch for years, I have since been proven wrong by the buying statistics presented to me by several high-rolling brands. Apparently, even among the super-rich, there is such a thing as an “entry-level”, and the difference in clientele between, say €50k and €250k is actually massive.
What can I say? You live and learn. Wearing this watch for a week or so was a learning experience for me too. But let us know what you think of this model and this model family in the comments. What would you like to see next from the brand? Learn more about Bvlgari here.