The minute repeater is the grandest of the grand complications, and very difficult to engineer because of an inherent contradiction. Watch designers do all they can to seal the watch to keep dust and water from entering. This makes it very difficult for the sound produced by the gongs in a minute repeater watch to emerge from the case. Several beautiful minute repeaters made by other brand in recent years produce sound at very low levels that can only be heard by the person wearing the watch. But techniques are moving forward all the time, and Bulgari have succeeded in creating a watch with the standard water resistance of 3 bar, 30 metres, and excellent sound characteristics.
Image © Bulgari
The movement, developed in-house by Bulgari, is the BVL Calibre 362, just 3.12 mm thick. The case is prodigiously slim at 6.85 mm. Case and dial are made from titanium, a lightweight metal, particularly suitable for minute repeaters because its lightness facilitates resonance and sound diffusion. The hour markers are cut-out, so that the sound can circulate inside the case transforming the whole watch into a miniature loudspeaker. The movement is hand-wound, delivering a power reserve of 42 hours.
Video © Bulgari
At Baselworld, the watch is on show, and I heard its sound indirectly through a smartphone video, and it is certainly at an appreciable volume. It’s a piece that shows the degree to which Italian brand, with its watchmaking unit in Switzerland, is capable of taking on all the other classic manufactures and – when it comes to world records – beating them... at least until the next ultra-thin repeater is unveiled. This piece is approximately 20% slimmer than its nearest competitors.
The watch is a 50-piece limited edition, with the distinctive Octo case and a vulcanised black alligator leather strap. Price 165,000 Swiss francs.