1. Bulgari Octo Finissimo S
Bulgari’s Aluminium may well have been awarded the Icon prize in 2020 by the Foundation of the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève, but the brand’s Octo Finissimo, with its unique faceted design, is the true iconic watch of the new millennium — so far — breaking numerous world records for outstanding technical achievement, and thinness, while also establishing a new aesthetic language.
First launched in 2014 as the ultra-thin tourbillon in a sandblasted platinum case, the collection has expanded to include numerous award-winning models, such as the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic, Tourbillon Automatic and Minute Repeater. However, the simply elegant Automatic is, for me, the purest expression of the original architecture-inspired concept.
A new, 43mm, satin-polished stainless steel S model joins the Chronograph GMT line-up this year, and although this means a slightly thicker case (8.75mm), water resistance is increased to 100m making it a very practical, daily, luxury sports timepiece. It also retains Bulgari’s beautifully ultra-thin BVL 318 automatic movement (only 3.3mm thick), which drives its ultra-thin 42mm x 6.9mm titanium sibling.
The 40mm, satin-polished steel Octo Finissimo S Automatic was introduced in 2020 with black and blue dial options. For 2021, we have a vertical-brushed steel dial for a captivating monochromatic look. And, while slightly thicker in steel than the original titanium case (5.15mm), last year’s update of a screw-down crown and water resistance to 100m, turned this model into a definite contender for luxury sports watch of the year.
Inside its 6.4mm thick case, the 2.23mm BVL 138 automatic movement is a perfect fit, to be admired through its transparent caseback.
• The S Automatic, price on request, and the S Chronograph GMT, price on request. Visit Bulgari or call 011-883-1325.
2. Zenith Chronomaster Sport
The design of Zenith’s new Chronomaster Sport chronograph chronicles the evolution, over five decades, of the iconic wristwatch with tri-colour chronograph registers made famous by its legendary movement, the El Primero Calibre 400. Introduced in 1969, this was the first high-frequency automatic chronograph and is still in use to this day.
Its high-frequency of 36,000 VpH and its column-wheel mechanism ensure tried and tested reliability and precision for more than 50 years.
The story of the movement continues in the new El Primero Calibre 3600 featuring some material and technical upgrades, reduced parts and improved functionality for the new age. With the centre chronograph hand jetting around once every 10 seconds, the calibre 3600 can measure and display elapsed time with a precision of 1/10th of a second from the 5Hz (36,000 VpH) escapement.
Its new architecture features a blue column wheel and an open rotor marked with the five-pointed Zenith star. It also has an extended power reserve of 60 hours and the watch is water resistant to 100m.
A contemporary design packed with history, the new, 41mm, steel Chronomaster Sport references the overlapping sub-dials and colours of the original 1969 El Primero A386, the case was inspired by the De Luca models from 1988, as was its broad bezel, updated in ceramic with 1/10th of a second indication, a reference to the Striking 10th of 2012.
If at a quick-glance the bezel bears a slight resemblance to the Daytona’s, this might be a historic reference to Rolex commissioning Zenith, in the late 1980s, to make a modified version of the El Primero 400, called the calibre 4030, to be used in the Daytona into the 1990s. The dot markers on the bezel reference the Zenith A277 chronograph of 1968, and the tachymeter scale of the 1992 Rainbow.
3. Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Orange Sapphire
The big, bang-on-trend, 1970s orange, 45mm Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Orange Sapphire stands out the most among Hublot’s novelties for 2021, which include the more “understated” Big Bang Integral models in three new ceramic colours: white, navy blue and grey. With this piece joining the transparent black, yellow, blue and red models, the manufacturer has once again achieved a world first by adding a completely new colour to its palette of through-tinted sapphires manufactured in its metallurgy and materials laboratory.
This technical and aesthetic feat is accompanied by a new automatic tourbillon, the in-house calibre MHUB6035 with power reserve of 72-hours, which is not only self-winding — rare for a tourbillon — but its openwork architecture has been reconfigured to display the micro-rotor on the dial side, as well as three sapphire bridges.
The perpetual movement of the grey 22-carat gold, micro-rotor set at 12 o’clock, echoes the rotation of the tourbillon, its regulating organ, positioned symmetrically at 6 o’clock. Presented on a lined, orange rubber strap, this timepiece is a limited edition of 50 and retails for about R2.75m.
The Integral was launched last year in black ceramic, another of Hublot’s signature materials, with excellent scratch-resistance, durability and hypoallergenic properties. The Integral is distinguished from the other Big Bang models by its fully integrated bracelet, which is fused with the 42mm case. The model is powered by the Unico proprietary HUB1280 movement, the V2 modification of the Unico HUB1242.
According to Hublot, the changes include the removal of the escapement platform, a thinner automatic winding system with a slimmer 1.3mm movement, and four new patented technical innovations (oscillating seconds clutch, chronograph friction system with ball-bearing adjustment, ratchet retaining system with unidirectional gears, and index-assembly fine adjustment system).
• The Integral models are about R376,000.