The post-war era of the ’50s stretching through the counter-culture ’60s and the heady opiatic ’70s was a golden era for the Riviera. And among its most revered denizens were the playboys that littered its undulating coastal outlines. Hailing from far-flung reaches such as the Dominican Republic, in the case of larger-than-life Porfirio Rubirosa, Germany, in the case of the legendary Gunter Sachs, and even modern-day Pakistan, in the case of Aly Khan, each made the holy pilgrimage to the mecca of sun, romance, and affluence, doing battle for seductive dominance through their accumulated arsenals of bespoke suits, multi-linguistic skills, athletic ability, bedroom heroism and romantic acumen. But of all the qualities of the legendary playboys from “Baby” Pignatari to Gianni Agnelli to Gigi Rizzi, the greatest asset, beyond manes of leonine hair, suntanned visages and sports cars driving skills, was their unparalleled taste.
And it is not a coincidence that the three men last mentioned are Italian, because there is a certain profound capacity for aesthetic appreciation that flows within the genetic make-up of all men hailing from the land of Caesar and Da Vinci. I oftentimes think about what if those men had lived today; if somehow, through a parallel universe prism, the world of the Riviera ceased to be the asinine land of priapically-winged fluorescent Lamborghinis, jeroboams of Ace of Spades wielded by braindead nightclub zombies and consumed by men with diamond-festooned “wrist game” — and in its place, the coastal climes of Southern France and Italy were once again a place where, in the words of my friend Nick Foulkes, “Money and taste actually aligned.” What watch would these paladins of panjandrumism wear with perfect dégagé élan as they spring out of their road-dust-covered 250 short-wheel-base Berlinettas, Rubinacci blazers draped casually over their shoulders?
The Octo In the Present Age
The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that their watch of choice would be the modern Bulgari Octo Finissimo. Why so, you ask? Why not an ultra-rare three-coloured screw-pusher RCO “Paul Newman” Daytona with tropical seconds track? Well, because there is something of a cliché today related to wearing vintage watches — in many ways, they have become the millennial equivalent to the skeletonized double tourbillon, a way to instantly state, “Look how much money I have”, without opening your mouth or wallet. But the problem is, in order for enough people to instantly recognize that the 40-year-old Big-Crown, ex-military, brown-dialed whatever-you-have-on is worth three fully loaded Bentley Bentaygas, it means that the vintage thing has hit such critical mass that it’s become commonplace. And as such, a true playboy, one whose objective is to unite intellect and erudition with his libertine impulses, is not going to take the path most traveled.
The Bulgari Octo, on the other hand, takes actual taste to appreciate. It is in essence an ultra-flat watch with a distinct faceted eight-sided case and a complimentary yet contrasting eight-sided bezel. But one look at it and your eye is instinctively tempted to exploring its dynamic sculpturalism. My friend Flavio Manzoni, who is Ferrari’s creative director, talks often about dynamic tension in objects. And in the Octo, the team of watch boss Guido Terreni and design director Fabrizio Buonamassa — yes, not coincidentally, two Italians — have done precisely that.