As most of you might know, the history of Bell & Ross is mostly linked to military watches created for pilots and special forces. The brand’s most emblematic models, the BR 01 and BR 03, have become modern classics thanks to their bold, signature design described as a “circle within a square”. Yet, the brand needed to evolve and offer less segmenting models by adding some pieces with a more urban feel. Hence the creation in 2019 of the BR 05, the brand’s take on the popular sports watch with an integrated bracelet but still with clear B&R design codes. Today, a more masculine automatic chronograph, the Bell & Ross BR 05 Chrono, joins the collection.
The BR 05 collection explained
Founded in 1992 by childhood friends and college students Bruno Belamich and Carlos Rosillo (“Bell” from Belamich and “Ross” from Rosillo), Bell & Ross has, from its earliest days, focused its design on military inspirations and pilot’s watches. In the beginning, the brand partnered with German watch manufacturer Sinn for a decade of production, which says a lot about the robustness and utilitarian look of these watches. Probably the most important date in the brand’s history was 2005 when a clear identity was established with the now-iconic BR 01. Inspired by military aeroplane instruments with square cases for easy installation in dashboards, and four exposed screws in the corners to mount them in place, the watch was a statement. Oversized, instrumental and immediately recognizable.
The design was simple yet efficient; a square case, a circular dial and exposed screws in each corner of the case. And this became the brand’s signature, later used in the more compact BR 03 watches. A design that was so strong, that whenever the brand had to expand and develop a new collection, it couldn’t be overlooked…
Why did B&R move beyond this successful range of military/pilot/aviation/officers watches to create the new BR05? Well, as respected as these watches are, we’re still talking about a niche product with a bold design that is rather hard to use on a daily basis. The brand had almost reached a point of stagnation. And this necessary evolution required a contemporary product with an urban feel to meet the current demand… And that’s the luxury sports watch with an integrated bracelet.
Bell & Ross’ answer to this was the BR 05 collection. You can’t blame a brand for producing watches that answer market demand, but you can blame a brand for a lack of authenticity. On this point, B&R managed to blend the codes of the luxury sports watch and its DNA in a pretty cool and faithful way. Based on the concept of a watch with a shaped steel case and integrated bracelet, Bell & Ross adds a typical square(ish) bezel with 4 polished screws and a classic round dial, featuring the brands signature markers and numerals. The case is nicely executed, with classic brushed surfaces lightened by polished bevels with a well-proportioned 40mm diameter. To contain the price, the movement inside is an upgraded and specifically decorated Sellita.
Until now, the watch has been launched in multiple 3-hand iterations, from the classic models with closed dial in steel – grey, black and blue dials – worn on a steel bracelet or a rubber strap. Also, some openworked models were added to the range, as well as two-tone and solid gold watches. And it’s now time for the collection to be joined by new complications.
The BR 05 Chrono
So here’s the first natural evolution of the Bell & Ross BR 05, which is updated with a chronograph movement, a classic style for sports watches with integrated bracelets. Somehow, even if it was not announced a year ago, this new model was expected to surface sooner or later. And a GMT version would certainly be a nice addition too – just passing along the message here.
The addition of a chronograph function often means an added dosage of sportiness for watches, and this BR 05 Chrono is no exception. Not only is the look of the watch busier, bolder and more masculine, but the proportions have changed, although not the overall concept.
The case of this Chrono version, still made of stainless steel (for now), has grown to leave some space for the movement and for its more complex display – the opening of the dial on the 40mm version was certainly not adequate for the additional sub-counters. As such, the BR 05 is a more robust piece, with a 42mm measurement from 3 to 9 o’clock and a thickness of about 13.5mm (around 3mm more than the 3-hand model). The other evolutions concern, of course, the addition of pushers on the side of the case, which are rectangular and angled to follow the lines of the case. The crown guard module has also been redesigned.
The overall design of the watch remains, on the other hand, similar to the previous time-and-date iteration. The rounded square shape is still there, so are the aligned polished screws and the round aperture on the dial. The finishing of the case remains very satisfying, with beautiful and clean brushed surfaces and bright polished accents that bring a luxurious touch. The watch looks and feels refined and solid at the same time.
On the wrist, there’s no denying a certain presence, reinforced by the fact that a squared case wears larger than a round watch with similar dimensions. The weight, especially when worn on the steel bracelet, isn’t negligible either. However, the case is short and the bracelet is seamlessly integrated, meaning that the BR 05 Chrono feels balanced and well in place on most wrists – even here on my small 16.5cm wrist. A good point to be mentioned too, the bracelet tapers towards the buckle and its thin profile adds to the comfort. Finally, even with this chronograph function, the watch remains water-resistant to 100 metres.
The dial is the most obvious evolution on this watch. While the time-and-date model was all about minimalism, this BR 05 Chrono is busier and more playful. Hands and indexes have been retained, and so is the sunray-brushed finish of the dial – available in black or in blue. The elements are generously filled with Super-LumiNova providing great night-time legibility – a speciality for Bell & Ross.
On the issue of chronograph counters, Bell & Ross had to think about integrating them in a way that respected the overall shape of the watch. As such, the sub-counters follow the same overall design as the case, meaning squares with rounded angles. The counters – small seconds and 30-minute register – are snailed, feature a contrasting track in grey and their hands also have a squared centre canon. Finally, a date sits at 4h30.
To power this BR 05 Chrono, Bell & Ross relies on the tried-and-tested BR-CAL.301, based on the automatic modular chronograph ETA 2894-2. As with the 3-hand models, it features an openworked rotor. Note: the movement has not been photographed here, as the watch was still a prototype.
The Bell & Ross BR 05 Chrono is launched in four editions, either with a black or blue dial, each available on an integrated stainless bracelet with triple folding clasp, or a textured rubber strap (matching the dial’s colour) with a folding clasp.
Availability & Price
The Bell & Ross BR 05 Chrono collection (black on steel, black on rubber, blue on steel, blue on rubber) is available from today (22 October 2020) at retailers and on the brand’s online boutique here. The prices will be EUR 5,400 on a rubber strap and EUR 5,900 on a steel bracelet.
More details at www.bellross.com.