Last year, Bell & Ross set a new benchmark for itself with the unveiling of the BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Sapphire. Housed in a jaw-dropping, sapphire case that left little to the imagination, the (way-too) limited-edition timepiece made it crystal clear (pun intended) that the brand is about far more than just military and aviation-inspired watches. Now, Bell & Ross is taking the challenge of transparency a step further, with the new BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire.
Over the last few years full sapphire cases have become increasingly popular, thanks in large part to early pioneers like Richard Mille and even MB&F. Indeed, several brands have unveiled watches with sapphire cases in the past few years alone, including Hublot’s Big Bang Unico Sapphire, Greubel Forsey’s Double Tourbillon 30º Technique Sapphire and Rebellion’s 540 Magnum Sapphire Tourbillon. Not that we’re complaining mind you. After all, transparent cases allow for uninterrupted viewing of the inner-workings of the complex movements we’re all so fascinated by. Despite the advances in manufacturing processes, however, sapphire is still quite difficult to work with and consequently it is expensive to create such cases, usually leading to limited quantities. The new BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire is no exception to this, with only eight pieces being made in total.
Editor’s note: resulting from a conversation with Carlos Rosillo, co-founder or the brand, it appeared that the 5-piece-only BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Sapphire, even with its $500,000 price tag, was rather successful and all of them went sold-out faster than expected. In fact, more collectors were in the position of buying the watch, also explaining why Bell & Ross decided to create a second sapphire watch.
Although not as complicated as its predecessor, the Chrono Tourbillon, this new BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire is in some ways even more attractive due to its minimalist design. What you see before you are only the bare essentials. The hours and minutes are displayed on an off-centre, open-worked dial at 12 o’clock, which features Superluminova indices and skeletonized Superluminova-filled hour and minutes hands. At 6 o’clock a flying tourbillon appears to float, suspended in the middle of the case from the skeletonized bridge.
The movement, the hand-wound calibre BR-CAL.288 with tourbillon escapement, has been skeletonized to within an inch of its life. All the bridges are open worked and you can literally see everything. Oscillating at 21’600 v/ph, it offers a max power reserve of 100 hours when fully wound, not to mention it is absolutely mesmerising watching the tourbillon.
All of this is housed in an instantly recognisable, square-shaped case measuring 45mm. Constructed from 5 sapphire blocks, each has been carefully carved before being delicately assembled with screws. Given sapphire’s reputation for being challenging to work with, I am sure more than a few blocks were discarded during both the manufacturing and the assembly process. As they say, perfection comes at a price, and with a completely transparent case you can’t really hide any mistakes. Completing the look is a translucent rubber strap, with a satin-polished steel pin, which is quite comfortable on the wrist.
Up close the new BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire really is cool to look at. Being a time-only watch with a flying tourbillon means there is lots of space to open the movement up and you can basically look at it from all angles. It’s also quite comfortable on the wrist and definitely distinctive, although people with hairier arms may want to consider a less transparent alternative.
Available now for EUR 350,000, the new Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire is a limited edition of just 8 pieces. Extremely limited, extremely expensive, extremely radical… A true concept watch! More news on bellross.com.
Technical Specifications – Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire
- Case: 45mm – 5-piece sapphire case – sapphire crystal on both sides
- Movement: BR-CAL.288 with flying tourbillon escapement – manual-winding – 3Hz frequency – 100h power reserve – hours, minutes, flying tourbillon
- Strap: Translucent rubber strap
- Reference: BRX1-SKTB-SAPHIR
- Availability: October 2017
- Limited Edition: 8 pieces
- Price: EUR 350,000