Bell & Ross is now well-known for its Skull-inspired watches. Everything started in 2009 with BR-01 Skull, followed by 3 other watches (see some of them here and here). And for those who remain doubtful about the relevance of such watches in the B&R collection, you’ll see that the link with the brand’s military roots isn’t that far. Following this trend for Skull watches, Bell & Ross introduces its fifth iteration, the new BR-01 Laughing Skull – and this one has more than one surprise to show.
The Skull symbol could easily be seen as just an artefact when used by Bell & Ross. Yet, this brand with strong military inspiration has more than one trick up its sleeves. This symbol has first been used for centuries, particularly by pirates. Later, military forces will use the Skull for two reasons: to frighten off their enemies and as a reminder of their vulnerability. The Skull is a recurring symbol of various special forces and Bell & Ross thought that this would make quite a nice inspiration for some of their watches – but not only by printing them on simple round dials but by shaping the dial as a Skull.
4 Skull watches – plus one unique piece for Only Watch – have already been introduced by the Parisian brand, all of them based on the large BR-01 case. Two of them have been reviewed here, by MONOCHROME – the BR-01 Skull Bronze and the BR-01 Burning Skull with its “tattoo-inspired” case. All of them are definitely bold pieces, with largely proportioned cases and voluntarily exuberant style. Like it or not, but these watches make an impression. And the latest Skull creation by the brand isn’t shy either.
The new Bell & Ross BR-01 Laughing Skull is still based on the same basic principles as the rest of the collection: the BR-01 case, meaning a 46mm x 46mm square case, the equally skull-shaped dial with crossing bones circling the 4 screws of the case, the minute track engraved around the skull face and a highly decorated case. For this edition, Bell & Ross chose to use micro-blasted steel, giving the watch a matte finishing, and to adorn this case with a deeply engraved “Clous de Paris” pattern – a motif usually used on traditional guilloché dial but here reshaped to be much more modern.
No question about the feel on the wrist… The Bell & Ross BR-01 Laughing Skull is a statement piece, both due to the dimensions of the case and to the looks. A true “hate-or-love” piece. The skull face used in this watch is close to the one employed already in the Burning Skull watch, with a 3D effect and the traditional sword-shaped hands. However here, it is applied on top of a skeletonized movement. Indeed, that’s the main novelty here… Previously, Skull watches by Bell & Ross (at least, the ones without tourbillon) were powered by ETA/Sellita movements. This one is powered by something special.
Inside the Bell & Ross BR-01 Laughing Skull is the brand’s first exclusive movement, developed in-house especially for this watch and its rather special shape. It is skull-shaped so that the mechanism fits the case perfectly. In the extension of the 4 bones, the 4 bridges secure the main plate to the case and come together to form a single assembly floating in the centre of the watch. The movement is sand-blasted with black coating and bevelled angles. Its decoration is modern, yet pleasant.
The second – and main – surprise on this watch is the automaton found on the skull head. When winding the watch – and thus when the barrel unwinds – the skull’s jaw moves up and down, opening and closing as if laughing at you – take a look at the video on top of this article to see this automaton in motion. Definitely useless but very cool to look at, this is an unexpected move from Bell & Ross, adding to the “out-of-the-box” style of the BR-01 Laughing Skull.