A skull in a pilot / instrument watch? Seems like a weird combination. However, it’s something that Bell & Ross have done for quite some years now. And in fact, this motif is somewhat linked to the world of aviation (and no, this BR01 is not a pirate watch). Yes, these Skull B&R (the first one was introduced in 2009) pay tribute to legendary parachutists of the Second World War, who’s logo was a skull with “Death from Above” written inside. The new Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull uses this same DNA and even tattooed it directly onto its case.
As we said, the presence of a skull on the dial of the Bell & Ross BR01 watches isn’t new. Back in 2009, Bell & Ross introduced the BR01 Skull, followed by a second version “Airborne”. In 2015, the brand showed us two watches, with such a motif on the dial. The first one was a one-off, the unique BR01 Skull Bronze Tourbillon for Only Watch. The second, quite close in its design and materials, was a regular production piece, without the tourbillon: the BR01 Skull Bronze (limited to 500 pieces though). However, some might have a question on their lips, and a justified one: why having a skull on the dial of an instrument-inspired watch? Is that only to be trendy? In fact, the BR01 Skull watches are deeply linked (as usual) to military roots. The Skull pays tribute to North American parachutists that landed in Normandy, on 6th June 1944 – the D-Day. It was the troops of the 82nd and 101st American airborne divisions. On their jumpsuits, these elite fighters proudly wore an insignia bearing a skull and the words: «Death from Above», both to intimidate their opponents and to ward off ill fortune.
Even today, the legendary “Jolly Rogers” still figures on military equipment, such as uniforms, emblems and airplanes. Thus, whether you like the presence of a skull on the dial of a watch (like always, design choices are a matter of tastes), we can’t deny the link that exists between this figure and the Army. This is the main reason why you can find such a shape on the Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull “Tattoo”. The crossbones, which are usually placed next to the skull head in military representations, can be seen here directly on the case, surrounding the opening of the dial and also encircling the 4 screws that secure the case of the BR01. Finally, to end with the military / death representations, the hands of B&R Skull watches are always depicting a sword and a dagger, two other traditional military motifs. The Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull could be seen as trendy, however, it’s all about military-inspirations, just different ones…
Now you certainly wonder why this watch is named BR01 Burning Skull “Tattoo”? Well in fact, this watch has its DNA engraved directly onto its case. And actually, the skull is not the only unusual decoration on the watch. The entire case surrounding the dial is fully engraved and decorated in the style of a tattoo. Of course, you can easily spot the flame motifs, on each side of the dial – a highly traditional pattern of tattoos. However, there’s more, some subtle motifs scattered all over the case.
Next to the screws, at the 4 edges of the case, you can se small motifs engraved: a heart, a rose, a scythe and an hourglass – all of them again tribute to the world of tattoo. These patterns actually cover the entire case of the Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull “Tattoo”, as both the casebands and the caseback show some flames, small skulls and the several usual inscriptions of B&R watches, including the large “&” logo on the back.
While the sandblasted stainless case has been engraved by machine to obtain the recessed patterns (a manual engraving would have been extremely hard, especially on steel, and exaggeratedly costly), the black lines are obtained by a very “tattoo” process. Each line engraved into the steel is filled manually, using a stylus, with a black ink/varnish, just like a tattoo artist decorating the skin. During the process, the piece is fired several times in an oven to fix the lacquer. Overall, the case has great contrast and details, emphasized by the matte finish of the steel and the shiny black lacquer.
For the rest, the Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull stays faithful to the original Skull watches made by the Parisian brand. on the dial, a large 3D skull takes the whole show and is made in two levels: a matte black background on top of which is a stamped-metal skull (the same process as coins). The black areas of the dial are actually painted with Luminova, to create a strong effect at night. The case is the traditional BR01, measuring 46mm x 46mm, with an automatic movement inside (ETA-based), which provides the hours and minutes. It is complemented by a brown alligator strap (and an additional black fabric strap).
The Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull “Tattoo” will be produced in 500 pieces and priced at 6,900 Euros. bellross.com.
Specifications of the Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull “Tattoo”
- Case: 46mm x 46mm – Engraved, microblasted steel. Hand- lled with black lacquer – sapphire crystal on the front – 100m water resistant
- Movement: calibre BR-CAL.302 (ETA base) – automatic winding – 38h power reserve – 28,800 vibrations/h – Hours and minutes
- Strap: brown alligator on steel pin-buckle (additional black synthetic strap)