Hands-on Meet the BR05 Collection, Bell & Ross Vision of a Luxury Sports Watch

From the aviation watch market to a 1970s-inspired, urban sports watch.

calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Brice Goulard | ic_query_builder_black_24px 8 minute read |
Bell & Ross BR05

Bell & Ross is a brand that has been defined for over two decades by its aviation and military inspirations. The creation of the BR01 in 2005 was a turning point in the history of this relatively young brand, with the introduction of the iconic round dial within a square case. 2019 marks another step in Bell & Ross’ history, as the brand today introduces a new collection, something different, something more “urban”, where B&R’s DNA can be felt… But with a different taste. Meet the BR05, Bell & Ross’ vision of a Luxury Sports Watch.

Bell & Ross BR05

Introductory note

Before we start looking at the Bell & Ross BR05 in details, allow me a short preamble… I know you, readers, and I know what the comments will be. Yes, no need to avoid the subject, the BR05 has a clear 1970s inspiration. Yes, it does take some elements from the most glorious luxury sports watches. The brand doesn’t even hide it.

The Bell & Ross BR05 was envisioned as the brand’s urban watch, and in this instance, it takes most of the elements of a luxury sports watch; integrated steel bracelet with a tapered profile, relatively thin case, simple time-and-date display, combination of satin-finished surfaces with polished accents, shaped case… The luxury sports watch category is a narrow definition that relies on one single watch, the mother of all luxury sports watches: the Royal Oak. All subsequent watches will share the same style (Nautilus, Overseas, Ingenieur, Laureato…) The BR05 is not hiding its origins but implements this inspiration within the Bell & Ross codes.

Bell & Ross BR05

The BR05 concept

Back to basics… After 13 years of watches manufactured together with Sinn, Bell & Ross became independent in 2005 with a watch that would become the brand’s hallmark: the BR01. This watch, easily recognizable amongst hundreds of other watches, laid the foundations for the decade to come.

The original Bell & Ross BR 01-92 by Bruno Belamich

As we’ve explained in this in-depth article, the design was based on aviation instruments. In short: a round dial within a square case. Most of these military instruments share a no-nonsense design, based on functionality. In order to be easily inserted in a cockpit dashboard, they were mostly square-shaped with 4 functional screws (one in each corner) and with a round dial in the centre. The simplicity of this design was the main reason for the success of this watch… and of the brand.

When creating a new collection, this past and DNA couldn’t be forgotten. Bell & Ross wouldn’t be the same without this watch. But with the need to develop the company and to attract new enthusiasts, the brand had to explore different horizons – not everyone wants to wear a watch designed for professionals in extreme environments… And from here came the idea of “urbanizing” the “round in a square”.

Bell & Ross BR05 Design Concept

The base of the watch remains the “round in a square”, with decorative screws at each corner. As you can see, in order to give a more elegant and less aggressive look to the watch, the angles have been softened. Still, no doubt about the filiation. Add to that a lug module and an integrated bracelet and you have a “Bell & Rossed” luxury sports watch. Other design codes of the brand have been implemented too, such as the rounded baton markers or the stylized Arabic numerals, both part of the original BR01 design. The idea was to create a soft transition between the iconic models and this new collection.

Bell & Ross BR05

The Bell & Ross BR05 – common traits

The Bell & Ross BR05 is launched as a full collection, comprising 10 references – 6 classic steel models, 2 with a skeletonized movement and 2 with a solid gold case. However, these 10 watches all share the same case, the same bracelet and the same base movement.

Bell & Ross BR05

Let’s start with the most important part – the case. As mentioned, we’re in front of a luxury sports watch, implying a shaped case – in this context a softened square with rounded angles. The basics of such a watch are here: raised bezel, decorative screws (which, again, are part of the brand’s DNA), polished accents, robust central container and integrated lugs. The Bell & Ross BR05 is designed around a 40mm case – from 3 to 9 o’clock – with a relatively thin profile of around 11mm. The most pleasant part comes from the proportions, as the watch is very compact, thanks to a slopped lug module that hugs the wrist and a small lug-to-lug dimension.

Bell & Ross BR05

On the wrist, it has a great presence but is relatively small compared to other watches made by the brand. Photographed on my small wrist (16.5cm), you can see that the watch is balanced and far from intrusive. Good point for Bell & Ross here. The case is nicely executed with satin-finished surfaces and polished bevels all around. The screw-down crown is well protected and the water-resistance comfortable at 100 metres.

Bell & Ross BR05

As for the bracelet, two options will be offered. The most striking and most coherent option in this context is the steel bracelet, which creates a nice continuation with the case. As always with watches in this category, it participates a great deal in the whole design. The bracelet of the BR05 is nicely designed, flat and thin, with a tapered profile. It is comfortable and flexible.

Bell & Ross BR05

The second option is a rubber strap (in black or blue depending on the dial), which is textured. Both options are delivered with a triple folding clasp.

Bell & Ross BR05

Regarding the dials (with the exception of the skeleton model), the choice was to keep it simple and in line with the rest of the brand’s production. The Bell & Ross BR05 features the signature Arabic numerals and indexes, as well as rounded baton hands. To give this watch a more urban/luxurious feel, the dials – available in black, blue or grey – are sunray brushed with applied markers. The date, classically positioned at 3 o’clock, is framed by a metallic ring. The black model is slightly different, with the presence of minute markers – to create the link with the other military models (again for a soft transition).

Bell & Ross BR05

The movement used to power these watches, the BR-CAL.321, is based on the reliable Sellita SW-300 architecture with a personalized decoration. The bridges are dark grey and sandblasted and the oscillating weight is openworked. This automatic movement, with 4Hz frequency and 42h power reserve, is visible through the caseback.

The BR05 models

As said, the BR05 collection comprises 10 references – in fact, 5 models, each available on a metallic bracelet or a rubber strap.

Bell & Ross BR05

The first and most classic version is named “Black Steel”, with a black dial (the only one with minute markers). Second is the “Blue Steel”, with a deep blue dial and last is the “Grey Steel”, with a dark silver dial – my personal favourite as the dial, the case and the bracelet blend together to create a uniform object.

In addition to these 3 stainless steel versions, Bell & Ross has decided to give the BR05 a high-end model, which combines a black dial with an 18k rose gold case and bracelet (or a black rubber strap). Not the most reasonable offer, neither the most discreet, it is however very attractive and cool.

Bell & Ross BR05

On this model, the hands, the indexes and the date window match the case material. For the rest, this gold BR05 shares all its specifications and dimensions with the steel versions mentioned above.

Finally, the Bell & Ross BR05 will be offered in a steel skeleton version, with an openworked dial and specific decoration/indexes. While the case, the bracelet and the base movement are identical to the others, the dial displays most of the technical elements of the calibre and the Arabic numerals have been replaced by baton indexes. The BR05 Skeleton is limited to 500 pieces.

Thoughts

I’m not going to comment too much on the design. I admit that when I saw the first prototypes a few months ago, I was sceptical. Now that I’ve had enough time to play with the watches and to wear them I can say that I personally like them. Still, to each his own. The BR05 is a bold product for the brand and it will certainly be disruptive.

Bell & Ross BR05

I’m not going to hide the 1970s inspiration: it is evident and not even the brand denies it. My take is that the Genta-feel has been cleverly integrated with B&R codes and result in a watch that is balanced and, in my opinion, well designed. I would have loved the case to be a bit thinner and the crown a bit easier to manipulate, however.

Bell & Ross BR05

On a more objective note, the Bell & Ross BR05 is a nicely executed watch that is greatly proportioned – again, it is compact and comfortable, even on a smaller wrist. The case and the bracelet are perfectly integrated into a single piece and the finishing is on par with what you can expect from a luxury sports watch – because, yes, that’s what the BR05 is after all.

Pricing

The classic, stainless steel versions BR05 Black Steel (ref. BR05A-BL-ST/SRB and BR05A-BL-ST/SST), BR05 Blue Steel (ref. BR05A-BLU-ST/SRB and BR05A-BLU-ST/SST) and BR05 Grey Steel (ref. BR05A-GR-ST/SRB and BR05A-GR-ST/SST) will be priced at USD 4,400 on rubber strap and USD 4,900 on steel bracelet.

The BR05 Skeleton limited editions (ref. BR05A-GR-SK-ST/SRB and BR05A-GR-SK-ST/SST) will be offered at USD 5,900 on rubber strap and USD 6,400 on steel bracelet.

Bell & Ross BR05

Finally, the 18k rose gold models (ref. BR05A-BL-PG/SRB and BR05A-BL-PG/SPG) will be priced at USD 21,500 on rubber strap and USD 32,500 on gold bracelet.

More details at bellross.com.

18 responses

  1. Neither the clean, retro look of the Glashutte Seventies, nor the class of the Cartier Santos. They really didn’t need to make this.

  2. I quite like these. Apart from the bracelet clasp of course. Design a great bracelet that nobody can use unless they live in a temperature-controlled room; great idea!

  3. These do not have that Bell & Ross rugged look but I quite like these.

  4. Las cajas muy elegantes, el calibre de fabricación en masa, precio excesivo.

  5. Still wouldn’t buy them at the price they are asking for. IF they had managed to snag a Cartier Manufacture movement or even a top-grade, handwound, no-date ETA caliber, then they’d be getting there. But I don’t think many people would be comfortable spending at least five grand on a Sellita. Also, they’re charging 9K for a gold bracelet but 15K for a gold case?
    May I ask The Esteemed Membership are question?
    Are any of you willing to buy a bracelet with no micro-adjustment?

  6. I always try to get one with micro-adjustment. I’ve had a Glashutte Seventies which had a really neat adjustment (sold now), got the Overseas which has one that’s just right for when the wrist swells or contracts, and I’m soon to be getting a Rolex Sub no-date which has an excellent adjustment system.
    There is one exception – the Royal Oak 15202ST. I would sacrifice the fine-tuning to get hold of that at a decent price.

  7. Micro-adjustment is a welcome but not a must have feature for me.

  8. I think it’s quite genius to introduce a sports bracelet watch in this price point as it’s higher than the ML aikon and next bracket is really Rolex/GO/GP etc. before we go towards AP/PP/VC. Having said that, design wise I am not a fan of B&R but I think they’ve done a good job in keeping to their identity..

  9. The best sports watch under Rolex pricing is an MR-G G-Shock. Temper your prejudices and take a good look at them, if they’re available in your area.

  10. Yes, they are somewhat monstrous. 🙂
    There are some MR-Gs which are more moderately-sized and the raw measurements bely their wearability. Basically the G-Shock world is entirely alien from that discussed here. And I will be the first to admit that the priorities are different. Hand finishing in particular tends to be a bit basic and the complexity of the dials takes some getting used to. But if you want a watch which does it all, that you can rely on, there is no better. Fly from London to Jakarta and want local time? Touch a couple of buttons and it’s done. They have a brutalist beauty about them which I love and when it comes to complex case treatments, lines and textures, they run rings around many expensive models. If they fit you, they are comfortable.
    Plus, if you run over one with your car, or accidentally drop it in boiling water, or fall off your motorcycle at 90mph, it’ll be fine!

  11. Yeah, I like that they serve a different set of priorities, very utilitarian yet clever. What’s the difference between an MR-G and a GA-2100 by the way? I notice the MR-G is somewhat reassuringly expensive, but the 2100 is cheap as chips. Is the 2100 destined to fizz out sooner?

  12. Don’t think so. The only longevity problem they had is “resin rot” but they have developed their way out of that. Every year or so, in addition to entire new product lines, little things seem to change unannounced, particularly the “recipe” of their resin. There are 25, 30 year old watches still going strong and a small but clever group of enthusiasts who customise their watches. Check out “G-Shock Hydro Mod”.
    Their R&D is quite something and everything is “in-house”. The GA2100 is a “youth” G; mostly resin and plastic, extremely affordable but tough. The MT-G line is outwardly similar to the MR-Gs with complex, structured solid metal shrouds, hex screws and the whole case is held together by 4 large metal bolts; very heavy duty, but inwardly it uses a similar format for shock resistance as other Gs, albeit with a self-resetting, computer controlled analog movement which has an independent motor for each hand. The MR-G has a different internal structure.
    I used to hate G-Shocks. I had no idea why anyone would wear such an obscene piece of plastic on their wrists. Then I found out about them and I was hooked. 🙂
    I do agree that many of the modern models are far too big but I recently managed to pick up a GF8235D Frogman which is smaller. I love it. If you’re looking to “dip your toe” in the G-Shock ocean, I recommend a GW-M5610-1, a GW-9400DCJ-1 or a GST-W330C-1a. Or get a Frogman. The quality of the Frogman line is noticeably higher.
    I can totally understand anyone not being drawn to G-Shocks, but I do expect their efforts to produce something of real use be acknowledged.

  13. That’s a damn fine explanation of it. Thanks! In my travels over the comments sections of websites and watch fora, there’s always been a presence of G-Shock appreciation, so it’s good to know more about why the watches get such a strong following.

  14. My pleasure!
    Do a youtube search for “G-Shock torture test Japanese tv”. It’s hilariously Japanese and Mr G himself is the archetypal geek. Smiling, humble and making light of his horological revolution. Almost every G-Shock enthusiast still considers the little square model as The Definitive Classic. The Telecaster if you will.

  15. This is a Nautilus/Royal Oak homage by a popular Swiss brand with a reasonable price point. Pretty brave and un-apologetic for Bell and Ross to “rip” Genta design and price their watch within average pricing without the insane wait. Now, watch people would either loathe them for the design rip off or buy these things. At present, a lot of people do like them. I personally would wear these. These homage watches would sell because of the Bell and Ross name it. If it was an unknown brand, people would despise it regardless of the watch quality and movement.

  16. It’s more a GO Seventies/Cartier Santos mishmess than an homage to the Pantheon. IMO.

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