At Baselworld 2017, Bell & Ross unveiled a number of very cool watches, including the BR03-92 Diver and the new Vintage Collection, all pieces that were completely in the vein of the brand’s DNA. Another watch was (discreetly) shown though, a watch that was quite unexpected and unusual. Fitted with a slim tourbillon movement, wound by a micro-rotor, built around a concept of transparency, and mixing a certain elegance with bold elements, with a quite unique construction for the case… This watch is the Bell & Ross BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor, and today we take a closer look at it.
Note: I can easily remember two discussions I had with Carlos Rosillo, co-founder of Bell & Ross, both during Baselworld 2017 and later this year, while visiting the brand’s HQ in Paris. One of the topics we talked about was this new BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor, a watch that created in Carlos both great pride and a certain disappointment, not because of the piece itself, but because of the reactions of some collectors. I can remember Carlos telling me that he was personally tackled on social media because some thought this watch was everything other than a Bell & Ross and that he was, in a certain way, betraying the brand’s roots. Quite harsh indeed, and even if this new BR-X2 clearly stands apart in the collection, I have a completely different point of view – and I would even say that it takes the DNA of the brand to an unprecedented level.
Let’s first have a look at the BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor on its own. What we have here is a watch that is part of the “X-factor” concept by Bell & Ross; watches that are created with complex movements, complex construction and no compromises on technical solutions or price (relatively-speaking of course). The X-collection was first introduced in 2014, with the BR-X1 Skeleton Chronograph, a watch to be seen as the most technical and boldest proposition of the brand, with a modular case and a skeletonized chronograph movement. The idea will soon be derived with a tourbillon-chronograph movement, and last year, the brand revealed a full sapphire version of this watch (and this time, it really made no compromises on the price… close to half a million Euros). This crazy watch thus opened the door for other creations, and the new BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor is part of it.
This watch shows a quite unique construction. Contrary to the production of standard watches, where the movement is enclosed in a case with at least 3 parts (central container, bezel, caseback) on which sapphire crystals are attached, the BR-X2 is built around a different architecture. The movement and the case are in fact close to being a one-piece element and on this central module, two sapphire crystals are directly screwed – acting like a bezel and a caseback. In a more detailed way, rather than to enclose it, the steel case frames the movement on its periphery, creating an outer protection. The case and the movement are an almost seamless assembly. See the technical drawing below to understand:
This central module is framed on both sides by two thick sapphire crystals (which in fact represent more than half of the watch’s thickness). Thanks to polished, bevelled sides and clear gaskets, the BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor offers great transparency in all angles. 4 functional screws create the final assembly and give the watch its solidity and water resistance (50m, which is respectable considering the specific architecture of the watch). As you can see on the image above, the case is just a steel band that frames the square-shaped movement and that comprises the lugs. A sort of monobloc construction.
The Bell & Ross BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor also makes a signifgicant impression because of its proportions. While the case measures 42.5mm x 42.5mm – meaning visually quite large on the wrist, as squared cases tend to feel larger – it wears well thanks to extremely short lugs. The most impressive specification concerns the thickness of the watch, at 8.9mm – which is impressive indeed, considering that the thinnest automatic tourbillon on the market right now is a Breguet, with a 7mm profile.
This was possible because of the construction of the case, the thinness of the movement itself (4.05mm) and the absence of a dial. Indeed, the front side of the Bell & Ross BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor is the main-plate of the movement, on top of which a circular brushed flange with integrated indexes has been applied. All of this creates a highly technical, almost industrial look, which dramatically contrasts with the elegant proportions of the watch – I’ve seen it worn with a suit and tie and it makes great impression and at the same time it fits under a shirt’s cuff…
The dial side displays the hours and minutes as well as the flying tourbillon at 6 – with a pretty nice decoration, as it is bevelled and polished, but also a cool shape with the “&” of Bell & Ross integrated into the cage. As no dial is present, the front of the watch is highly technical, with several finishes usually found on the caseback – vertically and circularly brushed, sand-blasted, circular-grained – and several technical elements remain unhidden, such as the winding mechanism and the bridge for the keyless works.
The movement inside the Bell & Ross BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor is exclusive to this watch. As with all tourbillon movements found in Bell & Ross watches, the BR-CAL.380 has been developed together with MHC Manufacture Haute Complication, a Geneva-based movement-designer, which also takes care of the assembly (remember that Bell & Ross is not a movement manufacturer and has never claimed to be one). Based on an existing (round) architecture, MHC gave the movement a squared-shape to perfectly adapt to the style of the watch. Technically-speaking, it features a one-minute tourbillon, an automatic winding via dense tungsten alloy micro-rotor, and it boasts a 50-hour power reserve. It measures 36mm x 36mm with a low thickness of 4.05mm.
In terms of look and decoration, Bell & Ross chose for an industrial, technical look rather than going for the classical Haute-Horlogerie style. The calibre of the Bell & Ross BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor is deliberately quite rough and monochromatic. Bridges are vertically brushed, bevels are sand-blasted and the wheels are rhodium-plated. This doesn’t mean that the decoration is “easy”, as for instance gears and wheel are circular grained and their spokes are bevelled. In the same vein, the tourbillon and its cage are brushed on top and polished on edges. While this decoration can’t be called haute-Horlogerie or hand-made, it is pleasant, made accordingly to the overall style of this watch and in line with the price.
So what to think about this Bell & Ross BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor? For the watch itself, the concept is pleasant, accomplished and the unusual construction of the case and the movement makes it quite unique proposition on the market. The mix of classical, elegant features with highly technical and bold design elements is pretty interesting and makes this watch stands apart from the rest of the crowd.
Now, if we look at it as a Bell & Ross, I would tend to say that it really is a B&R watch – and one that pushes the base concept even further. Indeed, it has no military or sporty DNA, and it feels rather different from the rest of the collection. But on the other hand, it has this technical, almost industrial look dear to the brand. And, considering the conception of the case and the movement, the idea of the iconic squared watch has never been so present and so well integrated. Not the Bell & Ross that some would expect, but a Bell & Ross indeed…
Technical Specifications – Bell & Ross BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor
- Case: 42.5mm x 42.5mm x 8.9mm – steel frame around the movement, two sapphire crystal on top and back, 4 screws to create the assembly – 50m water resistance
- Movement: calibre BR-CAL.380 – automatic via micro-rotor – 4Hz frequency – 50h power reserve – Hours and minutes, flying tourbillon at 6
- Strap: grey alligator leather with steel folding clasp
- Reference: BRX2-MRTB-ST
- Availability: Now in stores, 99 pieces only
- Price: EUR 59,000