Demand for the luxury sports watches that were born in the 1970s – all with integrated bracelets and designed by Gerald Genta – is now red hot. That has fuelled the development of such watches from every corner the industry, from Chopard to Urban Jurgensen to Bell & Ross (B&R). While many of these watches have sparked criticism for their derivative design, B&R’s entry into the genre comes with a distinct price advantage.
The BR 05 is probably the most reasonably priced watch in this design category, starting at under US$5000. No doubt it owes a great debt to Genta’s designs, but it would be futile to compare it with the alternatives given the price gulf. But the standard BR 05 is a pretty conventional watch – well done for the price but not something that jumps out at you.
The BR 05 Skeleton, on the other hand, is striking, with a look and feel that is distinct – priced at about 20% more than the base model.
Like all watches in its category, the BR 05 is largely all about the case and bracelet. The BR 05 Skeleton is identical to the base model on the outside, with a rounded-square case and a bezel with visible screws at its corners. While it is appears to be a mishmash of Genta’s classics, it bears a strong enough resemblance to the brand’s signature BR 01 and BR 03 cases – which were inspired by aircraft instrument panels – that it can pass as a rather natural evolution.
But in contrast to the BR 01 and BR 03, the BR 05 has a wider, more prominent bezel that’s rounded at the edges, giving it a softer look. That’s juxtaposed against a case middle that contrasts with sharply angled, integrated lugs, giving it a structured look.
The case measures 40mm across and 10.4mm in height, so it doesn’t have the extra-thin proportions of Genta’s designs. While the case could be a tad slimmer, its thickness does emphasise the architecture of the case. The watch wears comfortably and lightly despite its dimensions, largely due to the thin bracelet.
As with most B&R watches, the case of the is made by G&F Chatelain, a case maker owned by Chanel, which is also the parent company of B&R. It’s the same company responsible for the cases and buckles of MB&F and Richard Mille. And as a result, the case construction and finishing is excellent, especially at its price point.
It features alternating brushed and mirror polished surfaces that give the watch definition and clarity. The satin-brushed top surface and flanks of the case are separated by a wide polished bevel that enhances the geometry of the case. And like the BR03-92 Diver, the BR 05 features crown guards secured by screws.
And importantly, the case has sharp, well-defined edges, instead of the rounded, softer edges of parts produced by the quicker and less expensive process of stamping.
The case shares the same construction as the BR 03, which is essentially a sandwich with by four screws holding the bezel and back together – a simple but smart way to ensure water-resistance. As a result, the visible screws on the front are all aligned perfectly with their slots in a 45-degree angle as they are actually bolts with screws securing them from the case back.
The alternating brushed and polished finishing of the case continues onto the bracelet, which has flat, brushed links with polished centre links. But the bracelet doesn’t have polished, bevelled edges like the case, something that would have been nice to have, but is probably impossible for this price.
While the other versions of the BR 05 have solid dials, the BR 05 Skeleton has no dial per se. Instead, it has a skeletonised main plate on which the baton hour markers are applied. And the main plate is ringed by a wide, sloping flange that emphasises the depth of the dial.
The main plate has been skeletonised in a geometric fashion, with strong lines and gentle angles, complementing the overall design of the case and bezel. Much of the wheel train, including the balance and the mainspring inside the open-worked barrel can be seen from the front.
But despite the skeletonisation, the dial remains extremely legible due to the large, simple hands and hour markers – which unfortunately do resemble the hands and markers on Genta’s designs – that are filled with Super-Luminova.
The movement is the BR-CAL.322, based on the no-date version of the Sellita SW300 used in the rest of the BR 05 line. It’s been turned into a skeleton movement for this watch, while also being fitted with the open-worked rotor designed for the BR 05 line. Visible through the sapphire case back, the rotor has been asymmetrically skeletonised with more mass on one half so as to ensure sufficient inertia to wind the mainspring.
The movement decoration matches the style of the watch and skeletonisation, which is to say clean and straightforward. Most of the larger parts, like the base plate and bridge for the keyless works, are ruthenium-plated for a dark grey colour and then sandblasted to a smooth granular finish. Smaller bits, like the wheels and levers, are tumble polished. It’s all simply done, but appropriate for the price, and suited to the style.
It is in this iteration that the BR 05 design comes into its own, getting a distinct identity and feel. As opposed to the solid-dial versions, the grey monochromatic palette across the case, bezel, flange and dial gives the watch a stronger, more unified aesthetic.
However, having an open-worked dial and movement lands it in yet another genre – affordable skeleton watches – where competition is strong and the offerings are diverse, ranging from the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-01 Chronograph to the newly launched Oris 10-day Big Crown ProPilot X. That said, the BR 05 Skeleton offers a well-constructed case and bracelet that are above par in its price segment, making it a competitive contender.
At US$6400 on a bracelet, it cost about 20% more than the standard model – reasonable given its dramatically different aesthetic and finish.
Bell & Ross BR 05 Skeleton (ref. BR05A-GR-SK-ST)
Material: Stainless steel
Water resistance: 100m
Movement: BR-CAL.322 (Sellita SW300)
Functions: Hours, minutes and seconds
Frequency: 28,800bph, or 4Hz
Power reserve: 40 hours
Strap: Rubber strap or bracelet
Availability: Limited to 500 pieces, available from October 2019 onwards
Price: US$5900, or 8800 Singapore dollars (rubber strap); US$6400, or 9600 Singapore dollars (bracelet)
For more information, visit bellross.com.
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