Bell & Ross’ BR05 GMT Is The Latest In A Surprisingly Rich Year For Travel Watches

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Bell & Ross’ BR05 GMT Is The Latest In A Surprisingly Rich Year For Travel Watches

Words by Mr Timothy Barber

15 September 2021

What makes a good travel watch? Unexpectedly, perhaps, the period in which travel all but vanished from our lives has produced a slew of watches aspiring to answer that question. While the pandemic left most of us grounded, watches designed to accompany us across the time zones and far away have been touching down with the regularity of 737s on Heathrow’s pre-Covid runway.

The latest to land, the BR05 GMT from Bell & Ross, is one of those designs that seems to hit the target so sweetly, it makes you wonder why it didn’t exist already. It’s the first dual-time-zone model in the brand’s sports-luxe BR05 range, a collection that caused quite the stir when it was launched in 2019. Gallic specialists in blending functional utility with silky design flourishes, for the BR05, Bell & Ross applied its square-form, aviation-influenced aesthetic to the template of the classic 1970s-style luxury sports watch. That meant a rugged case smoothly integrated with the bracelet, exposed screws, sporty dial design and unmistakably deluxe finishes. The BR05 followed the orthodox blueprint, but brought something new, characterful and rather suave – such is Bell & Ross’ very particular knack.

Perhaps it’s that clear 1970s feel that makes the BR05 seem such an obvious and appealing home for the GMT (or second time zone) function. Just as in the golden era of jet-setting, the modern travel watch needs to be resilient enough to deal with the knocks and twangs of the traveller in motion, but also stylish enough to hold its own amid plush surroundings wherever you may find yourself on arrival – C-suite, hotel suite or otherwise.

In that respect, the BR05 is a definite score. It’s upsized by a single (but crucial) millimetre from the single time zone version, to 41mm, giving it some satisfying heft as you go on your travels. And once you arrive, the GMT hand – the additional red pointer on the dial – will give you the time back home at a glance, should you need it. It’s read against a 24-hour register (the time it takes to revolve), which in the BR05 is set into the flange encircling the dial, and is divided into grey and black 12-hour sections to indicate easily whether it’s day or night at home.

It was Rolex, inevitably, who came up with the GMT function back in the 1950s: its GMT-Master, designed for Pan Am airliner pilots, remains the archetypal travel watch, though the idea has been taken in any number of directions by a multitude of brands. Not least, of course, because having instant sight of the time somewhere else in the world isn’t just useful when you’re travelling: if you’ve got business partners or family members in a faraway location, a watch with a GMT indication can be far more accessible than fishing through time zones on your phone or computer.

For Bremont, its versatile and hardy Supermarine Automatic dive watch takes on a still more adventurous, globe-trotting aspect in its latest GMT format, especially on a Nato strap. You might wear it into the boardroom, but you’ll be just as sorted if you’re heading deep into the jungle.

On the other hand, Panerai’s Luminor GMT 44mm, though coming from the original beefy dive watch brand is, with its sunray blue dial and highly polished case, an unmistakably luxurious option that treats the GMT aspect with relative understatement (no 24-hour GMT scale here, for instance).

And then there’s Montblanc’s utterly singular 1858 Geosphere GMT take – a watch that retains the sportiness and functionality of the classic travel watch, but renders it up into something approaching horological art. As well as a second time zone (at nine o’clock), you’ve got north and south hemispheres revolving through 24-hour day/night displays – effectively enabling you to watch day roll into night across the world. As you cross the time zones on a long-haul flight (remember those?), it’s an evocative distraction. And whether you’re airborne or not, for the global citizen, it’s a truly global flex.

In the time zone