Watch Of The Week: Bell & Ross BR05
What is it?
Why does it matter?
Launched in 1992 by Messrs Bruno Belamich and Carlos Rosillo, Bell & Ross – an anglicised amalgamation of their surnames – actually grew out of a university project, and hewed closely to tool-watch staples and a time-honoured “form follows function” ethos. The brand’s earliest pieces, for which it worked with honest-to-goodness tool-watch specialists Sinn, were pilot’s watches and dive watches with that tool watch sensibility as the backbone. But as befits a brand launched in the modern era (ie, long after watches stopped being necessary for such professions), there has always been a post-modern, self-referential angle to Bell & Ross’ designs.
For a long time, the flagship Bell & Ross watch was the BR01, a 46mm square-cased watch that riffed on cockpit instrumentation. It has since been usurped by its younger brother, the BR03, a smaller, more flexible version, which now numbers 30-odd references compared to the BR01’s five.
Over the same period, Bell & Ross has also broadened its offering, adding a “Vintage” line of more traditional models in round cases (these, too, are suitably modern in their execution). Aside from a penchant for “memento mori” skull-dialled watches, and some limited-edition dalliances aimed at cigar lovers, or pieces whose cases were inlaid with wooden veneer, Bell & Ross’ watches have always kept a loose connection to functional practicality, often with military overtones.
Until last year, that is, when it launched the BR05 (I’m yet to ask Messrs Rosillo and Belamich what was so objectionable about BR02 and BR04), a bracelet-based design that keeps the brand’s trademark commitment to fusing square and round shapes, but relinquishes any practical associations. Instead, this is an exercise in design, a chance to distil three decades of Bell & Ross watchmaking down to a simple, graphic shape and let the curves, corners, angles and textures speak for themselves.
The BR05 is also an unavoidable call-back to the influential designs of the 1970s, with a bracelet that flows into the case without discernible lugs and, accordingly, is presented in stainless steel in its simplest version. But Bell & Ross – again, unhampered by its past – has rapidly expanded the range to include pieces with semi-transparent skeletonised dials, rubber straps and, as you see here, the mix of steel and gold that epitomises the 1980s more than any other decade. The rose-gold centre links and bezel (interestingly just the flat surface of the bezel rather than the whole thing) provide a touch of glamour and emphasise that we’re not in the cockpit any more. This is the opening of a new chapter for Bell & Ross.
The key details
Materials: Stainless steel and rose gold
Power reserve: 38 hours