In the last few years, Bell & Ross have become more adventurous and exploratory in their creations — a natural progression for a brand, now nearing its 30s and wanting to go further, to innovate even more. It also speaks to the confidence of the brand and its founders that at the height of its current success, they’ve decided to front a new design, of which Revolution was given a sneak preview at the Baselworld fair earlier this year.
Known as the BR 05, a new watch case that is inspired by modern design and architecture as much as it is by aviation and its own history, it had been in discussion for some years.
Belamich explained that the BR 05 is “a project that has been growing since 2014 in my mind. After three years of reflection, we started working on this collection. It took two years in total. Between the moment when we started drawing the first sketch of the watch and the moment when we approved its design.”
Rosillo adds, “The question was to know what the possible evolution and direction of our collection would be over the next five or 10 years. We are evolving in a market where novelty is necessary. We must innovate constantly, and create a dynamic, to maintain the dream. The evident route was to develop an intermediate model between the square — our utilitarian icon — and the round — which is universal and generic. With this new line in mind, we did not want to create a city watch but a Bell & Ross watch made for the city.”
The name of the watch — BR 05 — may come as a surprise to many of us since technically there isn’t a BR 04, but Rosillo has a more amusing take on this: “The Asian market is the third biggest market for Bell & Ross. In China, the number ‘4’ is not a lucky number, that’s why we jumped from BR 03 to BR 05.”
The BR 05 has links with some watches from the brand’s past, such as the Demineur Type or Bomb Disposal Type watch, which featured an integrated bracelet, and the Space series. But it also shares a strong connection with the existing BR V1, the BR 01 and even more memorably, the integrated bracelet cases of the ’70s and ’80s, though refreshed for the 21st century. The sleek demeanour of the watch, inspired by modern skyscrapers and urban spaces, is simultaneously a Bell & Ross classic and a refinement of what led the brand to its incredible popularity. The three-link bracelet is in fact a reconstruction and refinement of the Type Demineur’s original bracelet, even though it’s sure to evoke comparisons with a Gérald Genta or Jorg Hysek design.
In fact, the case middle also references the Type Demineur, though now affiliated with Bell & Ross’s square case form and softened further with rounded corners into a structured cushion design. In that regard, it stands apart from the other integrated bracelet watches in the industry. The three-part case, with a squared bezel that maintains Bell & Ross’s strong, classic design, a sharp-angled integrated lug that wraps itself around the wrist, and the screw-down caseback through which the BR-CAL.321 can be seen, enhances its modern design. Exposed screws that are beautifully polished on the sides of the bracelet, lugs, bezel and crown guards, add greater flavour to the watch.
The choice of a brushed surface treatment on the case, alternating with polished angles on the bezel, case middle and back, as well as the central links of the watch and sides of the crown guards, gives the watch that architectural slant which Belamich aimed for.
Non-braceleted versions of the watch are available as well, with a moulded and tapered rubber strap that’s striped and adds a different look to the watch.
Belamich adds, “We wanted to complement our two existing pillars. It is the missing link between our two existing collections and case shapes. The round is inspired by the history of aviation, the past, and the square for its radical form and for a professional use. We wanted to create a watch with the iconic Bell & Ross case and to merge it with a steel bracelet. With the BR05, we now have a Time Instrument for urban explorers.” He also points out that he found inspiration in Mies van der Rohe’s work as much as the Demineur Type itself was a reference for the watch.
The stars of the collection are the BR 05 Skeleton, which features the skeleton in-house BR-CAL.322 automatic movement, in steel and limited to 500 pieces worldwide; and the rose gold model with a black dial sans minute track. With the Br 05 Skeleton, the movement’s oscillating rotor had to be re-designed to work perfectly. “The [oscillating weight which looks like a] wheel completely covers the movement but without hiding it. This was a technical challenge: perfectly balanced, it had to be unbalanced so that it could work. The mass therefore had to be revised and corrected, thus creating a disproportion of its weight.”
The bracelet edition of the rose gold watch is magnificent to behold in the flesh, and a hefty hunk of metal on the wrist as well. A version in a black rubber strap is available for those who are looking for a slightly more subdued piece, though we say, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.
It’s what everyone is thinking in their heads and will inevitably bring up when drawing associations with the new BR 05: is Bell & Ross’s design derived from the success of industry predecessors who have achieved acclaim with their sports-luxe watches?
In truth, yes and no. Belamich, growing up in the era of modern design and contemporary architecture, was surely impressed by the designs of Genta, Hysek and a plethora of other great watchmakers, all of whom leapt onto the new sports-luxe category that was created by the surge of the Italian market in the ’70s and ’80s. Just as that has influenced the work of hundreds of others in watchmaking, it would be ridiculous to think he would not have found their work impressive in design. Rosillo opines that “the lines of [the BR 05] case combine round and square, the basic geometric shapes that form part of Bell & Ross’s identity. For me, it is more than a watch. It is the design of an era.”
But to assume that is the only reason for this collection’s existence is to overlook Bell & Ross’s own slice of watchmaking history. Two watches that were mentioned earlier, the Space 1 and the Type Demineur, draw particularly close to what Belamich has built with the BR 05 — in fact, a close examination of the Space 1 shows how similar the two watches are. Clearly this is a watch that has been brewing in Belamich’s mind for some time, now with an in-house calibre and a dial design that’s iconic to the brand.
P.S. The BR05 is currently available in Bell & Ross stores across the world. Go check it out and try it on the wrist, and decide for yourself if it’s the watch for you.