The essential human truth is that death comes to us all. That is why when one considers what watches are meant to measure – time – their significance on a personal level becomes all the more poignant. After all, it is in mundane moments when we are less inclined to consider how much it is of a precious resource that we are failing to use well, and certainly it is only on looking at the ticking seconds of a watch that some possibility of death’s remembrance occurs.

To make the relationship even more obvious however, there is a type of watch that falls into the class of “momento mori” – or objects kept as a reminder of the inevitability of death.

Bell & Ross has, in this genre of watchmaking introduced four variations over the years of just such a watch, utilizing the image of a skull set against the backdrop of the iconic square shaped BR 01 series of watches. The series of watches, the BR 01 Skull (2009), BR 01 Tourbillon Skull (2011), BR 01 Skull Bronze (2015) and the BR 01 Burning Skull (2016) have become more and more elaborate in their decorative features, moving from the relatively plain and straightforward BR 01 Skull to the highly engraved BR 01 Burning Skull, which had black lacquer in the recesses of the case engraving, reminiscent of the ink used by tattoo artists, as well as a more realistic three dimensional skull.

BR 01 Skull (2009)
BR 01 Skull (2009)
BR 01 Tourbillon Skull (2011)
BR 01 Tourbillon Skull (2011)
BR 01 Skull Bronze (2015)
BR 01 Skull Bronze (2015)
BR 01 Burning Skull (2016)
BR 01 Burning Skull (2016)

While all of these watches have had as their core feature, a propensity to shock for the unabashed boldness of its symbolism, what we have now, with the new BR 01 Laughing Skull, is a watch that takes this further, with a little moving surprise.

Certainly this could very well be the best version of a Bell & Ross Skull watch thus far, and the BR 01 Laughing Skull’s most striking visual difference is the location of its balance wheel front and centre at the 12 o’clock position, right at the skull’s forehead.  Moving further, we find, courtesy of the new in-house BR-CAL.206, its skull-shaped calibre supported by 4 bridges that “extend” from the crossbones in the case to the main plate in a single assembly, causing the movement and the skull that it holds, to appear to float in the centre of the watch.

BR 01 Laughing Skull’s movement
BR 01 Laughing Skull’s movement
BR 01 Laughing Skull caseback
BR 01 Laughing Skull caseback

Yet the best surprise comes even after that, for when one winds the hand-wound movement, one sees that this Skull comes to “life”, for unlike its static predecessors, it has a mandible that moves up and down, making the “Laughing” aspect of its name obvious.

Indeed, while it would have been nice if the mandible would move up and down while the watch is running, having it move during the winding up process, when one requires some concentration on the watch also has its advantages. One can for instance set the mandible at any point in its travel, to have the mouth open or closed as one wishes, perhaps to reflect one’s mood or state of mind for that day.

At 46mm wide, the BR 01 Laughing Skull is a large watch, and a Clous De Paris guilloche pattern completes its elaborate presentation. Limited to 500 pieces only, this version however is not the only one that will be launched at the same time.

For those who want a little more bling, two additional versions will also be available. The first, the BR 01 Laughing Skull Light Diamond, has diamonds that trace the skull shaped bezel outline, with a little more on the crossbones. The second, the BR 01 Laughing Skull Full Diamond, takes the previous version as a starting point, and then covers the remaining case surface area with more diamonds, finally adding four larger ones in place of the iconic screws of the BR case for a total of 394 diamonds with a 2.891-carat weight. Both these watches are limited to 99 pieces.

BR 01 Laughing Skull Diamonds
BR 01 Laughing Skull Diamonds
BR 01 Laughing Skull Full Diamonds
BR 01 Laughing Skull Full Diamonds