It’s tempting to think of the Bell & Ross BR 05 collection, first released in 2019, as another in an increasingly long list of integrated-bracelet sports watches attempting to snatch the crowns off the two grand dames of the genre, the Nautilus and the Royal Oak. The reality, however, is a little more complicated. For one thing, Bell & Ross are upfront about the influence of that era of watch design. Bruno Belamich, the brand’s Creative Director, explains, “The case and bracelet form one unit. This type of design harks back to a category of watches which appeared in the 1970s, and when infused with Bell & Ross’s signature identity, the resulting graphic style is both striking and modern.” It is the ‘infused with signature identity’ part that leads into the other complicating factor: Bell & Ross has proper form when it comes to this sort of watch design. The oil-filled deep Hydromax has an integrated bracelet that bears a more-than-passing resemblance to the BR 05’s, and the tonneau-shaped BR02 Diver is a larger, less elegant interpretation of the same rounded-off square shape.
The complications don’t end there, as this year Bell & Ross has grown the family by adding a brace of BR 05 Chronographs — a natural next step for the young collection. The new offerings are in black or blue sunray dials, with options of either a colour-matched rubber strap or a steel bracelet, with a pleasing mix of brushed and polished links. Of course, the most obvious difference here is the chronograph complication itself, which is powered by Bell & Ross’s go-to calibre, the BR-CAL.301, which uses the proven Dubois Dépraz chronograph module. With this, you get running seconds at three o’clock and a 30-minute counter at nine. You also get a date thrown in for good measure. Bell & Ross’s execution of the dial has been well done here; the horizontally placed registers provide an even, balanced look, especially as the vertical balance has been taken care of, thanks to the 12 and six markers. The snailed registers have been well done too — in shape, they echo the softened square of the outer bezel — though the four exposed screws don’t make an appearance in miniature. Of course, the other crucial element of chronograph design is that of the pushers, and Bell & Ross has done well in integrating these details as successfully as they have the bracelet. The pushers, crown and crown guard form a single piece, preserving the unbroken lines of the rest of the case while still maintaining enough functionality for the BR 05 Chrono to be a useful timing tool.
While the addition of the chronograph is the most noticeable update to this BR 05 model, there’s another, equally significant change from the original models, and that’s the case size. These new steel chronos are in 42mm cases, while the regular automatic offerings clock in at 40mm. That’s a pretty significant size jump and it’s one that makes sense, both for the watch and the wearer. Not only does an implicitly sportier complication like the chronograph lends itself to a larger diameter, but it’s also a move that is in keeping with Bell & Ross’s key identity of big, bold square shapes. But that’s not to say that this is a watch aimed at the brand’s core fanbase — at least, not entirely. Die-hard fans will no doubt appreciate this new chronograph, but the real goal is to bring new customers into the fold, and in 2020, a chic, contemporary sports chronograph is as good a way as any to pull that off.
Self-winding calibre BR-CAL.301; hours and minutes; small seconds; date; chronograph with 30-minute counter at nine o’clock and central chronograph seconds; 42-hour power reserve
42mm; satin-finished and polished steel
Rubber (black or blue) or satin-polished steel bracelet
Rubber Strap: USD 5,900
Steel Bracelet: USD 6,400