Watches - April 27, 2020

Bell & Ross BR 05

High demand for the luxury sports watches that were born in the 1972 – all with integrated bracelets and designed by Gerald Genta – is now red hot collection like Patek, Audemar Piguet, Omega . That has fuelled the development of such watches from every corner the industry, from Chopard to Urban Jurgensen to Bell & Ross (B&R). While many of these watches have sparked criticism for their derivative design, B&R’s entry into the genre comes with a distinct price advantage.

The BR 05 is probably the most reasonably priced watch in this design category, starting around SGD$5800. No doubt it owes a similar look like Genta’s designs, but it would be futile to compare it with the alternatives given the price gulf. But the standard BR 05 is a pretty conventional watch – for the price but not something that jumps out at you.

Well designed

Like all watches in its category, the BR 05 is largely all about the case and bracelet. The BR 05 collection is identical to the base model on the outside, with a rounded-square case and a bezel with visible screws at its corners. While it appears to be a mishmash of Genta’s classics, it bears a strong enough resemblance to the brand’s signature BR 01 and BR 03 cases – which were inspired by aircraft instrument panels – that it can pass as a rather natural evolution.

But in contrast to the BR 01 and BR 03, the BR 05 has a wider, more prominent bezel that’s rounded at the edges, giving it a softer look. That’s juxtaposed against a case middle that contrasts with sharply angled, integrated lugs, giving it a structured look.

The case measures 40mm across and 10.4mm in height, so it doesn’t have the extra-thin proportions of Genta’s designs. While the case could be a tad slimmer, its thickness does emphasize the architecture of the case. The watch wears comfortably and lightly despite its dimensions, largely due to the thin bracelet.

B&R watches, the case of the is made by G&F Chatelain, a case maker owned by Chanel, which is also the parent company of B&R. It’s the same company responsible for the cases and buckles of MB&F and Richard Mille. And as a result, the case construction and finishing are excellent, especially at its price point.

It features alternating brushed and mirror-polished surfaces that give the watch definition and clarity. The satin-brushed top surface and flanks of the case are separated by a wide polished bevel that enhances the geometry of the case. And like the BR03-92 Diver, the BR 05 features crown guards secured by screws.

And importantly, the case has sharp, well-defined edges, instead of the rounded, softer edges of parts produced by the quicker and less expensive process of stamping.

The case shares the same construction as the BR 03, which is essentially a sandwich with four screws holding the bezel and back together – a simple but smart way to ensure water-resistance. As a result, the visible screws on the front are all aligned perfectly with their slots in a 45-degree angle as they are actually bolts with screws securing them from the case back.

The alternating brushed and polished finishing of the case continues onto the bracelet, which has flat, brushed links with polished center links. But the bracelet doesn’t have polished, beveled edges like the case, something that would have been nice to have, but is probably impossible for this price.

The movement decoration matches the style of the watch and skeletonization, which is to say clean and straightforward. Most of the larger parts, like the base plate and bridge for the keyless works, are ruthenium-plated for a dark grey color and then sandblasted to a smooth granular finish. Smaller bits, like the wheels and levers, are tumble polished. It’s all simply done, but appropriate for the price, and suited to the style.

Concluding thoughts

It is in this iteration that the BR 05 design comes into its own, getting a distinct identity and feel. As opposed to the solid-dial versions, the grey monochromatic palette across the case, bezel, flange, and dial gives the watch a stronger, more unified aesthetic.

However, having an open-worked dial and movement lands it in yet another genre – affordable skeleton watches – where competition is strong and the offerings are diverse, ranging from the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-01 Chronograph to the newly launched Oris 10-day Big Crown ProPilot X. That said, the BR 05 Skeleton offers a well-constructed case and bracelet that are above par in its price segment, making it a competitive contender.