The main pillars of Bell & Ross – air, land and sea – from which this year’s novelties draw inspiration from, have been explored countless times. In fact, it has been a revolving theme, an inexhaustible mine of sorts, for the brand for a considerable number of years. Now, however, there is a new addition to the family of three – urban. Since the brand’s inception in 1992, its watches have grown on such a rapid trajectory that they have become totems of luxury Swiss watches at their price points and found camaraderie among seekers of masculine watches, who at the same time demand for instant recognisability.
You will realise it is a Bell & Ross when you see it. Much of it owes to the brand’s steadfast approach in the design of its watches. The round-within-a-square aesthetic has successfully forged a distinct identity for the relatively new brand and that in itself deserves some props. Although Bell & Ross produces terrific round watches (for proof, look no further than the Bellytanker collection), it is unquestionably the watches that lead the way are the ones with square cases.
So then how does one walk the fine line between balancing the existing distinctiveness that has served the brand so well and creating something totally new for the uncharted territory? By sticking to a proven formula while refining it through the incorporation of parallel elements that have made some designs iconic.
At first glance, the BR 05 resembles the BR 03 to a certain degree, from the font of the Arabic numerals to the four screws on the edges of the case. But that is where the similarity ends. The stainless steel case measures 40mm diagonally and is tapered towards the lugs, as opposed to an unadulterated square block. The bezel is a square with curved edges and raised to reveal a smaller round dial opening. The smooth contour lines flow towards the integrated bracelet. Both the case and the bezel are satin polished but have their edges bevelled and mirror polished to augment depth and enhance the various layers of the case’s construction and composition. Bevelling is often a technique reserved for the very premium watches and adds a touch of elegance to the BR 05. The integrated bracelet features this mix finishing where the middle link is mirror polished, while the rest is satin polished.
The dial differs from those of other Bell & Ross models. Arabic numerals are now applied instead of printed, filled with a generous amount of Super-LumiNova, as are the large minute markers. The date window is located at 3 o’clock. The brand doesn’t attempt to conceal the omission of the numeral 3, instead it embraces the inclusion of the date window by framing it. For further cohesion and symmetry, the base of the date wheel is finished in the same colour as the dial. A blue sunray dial is complemented with a blue date wheel, for example. The baton-shaped hands too are an extension of the minute markers.
The caseback is transparent, offering a glimpse into the automatic BR-CAL.321 movement. It catches the eye thanks to skeletonisation where the 360° rotor has a number of geometrical cut-outs. The weight of the rotor is unevenly distributed so that it can effectively oscillate. Being introductory for now, the choices are restricted to blue, grey and black, either with a stainless steel bracelet or ribbed rubber strap.
Having tried it on for a brief period, the BR 05 is Bell & Ross’ most impressive undertaking yet, in terms of the scope and product. It is never a walk in the park when soliciting a new breed of audience. In this case, the group is perhaps more mature than whom the BR 03 is engaging with. The price tag reflects such. Hence the need to cater to them from an aesthetic and functional point of view. The BR 05 had to be sporty without being too youthful, versatile for the formal and the casual, angular to exude poise and elegance without being unpolished. It has accomplished all this. Think of it like the G-Wagon these days, perfectly capable off-road but most at home in city traffic where onlookers swoon over at every red light. The BR 05 is comfortable to wear and has a nice heft to it that validates that the watch is well made. The case and bracelet play with the light whether it is indoor or out in the sunshine. Perhaps its most inherent quality is its ability to become the talking point. There is no avoiding the two cents’ worth about its resemblance to other cushion-shaped watches. But the BR 05 has a lot of its own traits coming out on top after an initial erroneous presumption. The lengthier and studious you inspect, the better it manifests and expresses itself palpably as the Bell & Ross BR 05.