The worlds of watchmaking and motor racing share many similarities. Chief among them is the quest for ever greater performance and precision from their respective machines, which necessitates pushing the boundaries of mechanical engineering, albeit at different scales.
This natural affinity led to Bell & Ross’s partnership with Renault Sport Formula One, which enters its third year in 2018. The decision was an easy one to make; both the watch brand and the racing team occupy the top echelon in their respective fields, and share an obsession with gunning for pole position.
To mark the partnership this year, Bell & Ross has created three new racing chronographs, which the manufacture unveiled at Baselworld in March. These timepieces are all dressed in Renault Sport’s distinctive yellow and black livery, but sport different design and technical features that will appeal to a range of fans and aficionados.
Bell & Ross’s focus this year is on the watch case – like how the chassis is the skeleton to which the engine and bodywork are attached, the case is the central element that houses both the dial and movement. To that end, the three new timepieces all share common case elements, beginning with sleek looking microblasted titanium cases. Prized for its strength and lightness, titanium is ubiquitous in the world of motorsports, where it’s used in numerous components.
Its usage here doesn’t just promise a tough and light case, but also a hypoallergenic one that warms quickly to the touch for unparalleled comfort.
The rocker-style pushers are another highlight for the new chronographs. The design is a clear nod at the gear change paddles found on the steering wheels of Formula 1 race cars. Like how the paddles allow split-second shifts, rocker-style pushers guarantee a crisp, positive actuation of the chronograph’s functions, all for precise timing of events.
A Closer Look
Among the three watches, the BR-X1 Tourbillon is the technical highlight. Its flying tourbillon, a hallmark of high watchmaking, clearly demonstrates Bell & Ross’s watchmaking expertise; note how the tourbillon cage has been sculpted to bear Bell & Ross’s signature ampersand. Tourbillon aside, the BR-X1 Tourbillon comes equipped with a quaint monopusher chronograph that uses a single pusher to cycle through its start, stop, and reset functions.
The BR-X1 R.S.18 shares its tourbillon-equipped sibling’s BR-X1 case style, but uses a conventional regulator and the familiar two-button chronograph layout. The result is a good balance between cutting edge design and tried-and-tested functionality. A tachymeter on the dial’s flange allows the chronograph to serve double duty: to measure elapsed time, and to measure rate of change.
Completing the line-up is the BR03-94 R.S.18, which comes in the iconic and beloved BR03 case. The sporty look conferred by the rocker-style pushers – the first for the BR03 collection – is further enhanced by the carbon fibre dial. This timepiece is powered by calibre BR-CAL.301, a reliable workhorse that has already proven itself in other Bell & Ross chronographs.
With three variations on the theme, fans of Bell & Ross and Renault Sport Formula One will no doubt have a suitable timepiece to pick from. That is, if they aren’t getting all three chronographs for a complete set.