Tag Archives: Bell & Ross

Good Old Times: Bell & Ross Vintage BR V1-92 Military

The Vintage BR V1-92 Military which is part of the 3rd generation of the Vintage Collection.

When looking at the new Bell & Ross Vintage BR V1-92 Military, I am often reminded that  though Edwin Starr often opined sang that “war is good for absolutely nothing”, I am forced to consider the historical irony that much of the technology we depend on today began either as accidents or repurposed military technology for civilian use. While deeply destructive, wars eventually provide economic, technological and even social development. As evidenced by the 1916 issue of The New York Times, editorial on July 9th published an op-ed on the “changed status of the wristwatch” and that the necessity of modern warfare had demonstrated the need for officers and soldiers to denote time in an efficient manner and that the only practical way for a vintage military watch to be used was to be worn on the wrist where time could be readily and easily ascertained, an impossibility with the old pocket style watch.

Thus, when Bell & Ross introduced the WW1-92 Military 45mm, I particularly enjoyed the cultural nod from that pivotal era in human history when the move of the watch from pockets to wrists came about through sheer necessity and invention when military men took pocket watches and soldered wire loop lugs to the cases, and then threaded canvas straps through them before fastening them unto wrists. The follow up with the Vintage BR V1-92 Military is a step in a more modernist direction for urban warriors, smaller in diameter, an eminently more wearable case and evolved design made for a winning combination in one small, uniquely versatile, reasonably priced watch.

The Vintage BR V1-92 Military follows the horological evolutionary path of the the Second World War, adopting the B-Uhr (short for Beobachtungsuhr, or Observer) aesthetic for the watch dial. Image: Jonathan Ho

Good Old Times: Bell & Ross Vintage BR V1-92 Military

Where the Bell & Ross Vintage WW1 (Wrist Watch 1) pays tribute to the first wristwatches worn by pilots in the 1920s with its historical large fob watch type diameter and wire lugs, the Vintage BR V1-92 Military follows the horological evolutionary path of the the Second World War, adopting the B-Uhr (short for Beobachtungsuhr, or Observer) aesthetic for the watch dial, similar in countenance to another iconic military watch style formerly supplied to German Luftwaffe during World War II but lacking the dimensions of your typical pilot’s watch.

At its heart, the Vintage BR V1-92 is a back to basics watch. Its strength lies in the simple utilitarian functionality of the watch, stripped of all obvious bells and whistles, the legibility and undeniable practicality of the new Bell & Ross BR V1-92 is where the maison has found keen footing in not just historic inspiration but in heritage re-interpretation.

 

 

The marker at 12 of the Bell & Ross Vintage BR V1-92 Military follows typical military aviation specs, that is to say, a triangle flanked by dot markers. Image: Jonathan Ho

Executed in a 38.5mm stainless steel case, Bell & Ross has evoked the spartan ideals of strict military codes in a satin-brush finished timepiece and yet by virtue of its size, a highly versatile watch for work and play. The new Bell & Ross Vintage BR V1-92 Military marks a departure from that age of “pocket watch conversion” which meant large cases but instead, embraces re-interpretation with more restrained proportions and a minimalist approach.

While the marker at 12 follows typical military aviation specs, that is to say, a triangle flanked by dot markers, its modernist design is countered by its period authentic World War II dial with 5-minute markings, a throwback to the necessity of second to second calculations for projectile trajectory, ranging or to calculate their direction or speed. While and Bell & Ross could have opted for an expected canvas or NATO strap, they pair the new “Military” of the Bell & Ross Vintage BR V1-92 with lightly aged brown leather – it’s vintage but not necessarily faux antique.

The encircled “MT” insignia sells the appeal of a true Military Time – piece. Image: Jonathan Ho

The antiquity is reinforced with patinated baton indexes contrasted with white minute rail and numerals, thoroughly selling the military DNA of the Vintage BR V1-92, with the tritium-esque luminous paint, partnered with the period-authentic red ‘MT’ inscription at 6 which military aficionados will recognise as a symbol for “military time”.

Equipped with a Sellita based SW-200 automatic calibre, the Bell & Ross Vintage BR V1-92 Military is reliable and more importantly, affordable. That said the date window which occupies the space between 20 and 25 serves as a little niggling reminder of what might otherwise be one of the most well designed vintage-military inspired watches to date.

The domed crystal evokes vintage appeal of old school hesalite but with the robustness of modern sapphire. Image: Jonathan Ho

Bell & Ross Vintage BR V1-92 Military Price and Spec

Case 38.5mm satin stainless steel with100m water resistant
Movement Automatic calibre BR-CAL.302 with 38 hour power reserve
Strap Brown leather strap with steel pin buckle
Price SGD 3200
Availability Bell & Ross boutique, 01-15 mandarin gallery

 

Aviation Heritage and Evolution of Bell & Ross Vintage Watches

With early aviation cockpits looking like this, you can see why legibility was paramount.

Headed by French designer Bruno Belamich and businessman Carlos A. Rosillo, Bell & Ross is perhaps representative of modern ideas in watchmaking. The pair launched the French-based, Swiss-made, Bell & Ross on the simple idea of “function shapes form”. With four primary guiding principles: legibility, functionality, precision and water-resistance, the pair of Bell & Ross (Belamich & Rosillo) made watches which inevitably became one of the modern watchmaking successes of our time.

Perhaps or because of their relationship with Sinn, the reputable German watchmaker, efficient, legible and reliable also became buzzwords which were associated with Bell & Ross when they launched in 1992. Bell & Ross roots in timing instruments, specifically, aviation instruments, continue to be a core foundation for the brand.

Early 20th century cockpit instruments inspired Bell & Ross's most popular model, the BR 01. It's dialside design codes would eventually trickle down to the Bell & Ross Vintage collection

Early 20th century cockpit instruments inspired Bell & Ross’s most popular model, the BR 01. It’s dialside design codes would eventually trickle down to the Bell & Ross Vintage collection

Aviation Heritage and Evolution of Bell & Ross Watches

Since its founding, Bell & Ross has taken its inspiration from aviation heritage. Historically speaking (in the context of Bell & Ross, not flight), their iconic square-shaped BR 01 Instrument collection based on cockpit clocks have been the maison’s most popular series.

The essence behind Bell & Ross is not to give more than is necessary. Function takes precedence and everything you see in the dial is what you need, no more, no less. – Carlos A. Rosillo to Forbes

Bell & Ross watches enjoyed its nascent popularity through a clear sense of design rather than mere appropriation – using their joint background of aviation technology, Bell & Ross understood how watches were inherently integral to aviation and today, thanks to the popularity of stories about aviation heroes, most non-pilot civilians of the day recognise cockpit instrumentation – thus, it made sense to marry the concept of watch and flight instrument in a culturally recognisable yet distinctly unique watch in the industry.

The great aeronautical adventure that is the history of flight and the development of heavier-than-air machines have often had its physics and aerodynamic principles (lifting surfaces, power to propel the airframe and three dimensional flight control) often overshadow the importance of legible instrumentation in the cockpits – thanks to Bell & Ross watches, we get to enjoy a brief history of aviation from the perspective of the men who flew those planes.

 

Bell & Ross Vintage: An Evolving Heritage of Time and Flight (and eventually racing)

Three generations of the Bell & Ross Vintage collection, the Vintage family made its début during Bell & Ross’ first years. The watches of this collection boast a round case, the most classical of shapes. They count with a range of complications, such as chronograph, Flyback function, dual time zone, date, and even small second hands. Vintage scrupulously respects the brand’s DNA and largely draws its inspiration from military codes. It is a sort of equivalent to the BR 01, Bell & Ross’ iconic watch, but with a round case.

 

Left: The Original Bell & Ross Vintage chronograph. Right: The 2nd Generation.

The first generation Bell & Ross Vintage collection is characterized by a classic dial, rounded lugs and the absence of a bezel. This ensures a generous and uncluttered dial that improves legibility. Launched in 2007, the next iteration of the Bell & Ross Vintage was extensively redesigned to create a clear link with the new BR 01 line. The 2nd generation Bell & Ross Vintage chronograph featured a case with a larger diameter and has a bezel while the shape of the lugs changed, becoming more angular. The 2nd generation vintage chronograph then adopted the aesthetic codes from the BR 01 including elements like sword hands and ultra legible serif fonts.

The design of the third and latest generation has once again evolved with the times

Today, the Bell & Ross Vintage Third Generation chronograph is the latest evolution of the series. Keeping the signature design codes of Bell & Ross, the face of the latest generation of Vintage remains with evolutionary tweaks for precision with minute rails further segmented while reducing the diameter of the steel case and further rounding the lugs – the result is a new generation of Bell & Ross Vintage and one that has grown increasingly sophisticated at that.

Bell & Ross Vintage BellyTanker

Originating in the forties, drop tanks or Belly Tanks were first used during the Spanish Civil War to allow aircraft to carry additional fuel for long-range flights but it was during World War 2 that saw an increase in the use of Belly Tanks as air forces across the theatre of war required fighters to have increased range and patrol time over continental Europe. Originally, the Belly Tanks were only given to Heavy Bombers but eventually USAF airmen named Benjamin S. Kelsey and Oliver P. Echols worked in secret to equip drop tank technology on the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and it was these belly tank equipped P-38 fighters which facilitated Operation Vengeance, the top secret air strike which allowed US fighter to operate longer and further than what was originally anticipated, allowing US High Command to intercept and down Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s airplane, exacting vengeance (hence the name) for Pearl Harbour. As the 2nd World War came to a close, the belly tanks were adopted by a different breed of daredevils – hot rodders.

Racing across dry California lakes to set new speed records, war surplus drop tanks were in high supply (for obvious reasons) and aerodynamically, they were perfect for building high speed vehicles. The most famous of the Bonneville Salt Flats racers? Bill Burke.

Bill Burke, an American speed freak, was previously stationed in the South Pacific where he had grown to love the elegance of these fighter plane drop tanks, with their aerodynamic lines as if sculpted by the wind. When the war ended, he built an ultra-fast car from the drop tank of a North American P-51 Mustang for $35. He fitted the tank that formed the bodywork, on a chassis, powering it with a powerful V8 engine. He took his prototype to the Bonneville salt lake races to test it. He had birthed the world’s first Bellytanker – unifying the aeronautical and automotive worlds in one swoop and of course, eventually providing the necessary watchmaking raison d’etre to Bell & Ross to create their most historically evocative watch collection yet – the Bell & Ross Bellytanker series.

Given the breadth and scope of the Bell & Ross Vintage collection backed by unifying aesthetic codes and a shared heritage of aviation, racing and maritime adventure, the Vintage is positioned to be a modern classic.

Aeronavale Collection

Tributes to Aviation Heritage

Shape Your Time: Exploring Square and Form Watches of 2017

 

 

Square watches, or in industry parlance: form or shaped watches are a fairly sizeable segment (given that Cartier produces AND sells so many of them, but more on that later). That is to say, even though there’s a preponderance of round watches in the industry, the belief that square or shaped watches only have a niche appeal is fundamentally unsound. However, significant conversations with retailers and brands alike all indicate that the round watch, if anything, will dominate even more than it already does. For our part, we find this very disappointing indeed.

The much-reported preference of markets (apparently everywhere) for round watches seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy that no brand has seriously challenged. Well, one brand is challenging it but because that brand is Apple, watchmaking firms have only expressed tepid interest. More often than not, the companies have expressed aggressive disinterest.

Shape Your Time: 2017 Resurgence of Form Watches

This will mean that square watches will indeed be scarce, as we will illustrate here, and that fact represents an opportunity for the most consummate of collectors. The important thing is of course to see if there is enough demand to create the right sort of imbalance. Of course, we will be steering clear of making predictions as to investment value and such. Our purpose here is only to highlight an opportunity.

Designing Time

Before getting into that, let us look at the design situation at the turn of the last century, when the taste for wristwatches was still nascent. Louis Cartier was a jeweler with a penchant for what former Cartier CEO Franco Cologni called square surfaces. It was at the turn of the previous century that Cartier entered into its famous partnership with Parisian watchmaker Edmond Jaeger, who himself was tied up with the LeCoultre watchmaking company in Switzerland. This partnership prefigured the commercial launch of the Santos watch in 1911, a move that heralded the arrival of all sorts of new shapes in watchmaking.

The Panthere de Cartier is the major form watch release for 2017 that carries the codes of the Tank and the Santos, as seen below and right.

The Panthere de Cartier is the major form watch release for 2017 that carries the codes of the Tank and the Santos, as seen below and right.

At this time, before watchmakers and the public had any idea of what the ideal wristwatch would be, it was truly a free-for-all in terms of design. According to Cologni, in his book Cartier The Tank Watch, Louis Cartier was moved first and foremost by form, believing it to be more important than function. Arguably, this is the beginning of an idea that has an inherent weakness for the development and future of wristwatches– that function should follow form.

In contemporary times, the late Apple impresario Steve Jobs redefined this with his products, recognizing that “design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” As far as watchmaking goes, the idea that design is how the object itself functions speaks to why so many watches today are round. Our daily time is indeed circular because that is what happens when you track the hours and minutes with hands. This powerful idea then shapes a powerful commercial argument.

Audemars Piguet is one of the few with a strong oval watch collection that also comes with a shaped movement

Audemars Piguet is one of the few with a strong oval watch collection that also comes with a shaped movement

The Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium brought to life from the sketch before

The Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium brought to life from the sketch before

Fragmented Collections

When asked about the new IWC Da Vinci being round despite the 2007 version being a refreshingly complex tonneau-tortue shape, here is what then-IWC CEO Georges Kern said: “The point is, 70 percent of the market is round watches. And the shaped segment is very limited and further segmented: square, rectangular, baignoire, tonneau… At the size IWC is today, with our reach, you need to be round because that’s what the market is.”

Kern was heading up watchmaking, marketing and digital for the Richemont Group overall so what he says carries weight far beyond IWC.

By virtue of its contrast bezel, the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 PAM684 is a form watch hiding in round clothes.

By virtue of its contrast bezel, the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 PAM684 is a form watch hiding in round clothes.

Despite predictions to the contrary, the Apple Watch Series 2 stuck with the rectangular shape and is water resistant to 50 metres.

Despite predictions to the contrary, the Apple Watch Series 2 stuck with the rectangular shape and is water resistant to 50 metres.

Franck Muller enjoyed a peak in the 90s and the early 2000s giving tonneau shaped watches a boost in popularity, pictured here, the Vanguard Fullback

Franck Muller enjoyed a peak in the 90s and the early 2000s giving tonneau shaped watches a boost in popularity, pictured here, the Vanguard Fullback

In fact, Kern’s estimation is generous considering that most informed sources consider round watches to be closer to 80 percent of the market. Before proceeding though, the market itself requires some definition because it does not only include the high-end market, meaning watches above US$1,000. In a 2015 article on the then-upcoming Apple Watch Series 2, no less than Forbes predicted that Apple would abandon its signature look in favour of the more conventional round shape. This prediction was based on the input of industry insiders and the like, and no doubt also took Jobs’ own philosophy into account. Of course, Apple confounded these expectations, illustrating again the hazards of journalists predicting outcomes. Considering that the Apple Watch 2 is both a status symbol and below US$1,000 (it is available for as little as $398 from the Apple Store), its very existence threatens the narrative that the market is overwhelmingly interested in round watches.

Exploring Form and Shaped Watches

Despite being, in the official lingo “timeless”, watches certainly mirror the era they are made and released in. This is what makes vintage watches from some periods – particularly the Art Deco age – so distinctive. Given the importance of heritage to the core of Swiss watchmaking – fine and otherwise – the brands have done a good job of retaining certain aesthetic touches across the ages. We have already gone into why Jaeger-LeCoultre shares the rectangular watch crown with Cartier. Both these firms maintain and champion in the 21st century a look that was already classic in the 1950s. But form watches – which are otherwise known as shaped watches – are not just rectangular of course

Patent drawing of the original Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

Patent drawing of the original Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

The 2017 Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duo owns the form space in classical styling

The 2017 Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duo owns the form space in classical styling

In official parlance, any watch that isn’t round is called a “form watch.” So that means everything from cushion-shaped Panerai watches to every collection from Cartier other than the Drive de Cartier, Cle de Cartier and Calibre de Cartier; we would argue that the popular Ballon Bleu is actually a form watch because it has a tactile appeal arising from its pebble shape. To look at the number of models in the form watch segment itself, we can only reference other magazines. Armbanduhren, a specialty German watch catalog, lists more than 1,000 models of watches (and has done since we began paying attention, in 2011). Of these more than 900 are round, meaning that form watches are roughly 10 percent of the annual offering.

If we take these numbers to base an extrapolation on, then we have roughly 10 percent of the watch models in any given year vying for potentially 30 percent of the market. Of course, we have no way of knowing just how many pieces are made and sold directly but it seems a good bet that only Cartier will be selling form watches in significant numbers.

Drive de Cartier pushes the cushion-shaped aesthetic, here in extra flat form.

Drive de Cartier pushes the cushion-shaped aesthetic, here in extra flat form.

This brings us to sales, briefly. Forbes ranks Rolex as the top-selling brand of high-end Swiss watches and Omega as the third. Guess what brand occupies the second rung? Yes, the standard-bearer of form watches itself, the Panthere of fine watchmaking, Cartier sells the most watches annually, other than Rolex.

Square and Rectangle Watches

The Tank is probably the most famous form watch in the world, rivaled only by the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. If one throws in the very popular and aforementioned Santos, also from Cartier, as well as the Twenty4, Nautilus and Aquanaut from Patek Philippe, and the Cintrex Curvex from Franck Muller, these are probably the most widely known form watches on the planet. Leaving all these aside and returning to just Cartier, this powerful brand has sought to increase its market share by unleashing an array of round watches but of these, the Ballon Bleu is so rounded that it resembles a sort of magical pebble that tells the time. The shape of this watch is, arguably, what made it an unqualified success. Nevertheless, Cartier clearly feels like its best shot at gaining market share lies with round watches, lending no small amount of credence to Kern’s statement.

Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5168G

Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5168G

The Bulgari Octo Tourbillon Sapphire shows off its form with a sapphire case middle

The Bulgari Octo Tourbillon Sapphire shows off its form with a sapphire case middle

 

In the early days of wristwatches (pocket watches were almost universally round and so are contemporary executions, Tom Ford’s attempt to transform the Apple Watch notwithstanding), firms experimented with wildly differing shapes, only a few of which remain well known today. In the era of properly water resistant watches though, most wristwatches are round and that is just because it is much simpler to achieve ISO water resistance standards when the case of the watch is round. Once again, function keeps interfering with the notion of the form watch

The reason for this water resistance bit could very well fill another article but, to cover it briefly and intuitively, just think of how easily a rubber gasket would work with a round watch as opposed to a rectangular one. It is for this reason that even brands with a yen for specific shapes (or even just one shape in particular) opt for the round shape when necessary.

Bell & Ross makes a point about exceptional water resistance (300 metres) with the BR 03-92 Diver

Bell & Ross makes a point about exceptional water resistance (300 metres) with the BR 03-92 Diver

Function versus Form

An excellent, if obvious, case in point here is the Richard Mille diver watch while the equally obvious counterpoint is Bell & Ross. In fact, Bell & Ross raised the roof at BaselWorld this year by releasing a diver’s watch that maintained the brand’s signature square look. It is important to note that in this case, no pun intended, the display of time is round allowing Bell & Ross to package both form and function into the mix; obviously, the brand had to work hard to achieve exceptional water resistance in this unusual shape and that should only increase its appeal.

This example aside, function is arguably the strongest reason explaining why the watchmaking trade has doubled down on the round shape in recent years, The aforementioned standard bearers of form watches such as Jaeger-LeCoultre and Cartier are both betting big on round while Omega – once a stellar producer of shaped watches – now only features the odd bullhead and Ploprof for variation. Omega is the third largest maker of high-end mechanical timepieces in Switzerland and it has no other shape in its regular collections but round.

Richard Mille RM50-03

Richard Mille RM50-03

As for the number one spot, Rolex reintroduced the world to the rectangular Prince in 2005 in what was then considered to be yet another of the brand’s calculated surprise moves. It followed up by proposing the Cellini as a brand new tuxedo-friendly family in its collection. Unfortunately, Rolex unceremoniously ditched the rectangular Prince, with the model not even worthy of a mention on its website. If you have never heard of the Rolex Prince, it is as if it never existed…

What is particularly unfortunate here is that this is Rolex, a brand unafraid to go its own way. Perhaps no other major brand would take a chance on something major that would require some getting used to, such as the Sky-Dweller and the Yacht-Master II. If the rectangular Prince can’t make it here then the majors are truly closed for business on the form watch side. On the other hand, there are still pristine examples of the Prince available and this quirky little dressy number may yet have its day.

 

Chameleons: A Case in Between

All this points to the obvious truth that few brands care enough about the form segment to flood the market with options, making what’s available all the more precious. This is what Officine Panerai so smartly trades on, even resolving professional tool watch issues without compromising on the shape of the watches. Brands such as this are few and far between, and bring this story to a special class of offerings.

Audemars Piguet leads the way in disguising round watches as form watches... or is it vice versa?

Audemars Piguet leads the way in disguising round watches as form watches… or is it vice versa?

Another great chameleon in this arena is Audemars Piguet, the maker of the highly idiosyncratic Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore watches. The shape here feels distinctive yet it maintains a sort of amorphous state, being perhaps close enough to being round that the unsuspecting eye accepts it as such. Of course, it might also be a round watch masquerading as an octagonal one. Indeed, case, bezel and crystal all come together in masterful fashion to surprise both eye and hand. In short, it is a rather beautiful ambiguity that Audemars Piguet shares here with Panerai.

Other brands too have their place here, including one collection from Patek Philippe with a shared progenitor as the Royal Oak – the Nautilus, and by extension the Aquanaut. Speaking of the great Gerald Genta, it would be remiss to ignore the current Bulgari Octo collection. Bulgari’s determination to convince the world of the virtues of its Octo shape is remarkable, making this brand one of the leading lights of the form watch segment.

Engine of Demand

Taken together, the brands that champion form watches because that is what they must do to survive and, further to that, thrive, perform an invaluable service to watchmaking as a whole – and to collectors by extension. They serve to drive the engine of demand, which is a far more difficult beast to understand than supply.

To put it another way, if while pushing their own goals and growth targets, these corporations also happen to create a little demand for gems of the past such as the A. Lange & Sohne Cabaret or the Rolex Prince, so much the better for collectors, especially those who are already moving in this direction. For those on the sidelines, the success of a particular model can lead to the brand reviving the model in its current collection or increasing its offering, thus building even more cachet and demand. There is actually a proper example of this, which brings us back to Audemars Piguet and Cartier.

The original release of the so-called Series A of the Royal Oak numbered only 1,000 watches yet the ensuing popularity of the model translated to innumerable iterations over the years. This collection – and the Royal Oak Offshore – probably contributes the lion’s share of the brand’s reported figure of 40,000 plus watches sold annually. Finishing our tale at Cartier, where we started, the success of the Tank watch might arguably be correlated to the success of Cartier as a force in high-end watchmaking. While the Royal Oak has just the Royal Oak Offshore as an offshoot, the Tank has quite a number of descendants. The popularity of the Tank with collectors inspired Cartier to create extensive options here, with no less than six different families of Tank watches available, with multiple references in each family. Not bad at all for a watch that started with just six models for sale in Paris in 1919.

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 Degree Asymmetrical

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 Degree Asymmetrical

Minor Leagues: Where Independent watchmakers stand on Shaped Watches

Where the big brands have circled the wagons, so to speak, it is quite a different story at smaller outfits such as Azimuth, Bell & Ross, MB&F, SevenFriday, Urwerk and others. Certainly some, especially classical names such as Philippe Dufour and Laurent Ferrier, trade on a certain inner beauty but even here, some are not afraid to bust out of the circle. This is most obvious in the watches of Greubel Forsey, where the cases literally bulge in odd ways when the function calls for it. Obviously, when one makes very small numbers of watches it is possible to take certain risks. Here’s how Max Busser of MB&F puts it:

“It’s a question of horological integrity; I’ve said from the beginning that MB&F is not going to put round movements in funky shaped cases because we’re not designers. We’re mechanical artists. This is what separates marketers from creators; If you want to please the market you probably won’t take creative risks. The bigger the company, the more you will be inclined to please the market.”

Busser’s point here extends to watches at many different prices points, as evidenced by Kickstarter notables such as Momentum Labs, Helgray and Xeric. Obviously, Kickstarter projects are defined by the marketplace so the vast majority of projects there are round watches but there are significant alternatives, which one can discover by looking at the offering from those three names.

 

Form Watch Movements

Proportionally, it is rewarding when watchmakers equip a rectangular watch with a movement with exactly the right shape. In first half of the 20th century, it was quite normal to expect form watches to come with movements in the corresponding shape. The idea was to have the mechanical movement function as a sort of kinetic sculpture, one where function followed form. Today, form movements are the exception rather than the rule, even within the increasingly limited area of form watches. Given that form watches as a whole are like an endangered horological species, this story concerns itself with the shape of the watch as a whole rather than the shape of the movement.

The Tank Louis Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 944 are both examples of kinetic sculptures

The Tank Louis Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 944 are both examples of kinetic sculptures

Nevertheless, an entire class of collectors follows this segment and connoisseurs of mechanical watches are always pleased when watchmakers make an effort to match the shape of the movement with the shape of the watch so in this section we will look at the history of such efforts and suggest why they have fallen out of favor, although the simple answer as to why your cushion-shaped watch comes with a round movement is not hard to fathom: it makes sense from a cost and reliability perspective.

With apologies to Louis Cartier and to play devil’s advocate, what value does it really speak to that function should follow form? It is by no means a recent development that we consider function more important than form. To reference the main part of this story, this speaks to why the Apple Watch is rectangular.

Jobs’ design ideology finds its spiritual cousin in the watchmaking philosophy of Jaeger-LeCoultre, at least when it comes to the Reverso. Other than the Squadra, the Art Deco icon has always been equipped with a form movement and its case shape was dictated by function. The Reverso has the shape that it does to facilitate its defining reversible function. Function though is where form movements run into trouble, for one obvious reason: automatic winding, or rather the lack thereof.

The newly launched Tiffany Square Watch comes with its bonafide form, square shaped movement. A rarity even amongst specialist watchmakers.

The newly launched Tiffany Square Watch comes with its bonafide form, square shaped movement. A rarity even amongst specialist watchmakers.

Since at least the 1960s, the watch buying public has sought out automatic models. Once again, you can look to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso models over the years to see how this played. For the most part, the Reverso has been equipped with manual-winding calibers, all form ones of course. For self-winding models, in the Reverso Squadra and elsewhere, the Grand Maison uses round movements. Cartier sidestepped the issue though because Edmond Jaeger designed and equipped the early Cartier form watches with round LeCoultre movements.

Check out the latest Tiffany Square Watch which joined body (and movement), the pantheon of shaped watches.

 

Inner Workings Exposed: Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Sapphire

 

Transparency has long devilled Swiss watchmaking, as far as standards, costs and corporate structures go, but he watchmakers themselves have no trouble pushing admirably see-through efforts. While BaselWorld 2017 did not see greater openness from the brands, we did get a few fascinating watches that will no doubt make us all think sapphire is going to be the carbon of the next few years. Bell & Ross have no less than two watches that build on this narrative, the first of which is the BR-X1 Tourbillon Skeleton-Sapphire.

Inner Workings Exposed: Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Sapphire

The design-forward Swiss watchmaking firm has been mining this vein for some time now and it looks like we’ll spending a few issues looking into them – or perhaps more appropriately looking through them! The second – and far more intriguing piece – will have to await more details but suffice to say it is a watch with no true case…

For the record, it should be noted that the entire case of the BR-X1 here is in sapphire, specifically five corundum blocks for the case back, middle, top and bumpers, and held together with those very visible screws. The extreme transparency here means the manufacture calibre BR-288 is visible from every angle. There is a lot to take in with this manual-winding movement, including the trademark X-shaped bridges, and the particularities of the one-minute flying tourbillon as well as the intermediate wheel.

Followers of Bell & Ross will recognize commonalities here between this and the BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon (the brand’s first model in an all-sapphire case) and this latest model is a variant, though not obviously a base. The architecture of the calibre BR-288 and calibre BR-285 are quite different, with the going train here arranged along a single vertical axis. Bell & Ross have taken great pains to point the special construction of that intermediate wheel, which sports teeth in entirely new shape. The advantages of this new shape are reportedly in managing friction and, to quote the press release, optimizing” tight tolerances.

As far as the case is concerned, such beauty comes at a price of course. It reportedly takes days to carve out the various case components for a single watch. This is likely achieved by diamond-tipped tools in an industrial setting so leave aside all thoughts of craftspeople toiling away at blocks of sapphire crystal with chisels and the like. This sort of endeavor is a technical challenge that is simply impossible to execute without contemporary means.

Bell & Ross have some patrimony here as the brand has been on the cutting edge of the sapphire case trend, such as it is, so it both hardy and pretty, with a water resistance of 30 meters. Obviously, the case will be highly scratch-resistant but like all crystals, appropriate care should be taken. A limited edition of eight worldwide, the watch indicates hours and minutes, relegated to a subdial at 12 o’clock.

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Sapphire Price and Specs

Movement Manual winding calibre BR-288 with one-minute flying tourbillon; 100-hour power reserve
Case 45mm in sapphire crystal; water resistant to 30m
Strap Translucent rubber with Kevlar
Price S$535,000

New Luxury Watch: Why the Bell & Ross BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph is more expensive than the average BR chronograph

Bell & Ross BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph is 45 mm in diameter with titanium and ceramic with rubber inserts. Rocker push-buttons. Back with opening in tinted sapphire crystal, centred on the balance.

Bell & Ross BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph is 45 mm in diameter with titanium and ceramic with rubber inserts. Rocker push-buttons. Back with opening in tinted sapphire crystal, centred on the balance.

Bell & Ross has dropped a new luxury watch and while it’s not the most expensive Bell & Ross, it is probably among the more expensive chronographs the French brand has ever released and World of Watches is going to explore the aspects which add to the price of the Bell & Ross BRX1 Black Titanium Chronograph

New Luxury Watch: Why the Bell & Ross BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph is more expensive than the average BR chronograph

The grade 5, lightweight and resistant, titanium case is machined and made by a heritage 1936 case-polishing workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds begun by brothers George and Francis Chatelain.

The namesake G&F Chatelain workshop eventually progressed and specialised in progressive stamping and precision machining  by acquiring a stake in Standoz & Co in 1963., and then completing the acquisition in 1993, 30 years later. By 2006, the Chanel-owned company added specialist know-how of material ceramic production which they have now used to create the high-tech ceramic bezel to the latest chronograph from Bell & Ross.

The Bell & Ross skeleton chronograph is equipped with a calibre BR-CAL.313. Automatic mechanical. ‘X’-shaped upper bridge. 56 jewels, 28,800 vph.

The Bell & Ross skeleton chronograph is equipped with a calibre BR-CAL.313. Automatic mechanical. ‘X’-shaped upper bridge. 56 jewels, 28,800 vph.

Given their supplier relationship with laudable brands like Richard Mille, your “fraction of the price” Bell & Ross chronograph is definitely a story worth telling when you regal others on how you came to be wristed this beauty.

As a result, the 45mm BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph is the perfect synthesis of Bell & Ross ‘ expertise in the world of aviation watches and master watchmaking-  Add elongated, rectangular ergonomic integrated into the case, pivoted push buttons, operable through a pilot’s flight gloves and what you get are chronograph functions which are easily and efficiently accessed in a wide variety of situations and environments.

 

Bell & Ross BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph with hours, minutes, small seconds at 3 o’clock. Skeleton date at 6 o’clock. Chronograph: 30-min timer at 9 o’clock, central chronograph seconds.

Bell & Ross BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph with hours, minutes, small seconds at 3 o’clock. Skeleton date at 6 o’clock. Chronograph: 30-min timer at 9 o’clock, central chronograph seconds.

A hallmark of the X1 range of Bell & Ross watches is the expansive sapphire crystal which reveals the skeletonised chronograph calibre – a base ETA 2892 with Dubois-Depraz chronograph module comprising the BR Cal. 313 set with an open-worked date wheel accompanied with a lattice-work diamond shaped bridge emanating from the central pivot holding the hour, minutes and chronograph seconds hands.

Consequently, the new limited edition Bell & Ross BR X1 Black Titanium Chronograph with a 250 piece production run is more expensive than the average Bell & Ross chronograph.

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Black Titanium Chronograph Price & Specs

Sophisticated and reliable, the skeleton chronograph movement of the BR-X1 chronograph is truly exceptional and combines Haute Horlogerie finishes with extreme lightness. Limited to 250 pieces, the BR-X1 Black Titanium chronograph is priced S$27,200.

Case: 45mm diameter – Titanium and ceramic with rubber inserts – rocker push-buttons – back with opening in tinted sapphire crystal, centred on the balance. – 100m water resistant
Movement: calibre BR-CAL.313 – self-winding – 4Hz frequency – 56 jewels
Strap: black rubber strap with steel and rubber pin buckle

The date of the latest Bell & Ross vintage Garde Cotes appears in a window between 4 and 5 o’clock. The brand’s iconic, imposing numerals appear at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. They are legible and guarantee optimal reading. This model, which is equipped with a bidirectional rotating bezel with a 60-minute scale, can be used to set time markers for more accurate mission timing. The crown guard ensures water-resistance and prevents accidental unlocking. This legible, water-resistant and robust timepiece is perfectly adapted for maritime rescue missions.

Bell & Ross Vintage Garde Cotes: The Sea Rescuer’s Watch with Price and Specs

As a point of history, many watch brands do have strong ties with producing military watches. These tend to a consequence of long heritage and the ensuing military conflicts which erupted around the territories where they are based. But then, France-based Bell & Ross, founded in 1992, is relatively new to the scene of watchmaking; and as a point of reference, French watchmakers, notably Breguet, tend to be either immensely elegant and classically traditional or the colourfully avant garde like those of Alain Silberstein. When Bell & Ross broke unto the scene, the iconic square case watch with circular clock-like dial seemed a harsh contrast against that rose-tinted view of what the world considered to be stereotypical French watchmaking. Bell & Ross broke a stereotype and more importantly, they produced watches which oozed military machismo unlike most of the other watches out there.

Taking inspiration from aircraft instrument panel was as left field as it got for a French based watch brand, but because of its distinctive styling, Bell & Ross became THE designer's watch. Favoured by architects and designers.

Taking inspiration from aircraft instrument panel was as left field as it got for a French based watch brand, but because of its distinctive styling, Bell & Ross became THE designer’s watch. Favoured by architects and designers.

If watches had a “design movement”, then Bell & Ross defined a generation with its militaristic bravura with a cockpit instrument wristwatch. In terms of provenance, it might not match IWC for pilot’s watches but through sheer force of passion and iconic style (no one else makes watches which look like they belonged on a fighter jet), Bell & Ross eked a name out for itself as makers of pilot’s watches thanks to exceptional clarity (again like a cockpit instrument) and functional robustness – bead-blasted sandwich screwed down steel case. It was not just aviation inspired, it was downright martial. Thus, it stands to reason that where optimal functionality abounds, the occupations which demand it most would be drawn to it. Introducing Bell & Ross Vintage Garde Cotes: The Sea Rescuer’s Watch.

Bell & Ross Vintage Garde Cotes: The Sea Rescuer’s Watch

 

Launched at Baselworld 2017, Bell & Ross returns not with the same square case we all know and love but with something we’ve grown accustomed to since the BR 123 Sport Heritage Automatic 43mm. Gone are the serious, faux-aged military-inspired aesthetics, replaced with a bright orange and white colour scheme you probably associate with the zany crew at Baywatch. And indeed you should, gone is the martial, serious-looking tool watch which has becomes a life saver’s watch and tribute to professionals who rescue at sea and, more specifically, to its helicopter pilots and divers.

The date of the latest Bell & Ross vintage Garde Cotes appears in a window between 4 and 5 o’clock. The brand’s iconic, imposing numerals appear at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. They are legible and guarantee optimal reading. This model, which is equipped with a bidirectional rotating bezel with a 60-minute scale, can be used to set time markers for more accurate mission timing. The crown guard ensures water-resistance and prevents accidental unlocking. This legible, water-resistant and robust timepiece is perfectly adapted for maritime rescue missions.

The date of the latest Bell & Ross vintage Garde Cotes appears in a window between 4 and 5 o’clock. The brand’s iconic, imposing numerals appear at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. They are legible and guarantee optimal reading. This model, which is equipped with a bidirectional rotating bezel with a 60-minute scale, can be used to set time markers for more accurate mission timing. The crown guard ensures water-resistance and prevents accidental unlocking. This legible, water-resistant and robust timepiece is perfectly adapted for maritime rescue missions.

As mentioned, the new Bell & Ross Vintage Garde Cotes returns to that heritage automatic sporty “interpreted round” (because it’s not exactly prominently round like the WW1-92 Military series) case which gives the latest Bell & Ross Vintage Garde Cotes a sportier, more modern look in the metal and with a striking new colour palette of grey, orange and white.

The colour scheme of the latest Bell & Ross Vintage Garde Cotes follows the same themes experienced in the coast guard. Metallic grey for the fuselage of both helicopters and naval vessels. A boost of flaming orange on both dial and second hand to reflect the visual codes for maritime safety and optimal legibility day or night. Interestingly, if you’re a rescue diver, it’s also the colour of the suit you wear so you’re visible in choppy weather and at distance – a boon if you happen to come un-tethered during a sea rescue.

Meanwhile, white numerals, indices and hour and minute hands with high luminescent coating ensures that even during emergency rescues at dusk, you get to keep an eye on critical essential timings at a glance.

Left: BR V2-92 GARDE-CÔTES BRV292-ORA-ST/SRB with calibre BR-CAL.302 automatic. Right: BR V2-94 GARDE-CÔTES BRV294-ORA-ST/SST with calibre BR-CAL.301. Automatic mechanical.

Left: BR V2-92 GARDE-CÔTES BRV292-ORA-ST/SRB with calibre BR-CAL.302 automatic. Right: BR V2-94 GARDE-CÔTES BRV294-ORA-ST/SST with calibre BR-CAL.301. Automatic mechanical.

The new Bell & Ross Vintage Garde Cotes watches feature a sapphire case-back that reveals the very heart of the mechanism. The crystal is engraved with the symbol of sea rescuers: the buoy and the anchor.

The new Bell & Ross Vintage Garde Cotes watches feature a sapphire case-back that reveals the very heart of the mechanism. The crystal is engraved with the symbol of sea rescuers: the buoy and the anchor.

Bell & Ross Vintage Garde Cotes Chronograph

Like the three-hand model, this sportier version is equipped with a crown guard that is ideal for maritime rescue missions. The chronograph push-pieces are screwed in to guarantee optimal water-resistance and security. The fixed bezel is adorned with a black anodized insert that is graduated with a pulsimeter. Coordinated with the chronograph, this function can be used to measure the heart rate. It is very useful for rescuers providing first aid.

Bell & Ross Vintage Garde Cotes be retailing at SGD 4200 (BRV2-92 Garde-Côtes) and the chronograph at SGD 6300 (BRV2-94 Garde-Côtes) respectively.

Limited Edition Bell & Ross BR 03-94 AeroGT Orange

The AeroGT concept car was the starting point for the creation of a new pair of watches inspired by the automotive world – the BR 03 AeroGT models

The AeroGT concept car was the starting point for the creation of a new pair of watches inspired by the automotive world – the BR 03 AeroGT models

The worlds of supercars and horology often meet at critical junctures for fairly obvious reasons – superlative engineering and mechanical obsessions. Thus, it is little wonder that a Limited Edition model like the new Bell & Ross BR 03-94 AeroGT Orange would find inspiration in a supercar rather than a some throwback to heritage horology. That said, what is truly surprising is the fact that the BR 03-94 AeroGT Orange is based on an internally designed supercar rather than a sports-car conceptualised by a bonafide car manufacturer.

The two unusually sized exhaust pipes evoke turbojet engine exhausts, while the turbine-style rims imitate the vanes of supersonic aircraft engines. But the most impressive detail is the rear longitudinal aileron, which is reminiscent of an aircraft’s vertical stabilizer. The role of this element is to stabilize the racing car when performing quick turns.

The two unusually sized exhaust pipes evoke turbojet engine exhausts, while the turbine-style rims imitate the vanes of supersonic aircraft engines. But the most impressive detail is the rear longitudinal aileron, which is reminiscent of an aircraft’s vertical stabilizer. The role of this element is to stabilize the racing car when performing quick turns.

If watch and car collaborations are commonplace, the Bell & Ross BR 03-94 AeroGT Orange runs on the opposing end of the spectrum, how often does a watchmaker design a car the way the co-founder of Bell & Ross has? Bruno Belamich, the Bell of said company had an idea to encapsulate the Bell & Ross spirit in a concept car and the summation of the brand’s values and vision birthed the AeroGT Concept Car.

Limited Edition Bell & Ross BR 03-94 AeroGT Orange

The Bell & Ross AeroGT draws its inspiration from grand tourers. The Italian term gran turismo itself is evocative of the most illustrious sports cars in automotive history with names like Ferrari 250 GTO. The Bell & Ross AeroGT celebrates the idea of the “gentlemen driver” and naturally, his choice of wristwear. Keeping in mind the brand’s aeronautical muse (cockpit instruments), the AeroGT is a super car inspired by aviation: Extremely low (1.10 m) and aerodynamic, the 4.7 meter-long car seems is designed to split the air like an arrow. Nicknamed named by some as an aeroplane-car, Its pointed forms with sharp angles and cutting overhangs are reminiscent of some stealth F117a Nighthawk.

In addition to the modular chronograph, the iconic Bell & Ross round-in-a-square case returns for the 500 piece Bell & Ross BR03-94 AeroGT Orange.

In addition to the modular chronograph, the iconic Bell & Ross round-in-a-square case returns for the 500 piece Bell & Ross BR03-94 AeroGT Orange.

Here, the new Bell & Ross BR 03-94 AeroGT Orange is itself a design extension of the original BR 03-94 AeroGT launched in Baselworld 2015. The limited edition BR 03-94 AeroGT Orange displays the indications in a 6-9-12 layout, subsidiary seconds at 12 is a hallmark of a chronograph module set on top of an ETA 2894-2.

In addition to the modular chronograph, the iconic Bell & Ross round-in-a-square case returns for the 500 piece Bell & Ross BR03-94 AeroGT Orange. Available in 42mm x 42mm proportions, the steel BR03-94 AeroGT Orange chronograph with with circular-brushed flat surfaces and polished accents on the bevels conveys wrist presence you’d come to expect of one of the more distinctive watches in the industry. The orange design elements punch up the aesthetics and add some character to an otherwise industrial affair.

The 500 piece limited edition BR03-94 AeroGT Orange chronograph runs 42 hours when the automatic calibre BR-CAL.31 is fully wound. It is priced US$8,000.

All it needs to take off is a pair of wings. When seen from above, the drop-shaped glass roof recalls the glass cover of a jet cockpit. Meanwhile the razorthin wing mirrors are inspired by the small wings called «canards» placed on the nose of a fighter.

All it needs to take off is a pair of wings. When seen from above, the drop-shaped glass roof recalls the glass cover of a jet cockpit. Meanwhile the razorthin wing mirrors are inspired by the small wings called «canards» placed on the nose of a fighter.

Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver: A square diving watch for the stylish ocean explorer

As one of the few watchmakers in the business of regularly pushing out form or shaped watches, Bell & Ross occupies a specific niche. However, even with such an iconic shape, which you can see here, the firm’s first proper diving watch in 1997 was round. This is simply because one needs a unidirectional rotating bezel, among other things, for a true diving watch. There are many other famous names with famous shapes in watchmaking conforming to the pressure of the tool watch requirements in their own offerings, though we won’t name them to avoid making unfair comparisons.

For Bell & Ross though, it seems conformity was merely a passing phase because the BR 03-92 sports the “circle within a square” shape that defines Bell & Ross today, and yet it manages to meet the stringent requirements of ISO 6425 to qualify as a diving watch. Yes, naming conventions are fuzzy in watchmaking but only watches built to specifications of ISO 6425 can be called diving watches.

Given that BR 03-92 is a diving watch, let us look at the specifications here: it is water-resistant to 300 metres, and stands up to shocks, magnetism, salt water, temperature extremes and other professional requirements. Impressively, the watch is properly certified so you don’t just have to take the brand at its word. In the interest of reliability and performance, Bell & Ross is going with its standard automatic calibre BR-CAL.302, based on the reliable Selita SW300; the movement is protected here by a soft iron inner case, which is what makes it anti-magnetic.

The water-resistance here is the piece de resistance for Bell & Ross as the best it has managed with the square case is 100 metres; the BR 03-92 has three times that resistance. Looking at the case as we did at BaselWorld, this one is significantly thicker than the BR 03-92 Steel and such. Bell & Ross says this increased heft comes from a very thick steel caseback (2.8mm) and sapphire crystal (2.85mm). This compares with a caseback of 1.8mm and sapphire crystal of 1.5mm in the regular BR 03-92 Steel. Of course, that sapphire crystal has an anti-reflective coating to protect against glare and keep the dial visible. Speaking of which, the dial and its markers are certified to be visible in the dark from 25cm, with the hour, minutes and seconds all bearing different coloured Super-Luminova coatings.

All in all, the aesthetics and performance of the watch combined make it worth serious consideration. If nothing else, the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 is exciting because it is a truly unusual timekeeper, because of its shape. If you are a diving watch enthusiast or if you are a diver, professional or otherwise, this watch will make you stand out from the pack, even at a distance. That sort of cachet is nigh impossible to achieve and we salute Bell & Ross for its courage.

  • Movement Self-winding calibre BR-CAL.302 with date; 38-hour power reserve
  • Case 42mm in steel, with unidirectional rotating bezel in steel as well as anodized alunimium insert; water resistant to 300m
  • Strap Woven black rubber and ultra resilient black synthetic fabric
Detailed dial view of the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Horograph

Bell & Ross watches: BR 03-92 Horograph novelty timepiece from BaselWorld 2017

Detailed dial view of the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Horograph

Detailed dial view of the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Horograph

Legibility is a big deal these days, what with more and more watchmakers updating classic looks for the 21st century. BaselWorld 2017 will no doubt reveal more such examples, where the watches are effectively instruments of time rather than playful accoutrements. Well, to be fair, brands such as Bell & Ross remind us that the tool-watch look is very cool indeed and that there is no need to sacrifice looks for elaborate design moves.

Bell & Ross have taken to calling its timepieces “watch-instruments” and that is indeed how they are presented. Take for example the new BR 03-92 Horograph, which is new for 2017 yet fits in seamlessly with the peerless aesthetics of the brand. The original design brief for the Swiss watchmaking firm appears to have been to create wristwatches that resemble cockpit dashboard clocks and that is what it has done. These days, the brand touts its Bauhaus credentials but, given its success with the “circle within a square” model, it might as well tout its Bell & Ross credentials!

For the BR 03-92 Horograph, Bell & Ross doubles down on the aviation theme, shooting to remind collectors of clocks in airport terminals. The team at WOW feels sure we have seen actual Bell & Ross airport clocks, so this might be a truly “meta”-moment. The press release itself tells us that the watches are meant to deliver the ultimate in intuitive legibility, and thus the watchmakers have stripped things down on the dial. The clear distinctions here make the date window between four and five o’clock seem entirely fitting, blending into the three lines of text at six o’clock. We imagine that the Super-LumiNova covered baton hands and indices will make this quite a standout in the dark too.

The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Horograph

The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Horograph

As one might have anticipated, the 42-millimetre case is in bead-blasted steel and is water resistant to 100 metres. This basic degree of toughness is only to be expected of a good instrument.

Specifications

Movement Self-winding BR-CAL302
Power Reserve 38-hour
Case 42 millimetres x 42 millimetres in steel
Water Resistance Up to 100 metres
Strap Rubber or ultra-resistant synthetic fabric
Price Unavailable

This article was written by Ashok Soman and originally published in WOW.

Featured Video Play Icon

New skeletonised chornograph watches: Bell & Ross unveils the BRX1 RS17 at Baselworld 2017

And we’re off to the races as BaselWorld 2017 flags off. Hot on the heels of the Bell & Ross and Renault Sport Formula One team announcement of a brand new car for the coming F1 season in London, the Swiss watchmaker reveals the BRX1 RS17 at the annual Basel watch fair. We only have a spec sheet to go on right now but what we see so far is intriguing because the watch is a skeletonised chronograph, done in an entirely contemporary way.

The case itself is also fascinating, featuring Carbone Forge, (a composite of compressed carbon fibres and thermosetting resin, superheated in a steel mould), ceramic and rubber inserts. The calibre is the new BR-CAL 313, which is distinguished by its X-shaped upper bridge; the watch is very much like the 2015 BR-X1 Carbone Forge, which we first saw in 2015. Speaking of naming conventions, this is actually the second watch in a row featuring the RS17 identifier, the other being the BR03-94 RS17 that Bell & Ross showed at the London launch event.

Held at the Royal Horticultural Halls, the event marked the continuing partnership between the racing team and Bell & Ross, a duet that started last year. Intriguingly, the new BRX1 RS17 and the BR03-94 RS17 are part of a trio that will be revealed in full at BaselWorld. The names of the watches – or at least the RS17 bit – are nods to the new Renault F1 car, the R.S. 17.

Luxury watches: 7 mechanical timepieces with digital displays

We popularly refer to the hands of time in many everyday events, typically when we want to talk about going back in time to fix something or making a tiresome meeting end quicker. We process these entirely natural set of metaphorical motions largely without thinking about why time even needs to have hands. In truth, since digital quartz watches spread like wildfire upon the wrists of more humans than ever before in the 1970s, time hasn’t needed hands to make sense. Soon, with the proliferation of those pesky handheld computers called mobile phones (our data suggests you are reading this story on one right now), an entire generation will cease to understand and appreciate anything other than digital time.

Well, mechanical watches too have caught the digital bug — digital display that is, as these seven watches show. Ok, some of them still use hands but mainly in unexpected ways or for aesthetic reasons.

This spread was first featured in World of Watches’ (WOW) Festive issue. The WOW team would like to highlight that this spread was incorrectly credited. The digital artist responsible is Zi Wen.

 

Review: Bell & Ross Instrument de Marine

With a square case, exposed screws, a round dial, and oversized hands and numerals, the Bell & Ross BR 01 is one of the most instantly recognisable watches today. Modelled after flight instruments on the dashboard of a contemporary fighter jet, the watch has evolved from this core aesthetic to take on a vintage guise as seen with the Vintage BR line and an edgy, hyper-realistic form à la the BR-X1. More than 10 years has passed since Bell & Ross introduced the BR 01, but it still hasn’t run out of ways to reinvent the watch.

The new Instrument de Marine line posits the question: What if Bell & Ross had been founded 200 years earlier, when the aircraft had not yet been invented? At an era when sea travel was the most state-of-the-art, it isn’t too farfetched at all to imagine that deck instruments on board a ship would provide the inspiration. And of all the navigational objects associated with seafaring, the marine chronometer is the most symbolic one.g27-04-br-x1-t-marine-base-tout_lo-jlk

Time is a key factor in sea travel and thus marine chronometers – the most accurate timekeepers of their time – were indispensible tools to guide a vessel to its intended destination. Invented by the English clockmaker, John Harrison, marine chronometers were often mounted on gimbals, which kept them consistently in the horizontal position, unperturbed by the rocking motion of the vessel. As they were relied upon to be extremely accurate, not only do marine chronometers need to be precise, they also had to display the time clearly. Every second counts when navigating the high seas; a one-second error in time reading could lead a ship astray by as much as five kilometres.

This is why the seconds indication in a marine chronometer is always clearly displayed.

BR 01 Instrument de Marine embraces the baroque style aesthetics of this bygone era. For the first time, this normally contemporary timepiece comes with classical Roman numerals and blued steel poire-shaped hands on a white lacquer dial. Not only that, its entire case recalls the design of those square wooden boxes, in which the round marine chronometers are housed for safekeeping. Finding this to be a perfect visual metaphor, this round timepiece in a square case, Bell & Ross constructed the case of the BR 01 Instrument de Marine with an interesting mix of materials, some harking back to the olden times, and others modern and high performance oriented: Indian rosewood (used for the hulls and masts of ships, as well as the wooden case for marine chronometers), bronze (a reminder of the brass fittings on board a ship), rose gold (pairing beautifully with the rosewood), and grade 5 titanium (resilient and lightweight).

Echoing the aesthetical direction of the BR 01 are two additional pieces that embrace the maritime theme without relinquishing their technical flair – the BR X1 Skeleton Chronograph and the BR X1 Tourbillon Chronograph. Both pieces feature an openworked dial but instead of bronze, rose gold is used for the tourbillon model, and all three timepieces feature sapphire case backs that expose the movement mechanisms. The delightful melange of colours and textures brought about by this intoxicating mix of materials makes the collection stand far out, but perhaps the most alluring factor about these watches is their individual potential to change over time, gaining a unique patina.

Specifications

BR 01 Instrument de Marine
Movement Manual-winding Calibre BR-CAL.203 with 56-hour power reserve
Case 46mm in precious wood, titanium, and bronze; water resistant to 100m
Strap Brown alligator leather with bronze pin buckle

BR-X1 SKELETON CHRONOGRAPH Instrument de Marine
Movement Self-winding Calibre BR-CAL.313 skeletonised chronograph with 46-hour power reserve
Case 45mm in precious wood and bronze; water resistant to 100m
Strap Brown alligator leather with bronze pin buckle

BR-X1 Tourbillon Chronograph Instrument de Marine
Movement Manual-winding Calibre BR-CAL.283 skeletonised flying tourbillon with four-day power reserve
Case 45mm in rose gold and precious wood, water resistant to 100m
Strap Brown alligator leather with rose gold pin buckle

This article was first published in World of Watches.

Franck Muller

9 Stealth All-Black Watches: Dark Beasts

All-black watches are cool. It is that simple. Whether they sport in-house power plants and are the result of internal research and development or use third-party solutions, these watches are captivating. As we show in this spread engineered (and published) by WOW (World of Watches), there are plenty of forms for these dark horses of space-time to take. How did it all start? Well we won’t bore you with the details but watches with black dials offered better visibility for wearers and less glare to unwittingly call attention to the wearer.

These qualities appealed to the military mind of course and so of course many aviator timepieces had black dials. It wasn’t until 1972 that an all-black watch – with case, dial and bracelet entirely in black – emerged. That was the legendary Porsche Design Chronograph 1. Here are nine watches proudly flying the black flag into the 21st century.

BulgariBulgari Octo Ultranero Velocissimo

Bulgari Octo Ultranero Velocissimo

  • Dimensions: 41mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: 50 hours
  • Movement: Automatic BVL 328 based on Zenith El Primero calibre
  • Material: DLC-coated steel
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Rubber
PaneraiPanerai Luminor 1950 10 Days

Panerai Luminor 1950 10 Days GMT Ceramica

  • Dimensions: 44mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, GMT, 24-hour hand, power reserve indicator
  • Power Reserve: 10 days
  • Movement: Automatic Panerai P.2003 calibre
  • Material: Black ceramic
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Buffalo, black
HYTHYT H4 Gotham

HYT H4 Gotham

  • Dimensions: 51mm
  • Functions: Retrograde hours, minutes, seconds, power reserve indicator
  • Power Reserve: 65 hours
  • Movement: Manual-winding, HYT calibre
  • Material: 3DPT carbon
  • Water Resistance: 50 meters
  • Strap: Black rubber with integrated Nomex fabric
Franck MullerFranck Muller

Franck Muller Black Croco

  • Dimensions: 55mm x 39mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Automatic calibre FM 800
  • Material: PVD-treated steel
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Crocodile, black
ChopardChopard Superfast Chrono Split Second

Chopard Superfast Chrono Split Second

  • Dimensions: 45mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph with split seconds,
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Material: DLC-coated steel
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Calfskin, black
BremontBremont ALT1-B

Bremont ALT1-B in DLC-coated steel; $9,000

  • Dimensions: 43mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Automatic calibre BE-54AE
  • Material: DLC-coated steel
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Calfskin, black
Bell & RossBell & Ross BR-X1 Carbon Forgé

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Carbon Forgé

  • Dimensions: 45mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: NA
  • Movement: Automatic calibre BR-CAL.313
  • Material: Carbon, titanium and ceramic
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Alligator and grey rubber
MontblancMontblanc TimeWalker Urban Speed UTC

Montblanc TimeWalker Urban Speed UTC

  • Dimensions: 41mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, date, second time zone
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Automatic calibre MB 24.05
  • Material: DLC-coated steel
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Leather, black
SevenFridaySevenFriday V3/01

SevenFriday V3/01

  • Dimensions: 44.3mm x 49.7mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, day/night indicator
  • Power Reserve: 40 hours
  • Movement: Automatic Miyota 82S7
  • Material: PVD-treated steel
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Leather, black

Story Credits

Photography Greenplasticsoldiers

Art Direction Joaelle Ng

This article was first published in WOW.

Bell & Ross BR 03-94

Review: Bell & Ross BR 03-94 Watch

Back in 2005, who would’ve imagined that a square watch could singlehandedly set Bell & Ross on the trajectory that’s brought the brand to where it is today? The BR 01 did just that, and went on to spawn two smaller iterations, the BR 03 and BR S, which were also extremely successful. The latest addition to the family, the BR-X1, was conceived as a platform for Bell & Ross to express its technical savoir-faire, but the brand hasn’t neglected its core collections despite this shift in direction. The proof? The BR 03-94 Desert Type.

The BR 03-94 Desert Type is the latest variation on the theme of the square aviation watch, which is one of Bell & Ross’s calling cards. Like the collection’s other models, it contains several recognisable design cues. For one, there’s the square case with a raised round bezel framing the circular dial. The dial itself is highly legible, thanks to a combination of sword-shaped hands and a mix of baton and Arabic numeral indexes. Finally, there are the four screws on the upper surface of the case – a nod to the screws used to mount aviation instruments (the collection’s inspiration) onto a cockpit’s panel.

The strength of the BR 01/03/S families’ design lies in its versatility, as the BR 03-94 Desert Type shows. Despite being dressed in matte black and khaki – the two primary hues used in desert camouflage – the watch maintains a striking visage. Part of this is due to the brand’s subtle play with textures. Note how the black portions of the hands have a grainier texture compared to the black ceramic case, for instance, or how the sub-dials have a circular grained pattern. Bell & Ross has also manipulated the sense of depth of this watch by going beyond the usual traits of a layered case/bezel construction and sloping inner flange. The sub-dials have been countersunk here, while the dial itself has a sandwich construction consisting of an upper dial with cutouts set over a lower dial of a contrasting colour.

Functionally, the BR 03-94 is powered by an ETA-based BR-CAL.301 chronograph movement. The watch is capable of measuring elapsed times of up to 30 minutes, and sports a clean bi-compax layout to facilitate this, with a date window at 4:30 rounding up its functions. Its wearer can opt for either a matching beige calfskin strap or a black synthetic fabric strap to complete the package.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 42mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes. chronograph
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding BR-CAL.301
  • Material: Black ceramic
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Beige calfskin or black fabric, both with black PVD-coated steel ardillon buckle

This article was first published in WOW.

Space Cowboy: Bell & Ross BR-X1 Hyperstellar

Bell & Ross decided this year that space cowboys could use a chronograph to call their own, so enter the BR-X1 Hyperstellar. Its moon-grey titanium case with anodised blue aluminum inserts houses a skeletonized automatic chronograph movement that’s perfect for the journey into deep space.

The movement skeletonization makes sense in this context, as it strips all non-essential mass away to ensure that the spacefarer’s payload is optimised for launch. The black DLC-treated upper bridge is still formed in the shape of an “X” – both a variable and an unknown – and its push-buttons will suit the thick gloves used by astronauts. A rubber grip has also been integrated into the case for greater ease of handling. Application of Super-LumiNova in all the right spots such as the hour and minute hands and indexes enhances legibility. The rim of the minute totalizer, tachymeter, and bezel have all been executed in a distinctive cerulean hue for lonely and homesick mission specialists to remind themselves of the Blue Marble – home.

The appeal of the watch is accentuated by a titanium case back that now boasts a circular aperture, through which the cadence of the balance wheel can be appreciated. To secure the watch to the wrist in zero gravity, a hybrid strap of alligator leather and grey rubber, with a steel pin buckle, is provided.

This advancement of the BR-X1 is technically well crafted, and will certainly appeal to enthusiasts with a penchant for space exploration. It comes in a limited edition of 250 pieces.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 45mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: Not available
  • Movement: Self-winding Calibre BR-CAL.313
  • Materials: Titanium and anodised blue aluminum
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Black alligator leather and grey rubber with steel pin buckle

This article was first published in WOW.

Bell & Ross Enters Into Automobiles With AeroGT

It may seem quite surprising to see the highly esteemed watch company Bell & Ross take a sudden dip into the automobile world with their crazily designed half-aeroplane half-car AeroGT. Still, this isn’t the first time they’ve done that. They came up with the B-Rocket motorbike back in 2014 and this one, even earlier. Combined with the creation of this concept, the company is also releasing a pair of timepieces merges its watchmaking skills with motoring inspirations.

You can check out more on Men’s Folio.

4 Aviation Watches to Take Flight With

By flying, we will include sitting in an airplane. That said, aviation watches are among the most beloved of collectors because of the particular fine qualities they are imbued with, in standing up to the operational demands of flight. Reliable, accurate, with clear, easy-to-read displays, they’re tops at balancing elegance, performance, and practicality.

Bell & Ross BR 03 Rafale

Bell & Ross

The Rafale is a beautifully shaped jet, and for folks that appreciate fighter planes, it is among the most advanced and lethal of combat planes being flown today. The Bell & Ross BR 03 Rafale in ceramic incorporates the cool grey colour and the typography of the plane onto the dial for a most fetching tribute. Limited to 500 pieces.

Perrelet Turbine Pilot

Perrelet Turbine Pilot
The company started producing watches sporting dual rotors from 2009, including one on the dial side. Most recently, it has extended the same concept to its take on the pilot’s watch. Aesthetically, the dial-side rotor sets itself apart from most others; it also looks like the spinning turbines of a jet engine. But time display is clear enough, and the slide rule bezel is handy for quick calculations (currency conversions, price of groceries by weight, etc.) and is quite readable, courtesy of the large case size.

Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref. 5524

patek phillipe calatrava pilot
A dramatic departure from Patek Philippe’s usual dress watch or high complication, Ref. 5524 in white gold is as luxurious as a pilot’s watch can be, while remaining eminently sensible. Twin pushers allow quick adjustment of local time, while a skeletonised hand indicates home time, with day/night indicators for home/local time, and date in a sub-dial at six o’clock.

Breguet Type XXI 3810

WOW160126(Character)-006

Descended from the Type 20 aviator’s chronograph that was supplied to the French defence ministry in the 1950s, the titanium XXI 3810 is not only dressier than many pilot’s watches, with fine decorative detail including a fluted case band, it also includes the convenience of a flyback chronograph, with great ease of use by utilising a central hand to point out elapsed minutes.

This story was first published in World of Watches.

16 Ways to Bring Fun to Luxury Watches

It’s time to add some color to your watch collection – luxury doesn’t always have to be understated. Here are 16 watches, in four categories, that our friends at WOW (World of Watches) have curated that will do the trick.

Just a Hint

This is where the adage that less is more holds sway. With the right hue and application, a dash of color is sometimes all that is necessary, whether to demarcate different functions or to highlight specific parts of a watch.

AP-2a

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver: This iteration of the Royal Oak Offshore Diver has a utilitarian slant that reinforces the collection’s tool watch DNA, beginning with a scratch-resistant case and bezel of black ceramic. A matching black dial maintains the serious vibes, while also adding a touch of class with its méga tapisserie guilloché – an Audemars Piguet signature. The crucial parts that divers rely on underwater have been highlighted orange here – the running second hand indicates that the watch is working, while the minute hand and 15-minute section of the inner bezel mark elapsed time underwater. (Price unavailable)

Rado-1a

Rado Hyperchrome Automatic Chronograph Court Collection: Blue-on-black isn’t the best combination for legibility, since the former doesn’t pop on the latter. Rado overcame this limitation on the Hyperchrome Automatic Chronograph Court Collection by finishing the watch’s dial with a subtle sunray texture, thus accentuating the contrast between the two colours. Blue wasn’t chosen frivolously – it represents the hard court surface tennis is played on, just like how its siblings’ orange and green accents mirror clay and grass courts respectively. An ETA 2894-2 chronograph movement drives the watch, encased in a monobloc black ceramic case with stainless steel inserts. ($6,170)

Breitling-2a

Breitling Chronomat 44 Raven: Despite having a black dial encased in Breitling’s “black steel” case, the Chronomat 44 Raven is far from a stealthy watch. That isn’t a concern anyway, since the Raven is a pilot chronograph, which places a far higher premium on legibility. The latter is achieved by rendering the watch’s hands, indexes, bezel markings, and inner flange in bright orange, to make telling the time and using the chronograph a cinch. Of course, due attention has been paid to accuracy – the Raven packs Breitling’s chronometer-grade Calibre 01. ($13,840)

Spread-1a

Raymond Weil Freelancer: This self-winding chronograph maintains the classic, understated styling that’s central to Raymond Weil’s DNA, but asserts its masculine and sporty side with subtle detailing. Note the watch’s industrial look with the screw bolting down the small seconds sub-dial, or the altimeter-esque date window that recalls a flight instrument panel. Red highlights set against a black and steel dial complete the package – both visually and functionally – by distinguishing the chronograph function from the rest of the watch, right down to the tachymeter’s markings. ($4,330)

WOW-30041577842_V6-HiRes-copya

Dial It Up

There’s nothing subtle about flooding the dial with a single vivid hue. Watches like these aren’t just easily recognised at a distance – they’re also bold statements that will be visible from across the room. Only the confident need apply.

 

Victorinox I.n.o.x. (pictured above): Built to mark the 130th anniversary of Victorinox, the I.N.O.X. (inox is French for stainless steel) is the timekeeping counterpart to the Swiss Army knives the brand manufactures, and meant to complement it as a “companion for life”. To that end, the watch had to pass a battery of 130 tests, including spending two hours in a washing machine and being driven over by a 64-ton tank. Numerous little details contribute to the watch’s toughness, from the slightly recessed sapphire crystal to having stamped – not applied – indexes. A simple, no-nonsense dial design emphasises the watch’s pedigree, with a blue dial and matching strap complementing this. ($719)

Luminox-2a

Luminox Scott Cassell UVP Special Edition: Luminox’s partnership with Scott Cassell continues with the UVP Special Edition. Part of this watch’s sales proceeds will go towards funding UVP (Undersea Voyager Project), a non-profit organisation founded by Cassell that is dedicated to ocean health. The watch’s 44mm case is made of carbon-reinforced polycarbonate, which imparts an excellent strength-to-weight ratio. A yellow dial with black hands and indices impart legibility, and a matching canvas strap completes the look. ($674.10)

JeanRichard-1a

JeanRichard Aeroscope Arsenal: Arsenal Football Club’s fans can wear their hearts proudly on their wrists by donning the Aeroscope Arsenal, its official watch. The timepiece features the Gunners’ cannon in lieu of a hand for its small seconds sub-dial, and uses the club’s color liberally. Red is an extremely striking colour in and of itself. When paired with black, it pops even more to grab one’s attention. From the honeycombed dial to the tachymeter markings on the bezel to the pushers’ detailing, the color ensures the watch’s prominence. (Price unavailable)

Seiko---high-resa

Seiko Automatic Divers Watch: This is the revised version of the Seiko diver watch commonly (and reverently) referred to as the Orange Monster. The “second generation Orange Monster” updates the original in several areas, including new shark-tooth shaped indexes and a simplified chapter ring. Its 4R36 movement is arguably the biggest change – unlike the original, the new watch can now be both hacked and hand-wound. The new calibre retains Seiko’s bidirectional Magic Lever winding system for efficiency though. Despite the availability of other colorways for the watch, Seiko enthusiasts still consider the Orange Monster a rite of passage. Clearly, not all colors are created equal. ($593.90)

Mix & Match

Playful. Technical. Rebellious. Whimsical. Avant-garde. The design approaches in response to having a larger palette are as varied as the colors themselves. Results too, run the gamut from what are literally art pieces to serious, sporty watches.

Hublot-2a

Hublot Classic Fusion Enamel Britto: Brazilian artist Romero Britto is known for his colorful works melding Cubism, pop art, and graffiti painting. His partnership with Hublot is of little wonder then, given the latter’s penchant for the “art of fusion”. The Classic Fusion Enamel Britto’s dial reproduces one of Britto’s artworks in miniature via grand feu enamel, with the 45mm Classic Fusion case in black ceramic serving as the painting’s frame. This timepiece is a 50-piece limited edition. ($59,700)

Romain-Jeromea

Romain Jerome Pac-Man Level II 40 Colours: The landmark arcade game returns! This homage to Pac-Man comes complete with eight-bit renderings of the game’s titular character, his adversary ghosts, and the strawberry power-ups needed to defeat them. Although the background is a drab monotone, no attention to detail has been spared – the “stage” is three-layered, and each one has either been bead-blasted or straight-grained to contrast with the lacquered sprites mounted on the dial. Housed in a 40mm case, this reference has a limited run of just 20 pieces. ($24,800)

Alexander-Shorokhoff-3a

Alexander Shorokhoff Miss Avantgarde: Words like “edgy” or “free-spirited” cannot adequately describe the Miss Avantgarde, what with its loud and flashy dial that uses color with seemingly no pattern. There is a method to Alexander Shorokhoff’s madness though. The time can actually be read easily as each design element is confined to a specific section of the watch. Colors have also been compartmentalized to avoid an overly busy dial, while the hands are white for maximum contrast. (Price unavailable)

Spread-3a

Graham Chronofighter Oversize GMT: The Chronofighter Oversize GMT has a busy dial with red, blue, and white accents on a background of black. This is mirrored on the watch’s exterior, with its massive 47mm case sporting an equally colorful combination of steel, red gold, and black PVD surfaces. Interestingly, the chronograph, large date, and GMT complications haven’t been sorted by color. Instead, every part of the watch takes on its specific hues for maximum contrast – note how the bezel uses red gold against blue while the main dial has white against black instead. ($16,400)

Material Play

Paints and coatings aren’t the be all and end all for achieving colours that pop in a watch. Materials that are inherently brightly colored can do the same, and lend their unique textures to boot. Stones, glass, and even liquids? Bring them all on.

Spread-4a

HYT H1 Azo Project: No, it isn’t kryptonite. The H1 Azo Project’s florescent case is made of azo polyepoxide, a resin with exceptional scratchproof properties despite being much lighter than comparable materials like steel. Its color is, of course, a perfect match for the liquids encased in the watch’s fluid module – one has been colored a darker shade of green, while the other remains transparent. The hours are then read off the tip of what looks like an advancing column of liquid. ($95,000)

Hermes-2a

Hermès Arceau Millefiori: From straw marquetry to Japanese miniature painting on porcelain, Hermès has incorporated various crafts into watchmaking. The Arceau Millefiori focuses on glass art, specifically millefiori (a thousand flowers), where colored crystal canes are arranged to form various motifs before being sealed with transparent crystal. The technique is adapted here by cutting the finished product into thin slices and using them as dials. ($61,600)

Ulysse-Nardina

Ulysse Nardin Marine Perpetual: At first sight, the blue sapphires on the bezel are immediately apparent, and serve as the highlight of the Marine Perpetual. Upon closer inspection, however, the bezel itself is revealed to be atypical – it’s made of rubber, and the sapphires are set directly into it. The technique, dubbed “soft stone in the sky”, is revolutionary for setting gems in a soft material, and parallels the manufacture’s perpetual calendar movement, which allows forward and backward adjustments via just the crown. ($59,400)

Bell-&-Ross-1a

Bell & Ross BR 03 Red Radar: Bell & Ross’s timepieces are inspired by cockpit instruments but said instruments were never just confined to dials with hands and indexes. One outlier was the BR 03 Red Radar, which took the world by storm upon its release, and remains frequently cited as a milestone product for the brand. In lieu of hands, three black concentric discs are mounted to the movement, with a red mineral glass crystal sealing the watch. The result? A watch that displays the time like a radar screen. ($S$6,700)

 

Story Credits

Text by Jamie Tan

Photography by Raymond Lee

Art direction and styling by Tok Wei Lun

Bell & Ross BR-X1: Record Breaker

Bell Ross Br X1 4Bell & Ross started its business in 1992 by selling virtual reissues of Sinn watches that carried both companies’ names on the dial, such as the Space 2, which was a rebranded Sinn 157. That era was short lived, however, as the brand grew rapidly to create its own designs. It weaned off its reliance on other watchmakers in 2002, when it secured its own independent production facilities in Switzerland.

Just a couple of years later, Bell & Ross launched the BR-01, which was styled after aircraft instrument dials. The distinctive style of the BR-01 made it a hit, and arguably one of the most recognisable watches today, even amongst complete strangers to horology. The fact that it’s square, a traditionally less popular shape, made this an even more impressive feat in product design and marketing.

Bell & Ross’s latest follow up to the BR-01 is the fifth generation BR-X1. According to the brand, each signed model pays tribute to a great era in military history, and the BR-X1 is no different. The homage this time is paid to the Bell X-1 experimental rocket plane, the first American-built one to break the sound barrier. Essentially a “bullet with wings”, the X-1 was shaped like the bullet of the .50 Browning Machine Gun cartridge, which had a stable supersonic flight. The plane contributed to transonic flight research, and set a pattern for which subsequent X-craft projects followed in terms of research techniques.

Bell Ross Br X1 2In tribute to the Bell X-1, Bell & Ross designed the BR-X1 to be a cutting edge instrument with high-tech materials, as the plane was in its time. The watch’s 45mm case is primarily Grade 5 titanium, with several components in ceramic and rubber. This includes the band around the case’s edge, ostensibly for shielding against any impacts, and the rocker-style chronograph pushers, for better grip when operating the chronograph. The BR-X1 has a bi-compax layout, with its small seconds, date, and minute totalizer at three, six and nine o’clock respectively. True to its aviation theme, the flange on the watch’s dial has a printed tachymeter for measuring rates when used with the chronograph seconds totalizer.

Bell Ross Br X1 3Based on the above features, the BR-X1 appears to just another addition to the collection, at least until one realises that it contains a skeletonised chronograph movement. We’ve trawled through the Bell & Ross archive and found no other skeletonised movement, let alone a skeletonised chronograph movement. In the X-1, the upper bridge has been reduced to an “X”, to fit both the aircraft and the watch’s name. Through it, parts of the movement, their perlage finishing, and the skeletonised date wheel can be seen.

The BR-X1 comes in a limited run of 250 pieces.

Bell & Ross Vintage WW1 Guynemer: Tribute to an Ace

This year, Bell & Ross is commemorating the centenary of the Great War by paying tribute to legendary pilot Captain Georges Guynemer with the Vintage WW1.

Bell Ross Vintage Ww1 Guynemer Tribute To An Ace 4

Born in 1894, Guynemer was initially declared unfit when he asked to enlist in the army. He became a trainee mechanic instead, before qualifying as a military pilot in 1915 and shooting down his first enemy aircraft on 19 July that year. The “Cigognes” (stork) squadron Guynemer was in was assigned the more powerful Nieuport 10 by that year’s end, and he soon established himself as one of the best French aviators, with a Legion of Honour conferred onto him on his 21st birthday. Within a year, Guynemer had been promoted to captain and taken command of the Cigognes squadron. He was, unfortuntately, lost in action in 1917 at the age of 22. As for his Cigognes squadron, it remains in service today and operates Mirage 2000-5F fighter jets from Luxeuil-Saint Sauveur.Bell Ross Vintage Ww1 Guynemer Tribute To An Ace 2The Bell & Ross Vintage WW1 (Wrist Watch 1) Guynemer pays tribute to the French ace pilot, and is a novelty from this year’s BaselWorld. This timepiece features a 45mm steel case with grey PVD finishing, and wire lugs reminiscent of watches from that era. The oversized crown is a throwback to early aviation as well, given pilots’ needs to operate their watches with heavy gloves on. To maintain its vintage look, the WW1 Guynemer has an opaline dial with sand-coloured numerals and hands, all rimmed by a chapter ring. Bell & Ross has improved the watch’s usability over vintage pilot watches, however, with a few modern touches. For one, the sand-coloured numerals and hands are actually beige Super-LumiNova, for legibility in the dark. The crystal is also made of sapphire instead of acrylic to improve its scratch resistance. The movement in the watch is also self-winding, unlike the ones used in World War I or II. As a tribute to Guynemer and his squadron, the silhouette of a stock has been placed at the dial’s six o’clock. In addition, a portrait of Guynemer has been engraved into the caseback. The Vintage WW1 Guynemer is available in a limited run of 500 pieces.

Bell Ross Vintage Ww1 Guynemer Tribute To An Ace 3