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