Bell & Ross BR-X1: Record Breaker
Bell & 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 […]
Bell & 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.
In 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.
Based 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.