Style / World of Watches (WOW)

Wristwatch Review: Bell & Ross BR-X1 Black Titanium

Considered “Experimental”, this chronograph is no mere experiment. Many of the design elements which appear in the BR-X1 Black Titanium are well considered, well executed and impeccably (if industrially) decorated.

Jan 04, 2018 | By Jonathan Ho

Bell & Ross is a French-headquartered, Swiss watchmaker which has single handedly taken once obscure aeronautical instrumentation on cockpit readout panels and turned them into lustworthy wrist ornamentation. Nigh synonymous with aviation watches as a result, Bell & Ross became a brand iconic for their signature square wristwatches reminiscent of flight readouts.

What made the brand so compelling is their deft take on not just things related to the aeronautical sphere but also the design elements which were iconic for specific periods of human aviation history. To wit, the brand might have found widespread fame with square form watches but their genesis story is that of round watches in collaboration with Sinn. Many critics once thought it impossible for Bell & Ross to shrug their 4 cornered icon but they did, in 2013 in fact, with their Bell & Ross BR126 Sport Heritage Chronograph.

This lengthy introduction is meant to give you context for what I am about to share with regards to this wristwatch review: That the “X” in Bell & Ross BR-X1 Black Titanium is meant to denote its “experimental” nature but the watch is anything but experimental – in fact, many of the design elements which appear in the BR-X1 Black Titanium are well considered, well executed and impeccably (if industrially) decorated.

Wristwatch Review: Bell & Ross BR-X1 Black Titanium

Before we begin, let’s get a potential point of confusion clarified, the “Black Titanium” in the BR-X1 chronograph’s nomenclature refers to the 45mm titanium case (obviously) while the “black” refers to the black ceramic with rubber inserts which frames the entirety of the Bell & Ross BR-X1 chronograph. While it is not emphatically stated, the black ceramic is likely a feature meant to assuage sporadic complaints that the four cornered nature of the beloved Bell & Ross square meant that often, the rounded edges matured in a less than pristine condition.

From the get go, the face (or lack thereof) of the 45mm Bell & Ross BR-X1 Black Titanium grabs you. Like the other “experimental” X1 watches in the series, this BR-X1 chronograph has no dial. Instead, a grey-tinted sapphire dial reveals the exquisitely skeletonised modular chronograph calibre below – a high specced ETA 2892 topped with Dubois-Depraz chronograph module which makes all chronograph operation visible on the dial side. The X-bridge is not immediately apparent, but there, in between the perlage decoration which peeks through from the plate below the chronograph mechanism and the visual enticement that is the skeletonised date-wheel, the X-shaped bridge is there beneath the hour, minute and chronograph seconds hands, giving the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Black Titanium immense depth and wrist presence.

While the presence of subdials and the myriad of hands and indicators hint to its function as a chronograph, the chronograph pushers, the raised buttons on the midcase which usually telegraph the functionality of a timepiece, are integrated into the case of the BR-X1 Black Titanium: pivoted on one end, you “rock” the button rather than push, it reminds you of toggle switches on cockpit controls and it’s a signature of Bell & Ross’ X1 line.

From the four screws securing the sandwich-case together, sitting in their countersunk and chamfered opening to the clean, sandblasted finishing on the skeletonised components, all signs point to the fact that this BR-X1 chronograph isn’t your usual Bell & Ross. In fact, the skeletonised chronograph calibre and complex case architecture has been produced in cooperation with G&F Chatelain. A sister company within the Chanel group of businesses, G&F Chatelain is a specialist watch component outfit which also happens to make parts for some of the most notable names in watchmaking including Richard Mille. It was G&F Chatelain which saw Bell & Ross realise the creation of that superlative BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Sapphire in 2016, it cost a cool half a million, sounds expensive but take a look around and the other watchmaking brands which exist in that rarefied arena have chronograph tourbillon sapphire watches which easily cost north of a million dollars but I digress if only to make a point.

Limited to 250 pieces, the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Black Titanium costs S$27,200, it’s not your most affordable Bell & Ross but it’s the best made and we dare you to find a matching product with the same level of finish, polish and material with an equivalent price point.

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Black Titanium Price and Specs

Case 45mm Titanium and ceramic with rubber inserts with 100m water resistance
Movement Automatic chronograph calibre BR-CAL.313 with 48 hours power reserve
Strap Woven black rubber
Price S$27,200


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