Clean finish and outstanding legibility
Novel tinted mineral glass dial showcases X-bridge and movement
Tool watch appeal synonymous with Bell and Ross
Price might be seen as on the high side
Chunky stock strap
Chronograph pushers are somewhat stiff
Bell and Ross categorises their releases into 3 overarching themes: Vintage, Marine and Instruments. Today, we take a look at the latest addition to the newest line in the Instruments collection: the BR-X1.
The Bell & Ross BR-X1
It bears mentioning a little background on the Instruments and BR-X1 before we start – the Instruments collection is probably Bell and Ross’ most iconic collection, with the trademark square case and round face. This is probably familiar to most watch lovers, and indeed I, personally, was quite enamoured with it at some point in the past. Bell and Ross drew inspiration for this case shape directly from the aeronautical flight instruments back in the day when cockpits were lined with rows upon rows of square inserts and round dials/gauges feeding information to the pilot, hence the name of the collection. With the classic releases in the Instruments line, such as the BR-01, Bell and Ross have strived to ensure that their Instruments deliver that same legibility a pilot would want.
The BR-X1 line was only recently slotted into the lineup in 2014, and represents an interesting direction for the normally utilitarian company. The name BR-X1 pays homage to the Bell X-1, the first American experimental rocket plane to break the sound barrier back in 1947. Drawing from that idea, experimental designs and complications are showcased from Bell and Ross’ repertoire within the BR-X1 line. For one, the movements in this line are all skeletonised. Bell and Ross seem to be experimenting with just about all components of the watch in this line, from case material to the hands and indices, not to mention movements and complications. Just on the case material alone, rose gold, carbon fibre and wood are implemented on separate models. At the time of their release, this would be previously unheard of from Bell and Ross.
We had the chance to take the BR-X1 Black Titanium Skeleton Chronograph out for a week, putting it through the daily rigours of desk diving, door jamming and all sorts of dangerous hazards that watch lovers face every day. The result – this review along with plenty of pictures to feed your eye candy needs.
Case, Dial and Hands
The 45mm case of this particular edition is made from Grade 5 titanium both on the front and back, covered on the 4 corners and around the bezel with black ceramic bumpers and rubber inserts. The titanium has the added advantage of melding together with the matt black bumpers to give the optical illusion of appearing overall darker, quite like a stealth fighter plane. The right upper and lower bumpers double up as the chronograph pushers. As with hand phones, the corners of the square case would be most prone to knocks and scratches, and the ceramic bumpers do their job in preventing exactly that. On the back, details of the limited release watch are etched into the caseback and a small window allows one to see the balance wheel beating away.
Bell and Ross forsook the normal dial in favour of a grey-tinted mineral glass so that one is able to see the bridge and movement from the front. Specific to the BR-X1 line is the X-bridge that is visible directly behind the middle of the dial. The brand Bell & Ross and model BR-X1 are applied in silver below the 12 and above the 6 o’clock markers respectively, and the see-through dial material does give the trippy sensation of the words floating above the movement behind. The date window is situated at 6 o’clock and on closer inspection of the date wheel seen beyond the mineral glass, we noticed that the date wheel itself is skeletonised as well – perhaps to allow a glimpse into the peripheries of the movement. The seconds subdial is placed at 3 o’clock in a cross-hair layout, and the 30 minute timer subdial is placed at 9 o’clock. The chronograph subdial is interesting in that it’s made from black aluminum and intentionally made to resemble the blades of a turbine. The tachymetre is printed onto the black chapter ring instead of the bezel of the watch in the BR-X1.
The hands on the BR-X1 also stray from the usual thick white broad sword hands we’ve come to expect from Bell and Ross. Instead, bevelled silver hands resembling tuning forks with Superluminova inserts at the ends tell the time on this piece. These supply stunning contrast compared to the translucent grey dial. Legibility is never a concern when looking at this piece. Even the tail end of the chronograph hand is bevelled to provide the the viewing pleasure of that little bit of extra effort on the finishing. Last but not least, the hour indices are given the same finishing as the hands, making for an altogether really quite shiny dial despite how the case seems to absorb light.
The Movement BR-CAL313
This is a Dubois-Despraz movement with an added BR module. The movement beats at 28,800 vph, and uses 56 jewels. Power reserve is estimated at 40 hours.
From the case back, a small aperture allows a peek into the movement, but the view is blocked by the Ampersand logo engraved on the sapphire glass.
The chronograph is cam actuated, and as far as cam-actuated chronographs go, it is not unusually stiff. But in comparison with column wheel chronographs, the pushers are still rather difficult to engage. One will find that the top pusher has to travel a long way before it’s in the position to click to start/stop the chronograph.
The BR-X1 is a continuation of Bell and Ross’ reinvention of their classic look, and it definitely achieves what it was meant to do. It’s a fresh take on the Instrument line and has a pleasing aesthetic to boot. This will likely excite the die-hard fans of Bell and Ross. Notably, even though it’s a relatively tall piece at 14.5mm, the wide base and 45mm diameter downplays its height. It’s altogether a very wearable and comfortable watch on the reviewer’s 7-inch wrist, and should fit comfortably for most occasions be it a day out at the beach or in the office.
All considered, a worthy consideration for the tool watch enthusiast looking for a premium upgrade to the standard Bell and Ross timepiece.
More info at Bell and Ross.
Bell & Ross Instrument BR-X1 Specifications:
Case: 45mm diameter. Titanium case with ceramic bumpers and rubber inserts. Toggle push button. Closed caseback with tinted sapphire glass window displaying balance wheel. Screw down crown.
Glass: Sapphire glass with AR coating
Dial: Grey-tinted mineral glass. Metal skeleton Superluminova-filled hours and minutes hands. Applique metal indices with Superluminova inserts.
Movement: BR-CAL 313 Dubois Despraz with BR Module. Automatic mechanical. ‘X’-shaped upper bridge. 56 jewels, 28,800 vph.
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap: Woven black rubber with BR printed on the strap and on the buckle
Lug width: 24mm
Limited release of 250 pieces worldwide
Retail Price: SGD $27,200