The skull watch makes a comeback as a sculpture piece to the Bell & Ross BR 01 as the Cyber Skull. We got up close to the watch to give you this hands-on report.
Price: SGD 16,700/ USD 10,900/ Euros 9,900 – limited edition of 500 pieces
Bell & Ross BR 01 Cyber Skull – a close look
The case, dial and hands
Though the case is said to follow from the design of the BR 01, it feels smaller and more sleek. Gone are the massive box shaped case with rounded sides. And gone too is the shaped sapphire glass in the shape of the skull adorning the top. This is replaced in the Cyber Skull by a cleaner design. The angular slopes on the massive bezel and even on the case sides, with its corners sliced off. The case is entirely faceted at many angles, and feature no traditional lugs to speak of, rather the strap is attached to cutouts to perform the lug duties. The entire aesthetic is more geometric and sculptured.
Bell & Ross says it takes inspiration from the angular shapes of the fuselage of the Lockheed F117 Nighthawk fighter aircraft.
The F-117 was widely publicized for its role in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Although it was commonly referred to as the “Stealth Fighter”, it was strictly a ground-attack aircraft. F-117s took part in the conflict in Yugoslavia, where one was shot down and another severely damaged by surface-to-air missiles (SAM) in 1999. The U.S. Air Force retired the F-117 in April 2008, primarily due to the fielding of the F-22 Raptor. Despite the type’s retirement, a portion of the fleet has been kept in airworthy condition, and Nighthawks have been observed flying in 2020.
The photograph of the side angle of the B01 Cyber Skull shows the angles of the case, which is reminiscent of the F117. The case is crafted in black ceramic, as is the skull sculpture on the dial. This provides a matte surface which gives off an impression of a heavy gravitas.
The design of the skull on the dial also takes its cues from these angles of the case. The skull is designed to provide many facets of the same image, and looks kind of like a 3 dimensional origami. The geometric shapes gives off the vibe of a very futuristic. Like staring into the face of a cyborg. Hence the name – Cyber Skull.
The skull sculpture sits on a transparent sapphire glass dial. The movement is somewhat visible, peek-a-boo style through the dial. And the balance wheel takes center position on the middle of the skull’s forehead. The hour markers are mere lines printed on the under side of the sapphire glass protecting the dial side of the case. This glass cover is chamfered at the sides, and slightly raised for a more 3 dimensional look. The mandible of the skull retains the Laughing Skull animation, and moves when one winds the watch up, offering peeks into the mainspring barrel, as it operates.
The skull sculpture sits over the movement, which is also cut in the shape of the skull and bones. The slightly raised sapphire glass on both sides of the case allows light in, making it feel transparent. This architecture also makes the skull to appear to float inside the case.
The movement BR-CAL 206
The movement used in the Cyber Skull is the same as the one in the Laughing Skull. The BR-CAL 206 is developed by Concepto for Bell & Ross, and as far as we know is exclusive.
Detail changes to it are primarily to make the movement plates in a matte black finish. As mentioned, the movement plates are already made in the shape of the skull and bones in the Laughing Skull, but for the Cyber Skull, the entire movement is mounted between two sapphire glass plates, allowing light into and for the viewer to see the entire movement.
Movement finishing is not haute horlogerie, but that is not the intent of this watch, nor any Bell & Ross. Creating a high end finishing would merely add cost to the watch, and for a watch intended to be a designer objects, and statements of cool.
That said, the movement is finished adequately to allow it to perform well as a tool-like watch, and will stand the rigours of daily use, especially in an urban environment.
The competitive landscape
Skull theme watches are quite a special genre. Though some find them to be morbid, others feel that it reminds them to live their life to the fullest. Whatever your inclinations, there are a number of watches featuring skulls as the main decorative motifs. The unique proposition of the BR 01 Cyber Skull is the use of ceramics in the case. And the design aesthetic of strong angular lines as a motif.
The first is perhaps from Bell & Ross themselves. The BR 01 Laughing Skull (SGD 14,900 at release in 2018, in a SS case) is of particularly attraction. Not only for the feature of the skull sculpture, but also one with a mandible which moves as one winds the watch to power it up for the day. Making quick meaning to the term, laughing in the face of death. The white skull is also highly reminiscent of white bone, making it particularly apt. The series is a limited edition of only 99 pieces, and all have been spoken for.
We may also consider the amazing skull of the HYT Skull 48.8, the latest in their lineup. But we are rather fond of the original HYT Skull Maori with the Tā moko on the skull. The HYT watches, however compete in a different ball park, as prices are in the S$160,000 range, 10X more than Bell & Ross. But totally horses for courses. The HYT feature the unique liquid display technology, coupled with a haute horlogerie movement by Chronode.
Perhaps closer to the price range is the works of Fiona Kruger, who made a name for her decorative skull watches. But in hindsight, perhaps her works, attractive as they might be, also compete in a totally different genre though the prices (starting at CHF 13,000) are in the same ballpark. The case is skull shaped, and the dial is elaborately hand-decorated.
This is quite a remarkable watch for Bell & Ross to pull off. And much kudos to the design and concept crew to successfully evolve the original BR 01 Skull of 2009 into the various different, yet all interesting renditions about the skull theme.
This latest offering exceeds our original expectations, especially when viewed up close and wearing it on the wrist. The aesthetic is very special – the design goal elements of the cybernatic, pixelated nature of the skull, with the angular shape of the case, sapphire glass and the skull sculpture all comes together into a very sleep and well thought out package. Ready to take on all that a rich and intense urban life can throw at it.
For more information and availability in your country, please visit the Bell & Ross BR 01 Cyber Skull page.
Bell & Ross BR 01 Cyber Skull specifications
Movement . calibre BR-CAL.206. Hand-wound mechanical Crystal . sapphire with anti-reflective coating
Functions . hours and minutes. Moving skull when wound by hand Water-resistance . 50 metres
Case . length 45 mm, width 46.5 mm. Matt black ceramic Strap . black rubber
Dial . skeletonised. Black ceramic skull. Metal skeleton Super-
LumiNova®-filled hour and minute hands and indices. Balance at
Buckle . pin. Black PVD coated steel