Bell & Ross extends their popular steel sports watch with the new BR-X5, a watch which is available in either a black dial or an ice blue dial. We get hands-on with the black dial version with the stainless steel bracelet.
New and reviewed: Bell & Ross BR-X5
The retail price for the Bell & Ross BR-X5 is SGD 10,500 in the stainless steel bracelet and SGD 9,700 in rubber strap. Prices include GST.
We have covered the BR-05 series since its introduction very extensively, cataloguing almost every model released in with our photography and detailed analysis. Please see here for a list of BR-05 articles we have written. The model has evolved from the original BR-03 to the BR-05 and now with a new case construction and complication – the BR-X5.
As can be seen in the image above, the evolution is more gentle from the 05 t0 X5, thus retaining the 5 nomenclature, while the move from 03 to 05 is more dramatic.
The case, dial and hands
The new BR-X5 has a case which is very similar to the BR-05. The new case is a tiny bit larger, measuring in at 41mm rather than 40mm, so it is the same size as the BR-05 GMT released in 2021, and smaller than the 42mm case of the BR-05 Chronograph. The basic case shape and visual elements remains the same, which is a good thing as the BR-05 series are very handsome watches. And the case holds some secrets that more than meets the eye, which we discuss in more detail in the paragraphs that follow.
In the BR-X5, Bell & Ross now adds a a power reserve showing the impressive 3 day autonomy in the sub-dial at 9 o’clock with red accents. The date aperture at 3 o’clock is enlarged to show the current date as well as one day before and one day after. Some like this style of display because it gives a sense of the movement of time while Bell & Ross literature says this is to mimic the analog flight instruments that maison takes inspiration from. But we think this is done mainly to add visual weight on the right side of the dial to balance out the power reserve sub-dial on the left.
The case construction of the BR-X5 merits some discussion. It is made with a steel core, machined from the same block of metal as the watch’s crown guard. This design makes for a very strong protection on the vulnerable crown. Flanking this core are two plates, one in the front where the rounded square bezel is mounted via a rubber ring, and on the back where the rear bezel is attached. This construction is kept watertight to 100m by four screws that pass through the case via four columns. This case construction is more complex to make than a monocoque construction, and a similar architecture was used in the original Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 3700, and recently revived in the new Ref. 5811 (full hands on review coming soon). The famous Ref. 5711 featured a monocoque case.
This complex case construction is not immediately evident, but carries with it details which showcase the sophistication in the design. The top and bottom plates creates a deep groove running along the case side, giving it a sleeker look.
The other dial elements remain largely unchanged. In place to the Arabic numerals used for 3/9/12 in the original BR-05, the BR-X5 uses a sleeker rounded bar style markers for the hour indices first seen in the BR-05 Horolum model released in 2021. This design makes the dial less cluttered than it would have been and make way for the new dial elements. The chunky hands for hour, minutes and the long sleek hand for seconds, however, remain. As does the wide, sloping rehaut carries the minute markings in 5 minute intervals around the periphery of the dial. Legibility remains top notch. And the signature rounded square bezel held in place by 4 screws. These screws are not decorative, but structural, and as discussed above.
A version with an ice blue dial (a picture is shown in the Specifications section below), in place of the black in our review sample is also available.
The movement – BR-CAL.323
The movement is visible from the case back, and is the BR-CAL.323, which is a Kenissi manufactured movement. This replaces the BR-CAL.321 which is based on the Sellita SW300. We have discussed Kenissi manufactured movements which are used in various other mid-priced watches in our reviews of Tudor Pelagos 39 and Norqain Neverest. In our view, the Kenissi movement is perhaps superior in construction to the Sellita. The balance is held in a bridge instead of the typical cock used for the balance. And gone is the full circular rotor used in the C.321, but in its place a skeleton regular half circular rotor is used, allowing a rather nice view into the movement.
We also feel the movement finish is better than the earlier versions. Timekeeping is kept for a full autonomy of 70 hours, and the watch runs at 28,800 bph. The 28 jewel movement uses a variable inertia balance wheel, and maintains a chronometer grade specification. The movement is COSC certified. Rapid date correction is provided at the screw down crown.
The BR X5 now comes with a 5 year warranty, exceeding the previous warranty of 2 years for other Bell & Ross timepieces. We are not certain if this will extend to other models, but suspect that Bell & Ross is able to do this because of the use of the Kenissi movement.
Overall, we think Bell & Ross has achieved what they have set out to do. Subtly, but certainly evolving the design and sophistication of the BR-05 family with a new watch. The power reserve is a useful complication, as is the 3 day power reserve. What we also like is that despite the numerous changes to the case design, construction and dial details, the DNA of the BR-05 remains unscathed. At 41mm, the watch remains very wearable, even for smaller wrists.
Retail pricing has increased somewhat, from the mid SGD 7k to now topping off at the ten grand (SGD) mark. But in our view, the new design, construction makes up for it. Of course, the final arbiter is you. We encourage you to drop by your local Authorised Bell & Ross dealer or boutique and experience the watch for yourself. And then, please share with us what you think of the new BR-X5.
The BR-X5 was photographed in our studio with our usual gear – the Fujifilm GFX 50 S II using the Hasselblad HC 4/120 Macro and HC 2.8 /80 with H26 extension tube. Profoto strobes. Images without the Deployant watermark is courtesy of Bell & Ross.
Bell & Ross BR-X5 Specifications
References: BR‐X5R‐BL‐ST/SRB BR‐X5R‐BL‐ST/SST for the black dial version in rubber strap and SS bracelet
and BR‐X5R‐IB‐ST/SRB BR‐X5R‐IB‐ST/SST for the ice blue version in rubber strap and SS bracelet. (no hands-on with this model)
Movement: BR-CAL.323. Manufacture. Automatic mechanical. Approximate power reserve of 72 hours.
Functions: hours, minutes and seconds. Date window at 3 o’clock and power reserve indicator at 9 o’clock.
Case: 41 mm in width. 12.80 mm thick. Satin- finished and polished steel. Screw-down crown. Crown guard. Sapphire case-back with oscillating weight.
Dial: sunray black / sunray ice blue. Applique indices filled with Super-LumiNova®. Metal skeletonised Super- LumiNova®-filled hour and minute hands. Black flange with 60-minute scale with white marking.
Crystal: sapphire with anti-reflective coating.
Water‐resistance: 100 metres.
Strap: openworked black rubber. or satin- finished and polished steel.
Buckle: folding. Satin-finished and polished steel.