Bell & Ross goes traveling with its BR05 with the new GMT model, adding to their sporty collection a dual timezone watch. We got a sneak peek…well more than a peek, we had the carnet watch for the weekend to test it out. Here is the comprehensive review, with live photographs.
The BR05 collection has become an icon in the Bell & Ross lineup. It builds on the strong design aesthetics of a rounded square very successfully, and turned this into a recognizable accessory rounding up the entry level to the luxury sports genre.
The series began with the Automatic released in 2019, and have gained in stature with the Chronograph in 2020, and this year, the GMT. Each of the models have variants – in skeletonized dials, in precious metals and two tone.
Bell & Ross BR05 GMT
The BR 05 in stainless steel bracelet retails for SGD 7,500 inclusive of GST / EEUR 4,500 / USD 5,400 , and in rubber strap for SGD 6,700 / EUR 4,990 / USD 6,700.
The case, dial and hands
The case is the now familiar circle in a square basic design first appearing in the BR03 line. The case design is extended into integrated lugs and further developed to fuse seamlessly with the bracelet. Case diameter remains the same as the base Automatic model at 40mm square. The attractive angular design, with rounded edges are unchanged. The contrasting finishing of the polished chamfers and straight grained satin flat surfaces continues. The sculptured steel structures which act as crown guards are screwed on the case side. The design remain as attractive and fresh as it did when it was first revealed.
The bracelet integrates seamlessly to the watch head, and continues the contrasting finishing schema. As we opined in our review of the launch watch, the bracelet itself is a work of art. Aesthetically, it is one with the watch head and beautiful – with the same alternating satin finished and polished surfaces. On the wrist, it is remarkably flexible and comfortable. We were reliably told by the BR team that this is perhaps the most complicated part of the watch. Particular attention has been paid to the arc of the curve, allowing all the components to be perfectly aligned and ensuring the bracelet can adapt seamlessly to any wrist. Running one’s fingers from the case to the bracelet is a nice sensation.
The dial of the BR05 GMT is a very deep, dark black with a very subtle sunray finish, not really visible in the photographs. The numerals are the classical BR05 ones, and are large. These are appliqué with SuperLuminova infilling. The 12, 9 and 6 hour markers are large Arabic numerals, while the other hours are marked with bars with rounded ends. At 3 o’clock, in place of the hour marker, a framed date display is shown. The hour and minute hands are the same large, chunky style with lume infilling. The seconds is mounted centrally and coaxially with the other hands, and is a slim needle with a lozenge counter balance. The GMT or second timezone hand is also a slim hand with a large triangle at the end to serve as the marker. This is red tipped, with lume infilling, and points to the 24 hour indicator in the edge of the dial, where the sloped rehaut is marked for 24 hours in day and night.
Even in poor light, or complete darkness, the lume shines bright, and it is easy to read the local time and home/GMT time on the dial.
The colour palatte echoes those used on-board flight instruments – dominated by black to minimize reflections, and white to provide good contrast for optimal legibiity. And red for accents. The entire display is clean, clear, and very legible. Overall, the impression on the wrist, remember we wore it for the weekend, is very positive. The watch “hangs” nicely on the wrist, with some heft, but never feeling heavy. And the bracelet wraps around very comfortably.
The movement: BR-CAL.325
The movement is visible through the round sapphire porthole in the case back. The back bezel is secured via 4 polished screws, and it finished in a straight graining. The movement used is the BR-CAL.325, and features a full 360° oscillating weight as the automatic winding rotor. This movement looks very similar to the BR-CAL.303 used in the BR03-93 GMT which an automatic movement derived from the ETA 2893-2 with a GMT hand. The same signature full circle rotor is visible. And through it, the movement.
Hoewver, the BR-CAL.325 is a new caliber, but uses the basic construction for the second time zone as the BR-CAL.303. The main difference is the base movement and elaboration level on the movements. The base is now a higher spec Sellita SW330-1. The ETA caliber used in the BR-CAL.303 is from the Elaborate range with a brass balance wheel, while the Sellita level chosen by BR for the new movement is equipped with a Glucydur balance wheel. Movement finishing is also specked higher with rodium plated plates and bridges and finer brushing. Beat rate is 28,800 bps, 42 hour power reserve remain unchanged, but it is more stable to position and temperature as it is now regulated to +/-10s a day in 5 positions.
The competitive landscape
The genre we are focusing on is the luxury sports watch with integrated bracelet with a GMT or Dual timezone display.
Starting first with the kings of the genre. Patek Philippe has the Nautilus Ref. 5990, which features a second timezone display, but adds a chronograph to the watch. Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Dual Time is another consideration, as is the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time. Then we have the Rolex GMT Master II. All masterpieces in their own right, but all targetted at a considerably higher price point than the sub 7.5 grand (SGD) that Bell & Ross is asking for the BR05 GMT.
At the pricing level that Bell & Ross is competing at, we find the old stalwart with the Tudor Black Bay GMT being the key proponent. But among the new entrants to the genre, Bell & Ross may be the first GMT/Dual Timezone watch to the post. Chopard does not offer a GMT on its Alpine Eagle line, nor does Moser in its Streamliner. Even Piaget has no GMT model in the Polo lineup.
There is no denying. The BR05 GMT is a handsome watch. To us, the aesthetics are unquestioned. Unless you really dislike squares, the BR05 GMT hits the spot. The finishing and craftsmanship is well on point, especially considering the modest pricing it is targeted at. And that in itself is an advantage. When traveling, one does not want to attract attention with the recognizable Rolex on the wrist. And one would be heart broken if one scratches the Nautilus, or Royal Oak during the hectic moments as one travels. The BR05 GMT is thus perfect. Stylish, but does not attract the attention of the shady types. And hardy to be able to take the rigors of travel, as well as modestly priced enough not to need handling with kid gloves. Nice balance for a travel watch. We think.
Functionally, the GMT feature adds a lot of convenience to the watch, especially in the context of travel and crossing timezones. Adventures, which sadly, many of us are missing big time, given the travel restrictions imposed by most countries due to the pandemic. But we look in hope of borders opening with no restrictions in the near future, and then, being equipped with a travel watch like the BR05 GMT will be a blessing. In the meantime, the second timezone also serves well as a conference call watch – if one Zooms with colleagues around the world.
Movement: calibre BR-CAL.325. Automatic mechanical. Crystal: sapphire with anti-reflective coating.
Functions: hours, minutes, central seconds, second 24-hour time zone and date. Quick setting of the GMT hand, independently of the hour hand.
Water-resistance: 100 metres.
Case: 41 mm in width. Satin-finished and polished steel. White and black two-colour flange, with 24-hour scale. Screw-down crown. Crown guard. Sapphire case-back with 360° oscillating weight.
Strap: black rubber or satin-finished and polished steel.
Dial: black sunray. Numerals and indices coated in white Super-LumiNova®. Metal skeletonised Super-LumiNova®-filled hour and minute hands.
Buckle: folding. Satin-finished and polished steel.
We had the BR05 GMT for a long weekend, and photographed it in our studio. Hasselblad 907X 50C with HC 4/120 and HC 2.8/80 with H26 Extension tube attached via the XH Adapter. Profoto strobes.