The genre is the luxury sports watch, chronograph edition. Its latest entrant – the Bell & Ross BR 05 Chronograph. This most recent addition is an extension of the BR 05 family, which began life in 2019 as an automatic watch with many options. We got a detailed hands-on session with the new BR 05 Chronograph, and here is our detailed review.
Bell & Ross BR 05 Chronograph
The new BR 05 Chronograph is available currently only in a steel case, with the option of either a rubber strap retailing at SGD 8700/ USD 5900/ CHF 5600/ Euros 5400 and with a steel bracelet for SGD 9500/ USD 6400/ CHF 6200/ Euros 5900. Two dial options are offered at launch – in navy blue and jet black.
The case, dial and hands
The case shape remains to be the shape that Bell & Ross signature round in a circle shape, but redefined to be more sporty in the BR 05 collection. Further touches are made to the launch edition’s BR 05 Automatic case to accommodate the chronograph function. But remaining is the brushed bezel with high polished, chamfered sides, though enlarged. Also remainding are the 4 signature screws which are aligned to point to the center of the dial. Also the integrated bracelet which extends from the case middle to form the first of the links.
The bracelet remains the same design, with interleaving brushed steel plates joined by polished links. The bracelet is rather pliable, and the BR 05 Chronograph is also available with a rubber strap.
The dial is available in either a navy blue or jet black is laid out in a rather standard bi-compax style. The hour markers are large, making them very legible and are stick shaped, with the exception of 12 and 6 which are done up as arabic numerals. A minute track is laid between these hour markers, with the rehaut marked in 5 minute intervals around the dial.
Two snailed counters for the chronograph minute totalizer and the small seconds are designed to be somewhat mid-way between the round and square, a reference to the 1970s styling, are very clear and legible. The large hands, which are infilled with Superluminova helps.
The new BR 05 chronograph belongs to the family of watches with an integrated bracelet, featuring the same design where the case and bracelet are fused into one cohesive piece.
“The case and bracelet form one unit. This type of design harks back to a category of watches which appeared in the 1970s and when infused with Bell & Ross’ signature identity, the resulting graphic style is both striking and modern.”
explains Bruno Belamich, the brand’s Creative Director.
The angle of the attachment to the bracelet is designed in such a way that it naturally follow the contours of the wrist, ensuring a secure and comfortable fit. This feature, which we saw in the original automatic BR 05 is carried over the BR 05 Chrono.
The movement BR-CAL.301
The movement beating in the new BR 05 Chronograph is no stranger to the Bell & Ross family. The BR-CAL.301 is used in many of the BR chronographs, in a wide variety of applications ranging from the BR V2-94 to the BR 03-94 RS17. The movement is based on the ETA 2894-2 with a module chronograph. The module features a column wheel system as the heart of the chronograph.
The activation of the chronograph, though requiring a firm push, is smooth, crisp, and the force needed to start, stop and reset are quite similar. There is a small jump of the seconds hand as the chronograph starts, but this is not unusual, especially in chronographs equipped with a horizontal clutch.
The movement is visible from the caseback, but the finishing is nothing to write home about, being firmly aimed at the good engineering level instead of the haute horlogerie, high decoration level, as the BR 05 Chronograph’s rather modest pricing might suggest.
The usual suspects for the luxury steel chronograph genre which we discussed in our Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chronograph (S$ 26,500 ) review’s landscape section is applicable, but they are far high up in the price echelon to make a reasonable comparison.
In that august list, the Bell & Ross will appear to be the least expensive option as it retails for only S$ 9,500. One might argue that Bell & Ross might not be eligible for comparison to the haute horlogerie landscape described there, but other than perhaps the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona (S$ 17,640) and various Grand Seiko Chronograph models, both also considerably more expensive options, there is likely none that compete at the level of the BR 05 Chrono, and thus it stands to be the victor in any such comparison.
But in our minds, perhaps the nearest competitor is the rather formidable Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch the most basic Moonwatch being at S$ 8,550. Of course the BR 05 cannot match the legacy of the Moonwatch and its historical importance in man’s quest to land on the moon. Nor can it match the in-house manufactured movement, the Omega 1863. But what Bell & Ross is an alternative, and one which is particularly appealing because the case is not round, but a square, yet not fully a square as it features a porthole into the dial which is round.
Let’s make no mistake on what the Bell & Ross BR 05 Chrono is. It is not masquerading as a haute horlogerie masterpiece, nor does it make any promises of value retention. But what it promises is rather interesting and equally valid. Here is a handsome watch, well designed, excellent functionality, and very robust, that we can easily see it pressed into daily use by an active urbanite. Throw just about anything that live brings onto it, and short of extreme sports or activities, the BR 05 Chrono is up to the task. And we think the watch fits nicely and comfortably, while retaining the usual good looks that the designers at Bell & Ross have a gift for.
The BR 05 makes a fine statement, as its square profile is distinctive and rather attractive. The chronograph definitely adds functionality to the watch. It fits nicely on the Chief Editor’s wrist, and is very comfortable. We will be receiving a loan sample to use in our daily work and play, and will be back to report on the usability and its life at large soon.
Full details on Bell & Ross website: