Bell & Ross has perhaps an original presence in modern watchmaking. The brand offers a little bit of something, respecting its own style and signature, in various domains like aeronautics, diving and motorsports. By way of example, we offer the BR03-92 NIGHTLUM, the BR03-94 Horolum and the BR03-92 Horoblack or by the limited series of the Vintage BR Racing Bird. This year’s diving section is represented by the BR 03-92 Diver Blue and Bronze. Three good looking timepieces to celebrate the reinforced partnership with the Renault Sport Formula One™ Team: BR-X1 Tourbillon Chronograph R.S.18; BR-X1 Chronograph R.S.18 and BR03-94 R.S.18. Today, Bell & Ross release a new piece “outside the box”, the Bell & Ross BR 01 Laughing Skull. We had the pleasure to have the new timepiece directly presented by Carlos A. Rosillo, co-founder and CEO at Bell & Ross.
Review: Bell & Ross BR 01 Laughing Skull
The Bell & Ross Skull Collection is a relevant part of the brands DNA. Launched in 2009, the first Skull – the BR 01 was a success. Two years later, Bell & Ross released another two models of the Skull. One of the pieces was a step further and, as the name uncover, the BR 01 Tourbillon Skull contains one of the most desired horological complication, a tourbillon. In 2016, a third series was released in a bronze case. The BR 01 Burning Skull concept was adorned with black lacquer – as a reminder of the tattoed skulls and the black ink used by tattoo artists. And now the BR 01 Laughing Skull.
We had the chance to have a close look at the BR 01 Laughing Skull and we must recognize that we like the watch. A lot!
The case, dial and hands
The Bell & Ross BR 01 Laughing Skull comes in 46mm brand’s signature square case made from micro-blasted steel. The satin surface is pleasant to touch and has a good appearance in any light.
There are three versions of the Laughing Skull. A case decorated with a “Clous de Paris” pattern, a variant with diamond skull bezel of 1,032ct and a full covered diamonds face of 2,891ct. All three versions are interesting but we must admit that the guilloché version has a certain je ne sais quoi. The rough feeling of the pattern, the raised edges of the skull bezel contour bring a good note to the entire watch.
The steel crown offers an excellent grip. Is decorated in the same micro-blasting technique as the rest of the case. The embossed logo fits, maybe better as never before, the timepiece’s theme.
The case-back is fitted with a skull-shaped crystal. The skeletonization of the dial and movement permit an interesting view.
Perhaps unusual for a watch for the fashionable, the watch is the water resistance of 100m, rarely met in this type of watch. The specification is closer to the professional tool watches and, at the end closer to the watch initial idea – a dedication for those facing death for the sake of good.
The most interesting aspect of the Bell & Ross BR 01 Laughing Skull is the automaton: the mandible moves as the watch is being wound and the skull is brought to life, laughing in the face of death. The timepiece pays a tribute to all the professionals who face death in the line of duty. The winding of the hand wound movement becomes suddenly a more enjoyable time spent with your watch. It laughs back at you, urging you to enjoy every moment of your life. The sinister idea of a skull is lost in the interpretation of Bell & Ross.
The dial is surrounded by a stylized skull shape bezel and four crossed bones. Usually a sign of danger, the appearance is this time safe.
The skull dial is manufactured using metal appliqué technique. The embossed relief pattern is even more emphasised by the skeleton movement, making the Skull float in the centre of the watch. The bone skull plaques are well represented by nice “realistic” engraving, without being morbid. We must say that the fine line of “cute” versus “ugly” is well drawn in the positive side.
The hands are sword-shaped, skeletonised and filled with SuperLuminova for a great dramatic effect. The swords are not classical European medieval type, but more close to the daggers of the Arabic world. A nice and subtle detail that add artistic value.
The movement BR-CAL.206
The Bell & Ross BR 01 Laughing Skull is powered by the hand-wound BR-CAL.206. The in-house movement is skull-shaped. It uses four bridges placed underneath the four bones on the watch face to firmly secure the calibre in the case. The finishes are lovely and fit perfectly the theme. The black mainplate and bridges contrast well with the grey metal case. The technical solution for the gear train is cosmetically appealing.
Unfortunately, the technical numbers are missing for the manual wound calibre 206. The only hint is given by the engraving – 21 jewels. We might expect something as 4Hz and 40 hours of power reserve, but these are only speculations.
The movement is the first automata produced by Bell & Ross. It is inspired by the Jaquemart, an animated mechanized figure of a person, fitted to a church clock tower to strike the hours on a bell.
As the picture below of the movement shows, the automaton uses a separate gear train as the time display. Due to ratcheting wheel, the skull animation is available and visible only during the winding process.
The BR 01 Laughing Skull will be produced in a limited series of 500 pieces for the guilloché version and 99 pieces for each diamond model. We are sure that this piece will become collectible and it will be well received by the critics and collectors. It is to praise the nice details present, starting with the case and finishing with the movement and the dial. It is easy to make a mistake with this skull-ed theme, but Bell & Ross managed to bring a lovely design from a very serious inspiration.
BR 01 Laughing Skull Specifications and price
The Bell and Ross BR 01 Laughing will have a price tag of CHF9,900 / €8,900 / US$9900 / SG$14,900. For more information, please visit the Bell&Ross Website.
Movement: calibre BR-CAL.206. Hand-wound
Functions: Hours and minutes. Moving skull when wound by hand.
Case: 46 mm in diameter. Micro-blasted steel with “Clou de Paris” design.
Light Diamond: bezel set with 104 diamonds 1.032 ct.
Full Diamond: case and bezel set with 394 diamonds 2.891 ct.
Dial: Applique metal skull. Metal skeletonized Superluminova®-filled hour and minute hands.
Crystal: sapphire with anti-reflective coating.
Water-resistance: 100 metres.
Straps: Brown alligator and black rubber.
Buckle: pin. Micro-blasted steel.