For 2015, Bell & Ross has updated the BR 01 collection with the BR-X1 (hands-on here) which takes the classic square-shaped cockpit instrument-inspired Bell & Ross watch design and renders it in its most modern look ever. aBlogtoWatch staff members were surprisingly satisfied with the Bell & Ross BR-X1 despite the watches being on the pricier side of what we’ve come to expect from the brand. So, in the spirit of very high-end Bell & Ross watches, here is the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon – which comes in four limited editions all costing well over $100,000.
Bell & Ross is no stranger to the tourbillon, having created a few such models over the years, starting with some interesting movements developed for them by movement specialists in Switzerland. You’ll see the base movement in the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon sitting in other watches produced in the luxury watch industry – and to be honest, among them, the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon is not wildly priced (comparatively speaking, that is). Bell & Ross hasn’t quite had the thunder it did a few years ago, but we still believe they make some very compelling products. So why a new tourbillon, and why now?
When meeting with Bell & Ross, you get the idea that things are changing. People might be moving internally, and overall, there is the sense that top-level management has decided to shake things up… so maybe some people are nervous (I don’t really know). What I can, however, predict is that the customer is going to win. Either there will be better marketing and a more concentrated product collection, or a total business revamping of the brand with new people and new ideas. So maybe these Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillons are the last hurrah of the “old” way at Bell & Ross. Maybe these are the pinnacle of what the BR 01 collection has come to. They even come – for what I believe is the first time… with diamonds. Yes, folks, that is right. The cockpit instrument panels of the future will ALL be lined with diamonds. So many bright things to look forward to.
It really does feel like a farewell party for the BR 01 on its 10th anniversary. I suppose, there are so many out there that Bell & Ross could take a break from making them for a while, wait for demand to catch up, and then bring them back by “popular demand.” Thanks, Corum Bubble! It is true what people say. Everyone does love a good comeback, and if anyone knows that better than the watch industry, I would like to meet them. Brands today are looking at what happens in the vintage market to, perhaps, end product collections, only to plan on bringing them back in the future. The vintage appeal of tomorrow might be much more calculated that the appeal of many vintage watches today.
Again, take all of this with a grain of salt. I have no idea what Bell & Ross is planning on doing. I’m just having a conversation with myself over what they might do to combat what some have said is a bit of brand stagnation. I mean, these are smart people running a major business; if things aren’t going right, they move the direction of the ship a bit.
Going back to the Bell & Ross BR-X1 case, it is the same 45mm-wide size of the BR 01 but with a wildly different design which looks like a watch version of a Transformer. This is like Hublot DNA got into Bell & Ross and had fun. And that isn’t a bad thing. This is a great look for Bell & Ross, and helps show that it can be done with a square watch case design. That really isn’t easy.
One thing that’s particularly neat about the X1 series watches, however, is that no matter how eccentric each design gets, it still conveys Bell & Ross’ core layout language; that square 45mm instance, screwed together at each of the four corners. Although this DNA does carry through to the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire, were it not for its instance signatures, this one may be mistaken for something other than a Bell & Ross watch, because the key timekeeping cues (the hour and second hands) were shrunken to the upper 12:00 region of the dial. While this will give plenty of opportunity to enjoy the flying tourbillon’s motion against all the clear, negative space from the sapphire, it does detract somewhat from overall utility and legibility as compared with all the new pilot and tool watches — something that other Experimental offerings possess maintained.The steely gray lines of their 3Hz manually-wound BR-CAL.288 movement architecture cast a well skeletonized, industrial contrast against all the translucent elements on the watch – even the strap is translucent rubber, which should result in some intriguing wrist shots. Part of this idea, aside from the novelty itself of an entirely transparent case, is that the movement as well as the screws holding the case together are observable from about every angle. The only region of the watch that isn’t completely see-through is the large mainspring barrel itself, which provides 100 hours of power reserve, and is tucked conveniently behind the luminous hour and minute hands at 12:00, preserving some degree of legibility for timekeeping.In keeping with the more exclusive traditions of the Experimental collection, just eight portions of the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire are generated.
Of course, the case is a bit thicker, but that isn’t too big of a deal, given how tall some people like their watches to be. You have to understand that a decade ago when Bell & Ross first released the BR 01, people freaked out about the size. No, I never did, but some people were offended by the idea. What Bell & Ross didn’t realize was that it was ushering in a market for the much higher-end nice luxury sport watch industry that goes up to Richard Mille.
The coolest “functional” elements of the case design are the switch-style chronograph pushers. They work very well, but you can get them with the BR-X1 non-tourbillon models. For the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillons, Bell & Ross is only making the cases in either titanium or 18k rose gold.
On the wrist, I think they look really cool. They aren’t for everyone, but they have a great presence and are going to be very good for those who want a modern military style with a bit more grace than some of the competition that goes a bit overboard on the small details. Straps are rubber with a layer of alligator in them. It sounds weird, but wears really well.
The brand calls the movement in the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon the caliber BR-CAL.283, or just the “283.” It has a rather plain back but a great dial with a lot of decoration. Manually wound, it has 4 days of power reserve operating at 3Hz (21,600 bph). Functions include the time with subsidiary seconds dial via the tourbillon, 30-minute monopusher chronograph that only uses the subdials (sorta cool), and a power reserve indicator. Overall, it is a decent movement that is nice to look at through the skeletonized dial. It also has a welcome small degree of originality in the layout of the dials and hands.
If you are interested in those diamond versions I mentioned earlier, then you have them available both in the titanium and 18k rose gold versions of the watch. Each adds 46 large baguette-cut stones around the bezel. Yes, it looks weird, but it also looks like something a cool Bond villain might wear.
I even like that the case is water resistant to 100 meters. So many of these so called “sport” watches have crap water resistance even though they look like space ships. Is it so much to ask for durability in high-end sport watches? I mean $100,00 and you can’t wash your hands with it? What’s the point? They don’t have, say, decorative pickup trucks. All the luxury ones have at least some off-road cred. Why can’t the luxury industry do that with expensive sport watches?
Bell & Ross will only produce 80 total pieces of the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon. That is 20 pieces in each of the four versions (titanium or rose gold, and with or without diamonds). Prices for these soon-to-be-very-rare models are: Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Titanium: $163,000; Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Titanium Diamond: $213,000; Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Rose Gold: $188,000; Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Rose Gold Diamond: $238,000. bellross.com