Inspired by the world of aviation, Bell & Ross has a history of creating quality timepieces with the reliability of aerial navigation instruments and an upscale tool watch aesthetic. The BR 05 line was introduced in 2019 and softened their iconic “circle within a square” design into a more modern and sophisticated profile for a sports watch with a more luxury look and feel. With the new BR-X5 collection in two distinctive models, they have pushed the silhouette to another level of chic modernity. The timepieces check all the boxes for Bell & Ross’ stated four fundamental principles of legibility, functionality, reliability and precision.
The case of the BR-X5 has several interesting changes from the BR 05 designs. The side has been hollowed out for a multi-layer look consistent with the sandwich type construction for incredible visual complexity and weight optimization. The size is 41mm, comparable to the BR 05 GMT for a substantial fit on the wrist. The case design starts with a steel core machined from a single piece of metal along with the crown guards to build a strong base for the rest of the layering. A square bezel with a rubber ring detail and caseback complete the novel approach to the design while maintaining the recognizable Bell & Ross design aesthetic. The case assembly is held together with four screws that pass through the layers via four columns and create a finished product that is watertight to 100 meters with a variety of polished, satin-brushed and micro-blasted finishes that effectively highlight the various layers and surfaces.
Under the hood lies the caliber BR-CAL.323 that was developed with their partner, the Geneva-based watch movement manufacture Kenissi. The two are connected through another significant partner, Chanel, who holds a minority stake in Bell & Ross and Kenissi. Using a variable inertia balance wheel and rapid date correction device — a mechanism that allows quick date adjustments without affecting the timekeeping — the BR-CAL.323 is a powerhouse of a movement in line with Bell & Ross’ high standards for quality. Most notable is the improved 72-hour power reserve and the entrancing view of the skeletonized oscillating weight through the sapphire exhibition caseback. “While aesthetic daring was the guiding principle throughout the creative stages of the BR-X5, when it came to timekeeping reliability and precision, the notion of risk was banished from our vocabulary,” explains Bruno Belamich, Bell & Ross creative director.
The most notable differences from previous models can be seen when we turn our attention to the dial of the BR-X5. The style can best be described as urban adventure available in a sporty black and red colorway or a truly arresting ice blue with an unexpected elegance. The dial continues the theme of layering with a varnish process that includes a rhodium plated finishing and a sunray texture. The timekeeping is pared back to simple baton indexes, filled with Super-LumiNova for enhanced legibility in low-light conditions. The 12 o’clock position is indicated with a double baton for orientation. The central hands are worked to match the indexes for a harmonious appeal. A beveled minute track circles the dial for added depth. Near the three o’clock position is a date window that recalls the look and feel of analog flight instruments. It shows three dates on the wheel with an arrow indicating the current day. Balanced opposite at nine o’clock is a power reserve display with a three-day meter gauge.
The design of the Bell & Ross BR-X5 leans into the avant-garde. It feels like an intricate puzzle pieced together with perfect precision and transformed into a timepiece. The black variation is masculine and sporty, serving its place in the realm of the expected. The ice blue, however, steps outside the box of sports watches for a design that can traverse the realms of business, sports and evenings out. The brand said of the design: “We are playing with different levels of sophistications and size. The BR-X5 is the ultimate version of the 05 collection. With its Kenissi manufactured movement, its new functions and new design features, we created an evolved version of the BR 05.”
The BR-X5 is paired with a matching steel bracelet for an integrated finish, or a sporty openworked black or ice blue rubber strap. It’s also interesting to note that along with the COSC certification, Bell & Ross has extended their usual two-year warranty to a five-year warranty on this timepiece.