It’s been a bit over a year since Bell & Ross released their BR05 collection of watches, which we reviewed in detail right here. The BR05 offered the brand’s take on a square steel sport watch with integrated bracelet, joining others from the likes of Frederique Constant to Chopard. It seems Gerald Genta was on to something when he designed the Royal Oak and Nautilus in the ‘70s. The continued success of those two references (15202 and 5711, respectively) has sent other brands scrambling to produce their own variations of the formula. Of course, simply being a steel sports watch with an integrated bracelet is not a surefire recipe for success. How does it work for Bell & Ross? Well, that all depends on your expectations.
Let’s first acknowledge that the modern boom we’ve seen with the AP and Patek are due in part to the hype generated by their limited supply, inflated resale value, and the prestige of having Audemars Piguet or Patek Philippe written on their dials. None of those things a great watch makes. What does make them great is their attention to detail. They are both sized perfectly, measure around 8mm in thickness, have beautifully textured dials, and boast exquisitely crafted bracelets, the sum of which make for a very comfortable, very subtle sports watch. Let’s be honest, though, they aren’t without fault and I’d argue neither are worth 2-3x their retail price. They are nice, comfortable sport watches from premier mainstream brands. Nothing more, nothing less.
I say this to address the inevitable comparison between watches like the Bell & Ross BR05, and the AP and Patek. If you’re expecting a Bell & Ross to fill the same shoes, you’re about to have a bad time.
The Bell & Ross BR05 Chrono may house a few derivative details, such as the design of the bracelet or the hand set, but in execution this is comfortably Bell & Ross. The large square case hosts broad, flat surfaces at its edges sporting a horizontal brushing and a “screw” head at each corner. It’s not entirely unlike other square watches we’ve seen from Bell & Ross’ instrument collection, there’s just more real estate with the BR05. The mid section of the case breaks into a second tier with brushed and polished surfaces flowing into the bracelet and guarding the crown and pushers.
This is a visually hefty watch, it looks industrial and menacing thanks to the square case, exposed screws and integrated bracelet. On paper, things settle down a bit. The case measures 42mm in diameter, and a touch under 14mm in thickness. No spring flower but manageable. In practice, these numbers are difficult to contextualize thanks to the shape of the case. The 42mm measurement is from 9 to 3 o’clock, but the case isn’t a circle so its widest point is point to point. Still, with no lugs the watch will fit safely within the confines of most wrists.
The circular dial nests within the square case and represents the most “normal” portion of the watch. Its opening is 40mm and it houses a pair of squared off registers at 3 and 9 o’clock reading off the running seconds and the minute totalizer. Oversized Arabic numerals appear only at the 6 and 12 o’clock positions, with batons filling in the remaining slots. A circular date aperture is hidden away at 4:30 with a dial matched date wheel with white printing. Overall it’s a handsome dial with no legibility issues.
The BR05 Chrono utilizes the BR-CAL.301 movement, which is based on the ETA 2894-2, a modular chronograph with 42 hours of reserve. The rotor is visible through the caseback and features an intricate design obscuring much of the movement underneath. It’s reminiscent of the spokes of a wheel you’d find on an exotic car and brings a welcome portion of personality to the watch as a whole.
On the wrist, the BR05 has plenty of presence. It won’t be slipping under any tailored cuff without a fight, but if you’re not the dress-up type you shouldn’t run into many issues here, assuming you enjoy wearing watches north of 40mm. If you like the look but want something more traditional you’ll want to look for something like the BR V2-94, which uses the same movement in a round (Daytona-esque) case with screw-down pushers.
In addition to the black dial pictured here, the BR05 Chrono is also offered with a rich blue sunburst dial. What’s more, it can be had on a rubber strap as well which may help if you’re on the edge of wearability. On the bracelet, the BR05 Chrono is retail priced at $6,400. On a rubber strap it’ll run you $5,900. It’s not cheap by any stretch, but there’s some impressive engineering at work here and it establishes a new branch of the Bell & Ross instrument collection.
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