[Hands-On] The Bell & Ross BR05 Skeleton Golden

We’re not yet at the stage that the BR05 is seen as THE Bell & Ross—there’s still a long way to go before it could dethrone the classic square silhouette of the BR01 and BR03 models—but it feels like it has grown up enough to be seen as not just another brand jumping on the integrated bracelet sport watch bandwagon. It’s not even four years since the first of the BR05 variants were unveiled, and during that time we have seen three-handers, chronographs and GMTs. Stainless steel watches have seen bead-blasting and ‘Artline’ finishing. There have been rose gold and two-tone cases. Dials have come in black, white, copper, green, and blue. And lets not forget the Kenissi powered BR-X5 which has also evolved from the same case.

As I browse the BR05 catalogue, both past and present, I’m struck by two thoughts. Firstly, there have been a LOT of different watches in this line. It’s not surprising that a brand should choose to repeat and rework a flagship model, but even allowing for quite a number of limited editions, that’s still a lot of releases since the original 2019 debut. This leads to my second thought. Despite always being impressed with the overall aesthetic, case design and finishing, why haven’t I found one that I really like? Finding my own answer to that has required me to attempt to classify what type of watch the BR05 actually is.


[Hands-On] The Bell & Ross BR05 Skeleton Golden

Stainless Stee
BR-CAL.322 (Base SW300-1)
Super LumiNova
Tinted Sapphire
Integrated Steel Bracelet/Rubber
Water Resistance
Lug Width
Screw Down

To me, the BR05 straddles several boundaries. It’s as sporty as any integrated bracelet luxury watch tends to be, yet it’s not at all tool-ish. The ceramic black, inelegant cases of the BR03 aptly demonstrate where the BR05 is lacking in this regard. Despite claims of sportiness, with crisp polished bevels and a fairly high price tag, you probably wouldn’t choose to wear such a watch for active or rugged adventures. Conversely, the BR05 is arguably pretty, and when fitted with the integrated bracelet, rather flashy too. Not pretty enough to be at home paired with a suit and tie though. I find the watch still too bulky, and the expanse of metal too large for that. I’m left to conclude that the Bell & Ross BR05 is a fun, casual watch. Not delicate. Not tough. Not graceful. Not utilitarian.

With that nailed down, if I was to own a BR05 I would want a fun one. The new Skeleton Golden is probably that. This model isn’t to be confused with the Skeleton Gold – a limited run of 99 pieces in 18k rose gold and with a $36,000 price tag. The watch I’m looking at still has a skeletonized dial and hints of gold, but reigns in the extravagance to more acceptable levels. In fact, the only part that is ‘golden’ is the tinted transparent dial. The movement we are treated to a tease of is the automatic BR-CAL.322, which is rhodium plated and skeletonized in such a way as to reveal a lot, but also not much at the same time. Behind the lower half of the dial sits the mainspring, while in the upper half the balance wheel oscillates. The bridge work obscures much of the rest of the movement, as does the golden tinting. The lumed indices extend from the chapter ring while the Bell & Ross branding, applied to the same surface, appears to float above the mechanism.

As with other models in the BR05 line, the 40mm case is extremely well finished with a combination of vertically brushed flat surfaces and polished angles. The rounded corners continue through to the crown guards and the first central link from the lugs. Although this particular watch comes fitted with a brown rubber strap rather than the optional integrated bracelet, the first central link remains present, which helps to soften the transition from case to strap. The exhibition case back reveals that the movement itself is not gold, or gold-plated, and like the front is partially obscured from view – in this case by the nicely styled 360 degree rotor.

My own preference advocates wearing a watch on its original bracelet where one is available, and this is doubly true of a watch which is styled with an integrated option in mind. Coinciding with this, each time I have tried on a Bell & Ross BR05 it has been on the bracelet. I can’t complain about its construction. The bracelet finishing is of very good quality, but has never felt as comfortable on my wrist as I would hope. This is my first time wearing the BR05 on a rubber strap and it is a completely different experience. The reduction in weight is an immediate positive. Having this more pliable strap option helps the watch to sit in one place and also sit closer to the wrist. The BR05 is only 10.3mm thick, but it feels slimmer on the rubber than it has done on the bracelet. That’s all personal preference of course, and the Skeleton Golden is also available with a stainless steel bracelet instead.

The combination of comfort, quality and slight quirkiness make this a watch that works for me on many levels. The Skeleton Golden finally feels like the watch that the BR05 should be. At $6,600, for what I started out describing as a “fun, casual watch”, there are a lots of other watches that can stack up pretty well against this Bell & Ross. It would be a hard task to convince someone that it represents great value. But at the end of the day, it isn’t all about value. It’s about enjoyment too. And I have very much enjoyed my time with this one. Bell & Ross.

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Brad stumbled into the watch world in 2011 and has been falling down the rabbit hole ever since. Based in London, Brad's interests lie in anything that ticks, sweeps or hums and is slightly off the beaten track.