When Bell & Ross announced the BR 05, those of us who had been to BaselWorld 2019 were eagerly awaiting the public’s response. I remember mine when I first saw the teaser reel that was played at the meeting, a reel we had to swear a blood oath (not really) we would not discuss afterward. I thought “wow, they really went for it.” “It” being a clear, unapologetic design inspired by Genta and his iconic luxury sports watches. Icons so exalted in status that to approach their forms with your own design is to dance with fate. Icarus comes to mind. So, on the launch, I was curious to see if they would have a success or a disaster on their hands.
The reaction was – both. Royal Oak and Nautilus diehards and snobs were opposed, decrying it as a mere homage. Those whose pockets or AD relationships don’t run deep enough to get said watches, however, saw it as an opportunity to enjoy a coveted aesthetic, still from a brand they know, trust and respect. And more still just didn’t really care either way. The end result? Well, nothing really. It blew over, and now Bell & Ross is the proud manufacturer of a line of steel luxury sports watches with integrated bracelets that can be bought at your local big watch shop. A line of watches, that to be frank, seems to fit in very well with their existing lines of watches as well as their position in the market. And in fairness to Bell & Ross, while this model is new, and they weren’t around in the 70’s, they’ve sort of toyed with the format in their “Type Marine” watches from the 90s, though those had a distinctly more tactical, German vibe to them.
So, why am I writing about this on Worn & Wound? Bell & Ross is a brand whose designs, particularly those in round-cases, I find very appealing. Seeing them in person, they are always finished to a remarkable degree that gives them that sort of “X-factor” of luxury. Perhaps my favorite example of this is the BR V1, which I equate to being the Swiss luxury version of a Sinn 556 (and not just because of the relationship between the two brands early on). It’s small, nimble, great on the wrist and finished to the nines, but an understated tool watch as well. Which is also a perfect comparison to illustrate the biggest issue with Bell & Ross. At nearly $1,000 dollars more than the Sinn (and quickly going up from there depending on version), they aren’t a brand that puts value first. In fact, many of their watches simply aren’t a good value, at least priced as new. And value is something we take pretty seriously at Worn & Wound.
While the BR 05 falls into the category of dubious value given its specs at $4,900, it also brings an aesthetic that is exclusive by nature into more obtainable terrain. And while not equatable with value, I do believe that accessibility is, at least, a partner of value, and also very important to us here at Worn & Wound. Plus, and let’s not dance around it, the BR 05 is a pretty sexy watch. It mixes Genta DNA with a vocabulary of forms and typography that are distinct to Bell & Ross as well. And while I’ve never lusted after 15202s or 5711s (more the latter than the former, tbh), or really integrated bracelet watches, I do appreciate good finishing, and if nothing else, this style of watch is a vehicle for a brand to flaunt their abilities.
So, let’s set aside the controversy for now and take this semi-radical departure for Bell & Ross at face – and bracelet – value. I can say from the get-go that price aside, the BR 05 has taken me by surprise, and perhaps converted me into an integrated sports watch kind-of-guy.