The 2017 Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic is your reference BRX2-MRTB-ST, and is a limited edition of 99 pieces. The brand proudly proclaims that onboard aviation programs would be its guiding force, and it has been quite successful in incorporating the subject into wristwatches. Today, the square case and round dials of its BR aviation-inspired watches are immediately recognizable, and it would not be a stretch to state that the look is a modern horological and cultural legend. Nevertheless, Bell & Ross deny to be limited by stereotypes, and its hottest watches find it drawing inspiration from the open seas. And in the words of Bell & Ross themselves, they are “temporarily leaving runways, radars and fighter airplanes” and heading for the open water.The new Marine Instrument collection will be headlined by three quite special, limited-edition watches. There is the simple time-only Bell & Ross BR 01-CM Instrument De Marine, the partially skeletonized BR-X1 Device De Marine Chronograph, and finally the ultra-complicated BR-X1 Tourbillon Chronograph Instrument De Marine. All three are exceptional and very distinctive from Bell & Ross’ usual offerings, however, the one we’re interested in today is your time-only Bell & Ross BR 01-CM Instrument De Marine.
This series of three high-tech chronographs BR-X1 Tourbillon Chronograph R.S.18, BR-X1 Chronograph R.S.18, and BR03-94 R.S.18 was unveiled at Baselworld in March 2018. Inherently sporty and sophisticated, these avant-garde timepieces push mechanical engineering, technical skill, and innovative watchmaking to their limits.
The chassis as inspiration
In 2016, Bell & Ross unveiled two watches in Renault’s iconic colors, the black and yellow of the French team. The following year, the brand presented three models boasting a technically accomplished design inspired by the steering wheel of a single-seat racecar with subtle references to aircraft cockpits, the true stylistic DNA of the Paris-based watch firm. This year, it is revisiting one of the key components of a Formula 1® car: the chassis.
In Formula 1®, where top performance is the ultimate goal, the chassis must be extremely light and exceptionally rigid. Closely guarded secret, its complex architecture is carefully engineered to marry these two seemingly contradictory qualities. The case is to the watch what the chassis is to the car, and all three R.S.18 chronographs have been designed with a focus on high performance using materials with tried and tested features. The main structures into which the engine (movement) and the bodywork (dial) are fitted have all the elements of racing style.
Gerald Genta-style hands and fitting hour markers are tastefully placed on the top area of the movement bridge. These hands and hour markers are made a bit distinctive due to their size and coloration. While they are filled with Super-LumiNova luminous material, I believe that the satin-finishing of the hands blends in a bit too much with the dial in order to have perfect contrast for excellent legibility. The watch is quite legible when you look carefully at it, but as is true for many “artistic and complicated” watches, legibility stands back a bit in favour of pure aesthetic expression.Looking at the Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic case from various angles permits you to enjoy the intriguing detailing and beveled borders of this sapphire crystal case top and back. Clearly, the case is inspired by Bell & Ross’ today iconic BR01 and BR03 collection of square-cased watches. With that said, the case is actually a totally new dimensions, even though it is founded on the BR03 – which is 42mm wide. The Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic is 42.5mm broad, so that is only a small difference.There are so many methods that a design such as this could have gone wrong – but I charge Bell & Ross’ serious attention to design detail to creating something like the Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic work too as it does. I think that it needs a mix of insisting on various design elements (such as the hour track ring on the dial to greatly highlight the watch face) and restraint in not adding too much to the total situation and movement design.Best of all, using its 42.5mm-wide square case and lean profile, the Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic is a fairly comfy timepiece making it completely suitable for everyday wear. This introduction model (I have a feeling that this is a theory Bell & Ross will return to in years to come) is put on a tapered light grey alligator strap. What I think is most impressive about the overall look of this Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic is that it’s decidedly a lookout for mechanical motion lovers, but can keep a masculine sex appeal and does not look nerdy (as concepts like this often do).
The cases have been engineered from perforated microblasted titanium, lending them an understated and modern matt look. This material is well known for its lightness and rigidity.
The chronographs are activated with rocker pushers on the three R.S.18 models evoking the paddles on a Formula 1® steering wheel. These rockers, already present on BR-X1 models, have now been adapted for the BR-03.
Also featuring an anti-reflective sapphire crystal, these three chronographs are hard wearing and ensure optimum legibility in all situations. Acting as the watch’s bodywork, the three dials also contain nods to motor racing. The touches of color for all the chronograph functions show clear allegiance to the world of motor sports, racetracks and paddocks. Lastly, a black perforated rubber strap has been developed for this series of three R.S.18 chronographs, offering unrivalled comfort on the wrist thanks to its unique ergonomics and its high level of breathability.
One thing that is particularly neat about the X1 series watches, even however, is that no matter how eccentric each design gets, it still conveys Bell & Ross’ core layout language; this square 45mm instance, screwed together at each of the four corners. And though this DNA does take through to the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire, were it not for its case signatures, this one may be mistaken for something aside from a Bell & Ross watch, because the primary timekeeping cues (the hour and second hands) were shrunken into the upper 12:00 region of the dial. While this does give plenty of chance 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 instrument watches — something that other Experimental offerings possess maintained.The steely grey lines of the 3Hz manually-wound BR-CAL.288 movement structure cast a nicely skeletonized, industrial contrast against each of the translucent elements on the watch – even the strap is translucent rubber, which should make for some intriguing wrist shots. Part of the thought, aside from the novelty itself of an entirely transparent scenario, is that the motion and even the screws holding the case together are observable from about every angle. The only region of the watch which isn’t completely see-through is the massive mainspring barrel itself, that provides 100 hours of power reserve, and is tucked conveniently supporting the luminous hour and minute hands at 12:00, maintaining some level of legibility for timekeeping.In keeping with the more exclusive traditions of the Experimental collection, only eight pieces of this Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire are generated.
BR 03-94 R.S.18
BR 03-94 R.S.18 © Bell & Ross
The BR03-94 R.S.18 chronograph has all the hallmarks of a sports watch, including a dial made from carbon fiber, a material that is highly prized in the world of high-end motor racing. The combination of titanium and carbon ensures the piece is lightweight and hardwearing, robust and high performance. The gear train of the movement can be seen through the auxiliary counters for the chronograph function. Driven by a self-winding Swiss mechanical caliber, the BR03-94 R.S.18 also features a tachymeter scale on its flange, enabling the speed of a vehicle over a given distance to be calculated immediately. For the first time on a BR03 model, the chronograph pushers use a rocker design in a nod to the gear change paddles on Formula 1® cars. On the Bell & Ross BR03-94 R.S.18, they have been crafted from red anodized aluminum, another subtle tribute to the iconic color of the motor racing world.
Along with the massive sword hands, which are also coated in black Super-LumiNova, the watch takes that exceptionally legible altimeter-like look the brand is well known for… and makes it markedly less legible. We speak a great deal about legibility around here, but it looks like to dwell on it to get a piece such as this would be missing the point. It’s what it is. There’s also a date window that they appear to have positioned within one of those darker camo textures for discreet integration.Inside the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Black Camo is your BR-CAL.302 automatic movement, a variant of the Sellita SW300-1 with 38 hours of power reserve. Other characteristics include a sapphire crystal with AR coating, 100 meters of water resistance, and a stealthy, well-integrated black rubber strap which flows with the rest of the look. For a much more “tactical” look, Bell & Ross carries a synthetic fabric strap, which appears to be fastened with a hook-and-loop material (i.e., Velcro), which we’ve seen from the brand before.I’ve ever been a fan of the Bell & Ross BR 03 series watches for quite a while. While this specific version wouldn’t be my first choice (I still love the Bell & Ross BR 03-93 GMT) I think that the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Black Camo is going to be popular in certain circles, though it might be more destined to see actions from the club than on the battle. The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Black Camo will retail for a cost of $3,800. On day one of Baselworld 2017, one of the most interesting new watches I saw was the Bell & Ross BR X2 Micro-Rotor Automatic. Having a new case, motion, and provocative design, this circa $65,000 limited-edition view is a lovely testament to the reason we like sporting daring designs with conspicuous mechanical movements. Bell & Ross president Carlos Rosillo was wearing it in Baselworld’s Bell & Ross stand, enthusiastically showing it off – Mr. Rosillo becoming more excited about his new products than almost any new leader I know.
The BR 03-94 R.S.18 is a limited edition of 999 pieces.
He asks me (likely rhetorically), “what is the most important part of a wristwatch?” I’m pretty certain I know he wants me to state “the motion,” so that I really do. “Yes,” and he proceeds to explain to me how the design philosophy of the BR X2 watch is all about eliminating what seems like the separation of situation and movement, rather melding it into one visual thing. Thus, using a steel movement plate between two thick layers of closely machined sapphire crystal, there’s a transparent sapphire instance that connects directly to the motion. The result is both visually stunning and quite novel.Bell & Ross does this completely for visual scenery – and it seems to work. When I last encountered a concept similar to this, it had been from the Piaget 900P (aBlogtoWatch hands-on here) that merged the motion plate and watch instance in order to generate the thinnest mechanical watch movement on the planet. Though the Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic is actually thinner-feeling than the brand’s other square-cased “Device” watches, it isn’t about breaking size records. More importantly, it is all about looking darn cool while also being something movement nerds can reliably stand behind.Bell & Ross worked together with the Swiss movement manufacturer MHC to be able to produce the movement inside of the Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic. The movement isalso, for the most part, simple (for a tourbillon) and pleasing, supplying the time together with tourbillon as the moments index, and automatic winding by means of a micro-rotor which can be seen on the rear of the movement. Bell & Ross utilizes their currently signature ampersand logo on the cage across the variable inertia balance wheel tourbillon mechanism. The tourbillon is decidedly wide in diameter so as to offer an expansive perspective on the dial.
BR-X1 R.S.18 © Bell & Ross
Gerald Genta-style palms and fitting hour markers are tastefully placed on the upper part of the movement bridge. These hands and hour markers have been made somewhat distinctive due to their size and coloration. While they are filled with Super-LumiNova luminous material, I feel that the satin-finishing of the hands blends in a bit too much with the dial in order to have perfect contrast for outstanding legibility. The watch is rather legible when you look closely at it, however as is true for many “artistic and complex” watches, legibility stands back a little in favor of pure decorative expression.Looking at the Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic instance from various angles permits you to enjoy the interesting detailing and beveled borders of this sapphire crystal case top and rear. Clearly, the case is inspired by Bell & Ross’ now iconic BR01 and BR03 collection of square-cased watches. That said, the instance is actually a totally new size, even though it is founded on the BR03 – which is 42mm wide. The Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic is 42.5mm wide, so that’s only a slight difference.There are lots of ways that a design like this might have gone wrong – but I charge Bell & Ross’ serious attention to design detail for creating something like the Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic work as well as it will. I believe that it needs a mix of insisting on different design elements (such as the hour track ring on the dial to help highlight the eye face) and restraint rather than adding too much to the total case and movement design.Best of all, using its 42.5mm-wide square case and lean profile, the Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic is a fairly comfy timepiece making it completely suitable for daily wear. This introduction model (I’ve a feeling that this is a theory Bell & Ross will go back to in years to come) is put on a tapered light grey alligator strap. What I think is most striking about the general expression of this Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic is that it’s decidedly a lookout for mechanical motion fans, but is able to retain a masculine sex appeal and does not appear nerdy (as notions like this tend to do).
The BR-X1 R.S.18 is a high-tech skeletonized chronograph. The self-winding Swiss mechanical movement is skeletonized to lend it a unique and resolutely high-tech style. Its rocker pushers equipped with a yellow rubber insert underlines this. Its 30-minute counter is highlighted with hints of red. In the same spirit, the typography of the “racing” style numerals and the yellow tachymeter scale sitting on the flange immerse us immediately in the world of tracks and starting grids. To ensure optimum ergonomics when using the chronometer functions, a yellow rubber thumb grip has been integrated into the case at 9 o’clock. Lastly, to ensure optimum legibility, the slender hands and applique indexes have been filled with Superluminova®.
Together with the massive sword hands, which can also be coated in black Super-LumiNova, the watch takes that exceptionally legible altimeter-like seem the brand is well known for… and leaves it markedly less legible. We talk a lot about legibility about here, but it looks like to live on it for a piece such as this would be missing the point. It is what it is. Other features include a sapphire crystal with AR coating, 100 meters of water resistance, and a stealthy, well-integrated black rubber strap which flows with the rest of the look. For a much more “strategic” look, Bell & Ross carries a synthetic fabric strap, which appears to be fastened with a hook-and-loop material (i.e., Velcro), which we’ve seen from the brand before.I’ve actually been a fan of this Bell & Ross BR 03 series watches for quite some time. They have become archetypal for Bell & Ross, and as I said, I am glad that the newest is still experimenting with the scope. While this particular version would not be my first choice (I still adore the Bell & Ross BR 03-93 GMT) I feel that the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Black Camo is going to probably be popular in certain circles, even though it might be more destined to see action in the club than on the battle. On day one of Baselworld 2017, among the most interesting new watches I saw was the Bell & Ross BR X2 Micro-Rotor Automatic. With a new circumstance, motion, and intriguing layout, this circa $65,000 limited-edition watch is a beautiful testament to why we enjoy sporting daring layouts with conspicuous mechanical motions. Bell & Ross president Carlos Rosillo was wearing it in Baselworld’s Bell & Ross stand, enthusiastically showing it off – Mr. Rosillo becoming more excited about his new products than almost any new leader I know.
The BR-X1 R.S.18 is a limited edition of 250 pieces.
BR-X1 TOURBILLON R.S.18
The next thing that catches all your eye is probably the brilliant white dialup, which is actually lacquer – an unusual dial cloth for Bell & Ross watches. What is also unusual is that the usage of Roman numerals, railroad-style indicators, and blued pear-shaped palms, which pays homage to marine clocks of the past. These design components give the dial an amazing charm, but it takes getting used to because the BR 01 situation is ordinarily associated with aviation-inspired layouts, which tend to be more modern. Regardless, it’s a harmonious look, and I especially enjoy the blued steel hands and the whiteness of this lacquer dial.There’s a subdial for your running moments at 6 o’clock, and at the middle of the subdial it reads CAL. 203. That would be a reference to the calibre BR-CAL.203 that beats inside. It’s visible through the event back, and it is a hand-wound mechanical movement. The choice of a hand-wound movement is apt because marine clocks of yesteryear were also manually wound. It defeats at 3Hz and includes a suitably long power book of 56 hours.Though Bell & Ross doesn’t say it, the BR-CAL.203 is likely the omnipresent Unitas 6497. A tried-and-tested hand-wound motion that sees activity in a number of different watches. In the event of this Bell & Ross BR 01-CM Instrument De Marine, it has been only finished with black and brushed bridges and blued screws. It appears really industrial, and if I were to nitpick, I would have preferred a more elaborately decorated motion to suit the remainder of the watch. I don’t think everybody is going to be a fan of it, but if you like watches such as the Ulysses Nardin Marine set, then I feel the Bell & Ross BR 01-CM Instrument De Marine will be an interesting alternative, as it mixes the classic look of marine-inspired watches together with Bell & Ross’ signature BR case. Price is $8,700.
BR-X1 TOURBILLON R.S.18 © Bell & Ross
The masterpiece of this series, the BR-X1 Tourbillon Chronograph R.S.18 watch, is equipped with a highly complicated movement that combines a single-pusher chronograph with a “flying” tourbillon, which means that its cage is secured to an axis, giving the impression that it is floating in space. In yellow and red, the chronograph functions are immediately identifiable. This high level of legibility is enhanced by the addition of Superluminova on the hands and indexes.
Thanks to its skeletonized dial, the BR-X1 Tourbillon Chronograph R.S.18 showcases the futuristic gear train of its high-tech motor. To ensure optimum ergonomics when using the functions, a yellow rubber thumb grip has been integrated into the case at 9 o’clock.
The BR-X1 TOURBILLON R.S.18 is a limited edition of 20 pieces.