Stainless steel, sports and one-piece bracelet.
Luxury stainless steel sports watches with unique case shapes and integrated bracelets have become an irresistible trend of late. Although the segment was born in the 1970s with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus, it is arguably at a high water level now.
Many brands have joined the event with their own luxury sports watches, each with a different motivation, but often encounters a certain degree of controversy. Recent examples include Vacheron Constantin Overseas, Piaget Polo S and Girard Perregaux Laureato. And now, it's Bell & Ross (B&R)'s turn to unveil the BR 05.
Unsurprisingly, the BR 05 is a rendition of the most iconic Bell & Ross design – the square with a rounded case. The BR 05 enters a crowded market in an affordable way; it comes with a well-constructed case and a bespoke movement.
At first glance, the rounded case and bezel with visible screws are inevitably reminiscent of Gerald Genta's classics. But on its own, the BR 05 is a logical derivative of the iconic B&R case.
The BR 05 is a compact watch, and the wide bezel makes it look slightly smaller than it actually is. At 40mm wide and 10.4mm high, the case is relatively slim and within the general range for this type of watch. Having said that, a sub-10mm case would give it more elegant and classic proportions.
Compared to the mere adequate depth rating of typical luxury sports watches, the BR 05 is water resistant to 100m.
Like most B&R watches, the BR 05 case is made by G&F Chatelain, a respected case maker owned by B&R parent company Chanel. The same experts who make cases and buckles for brands like MB&F and Richard Mille. Therefore, the case construction and finishing are excellent.
The visible screws on the front are all perfectly aligned with their sockets at a 45 degree angle as they are not actually screws but nuts with a square profile that are ins erted into the case from the top and held in place by the actual screws on the back. This is the same as the square BR 03 The same setting on the case is also similar to the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak which uses hex nuts on the bezel.
A key element of the luxury sports watch genre is case finishing, and the BR 05 does just that. While cases at this price point often have stamps that make the case edges imprecise, the BR 05 case has neat and well-defined edges.
It features alternating brushed and mirror-polished surfaces that give the watch a striking contrast and precise edges. The top and sides of the case are satin-brushed and separated by a wide polished bevel that accentuates the shape of the case. Like the BR03-92 Diver, the BR 05 has a screw-on crown guard.
Importantly, for a sports watch, the bracelet and case blend well together. The finish of the case echoes the bracelet, featuring flat brushed links and a polished center link.
The bracelet is as well made as the case, but the bracelet design is undoubtedly similar to one of Genta's designs.
Another element that makes the BR 05 a B&R watch is the no-nonsense dial, with trademark oversized Arabic numerals at the quarter and stick indexes the rest of the time. For added functionality, the numerals, hour markers and hands are coated with Super-Luminova.
While the dial is derived from an earlier BR model, the hands of the baton deviate from the norm; I would have preferred the differently shaped hands.
Available in blue, grey or black, the BR 05 dial features a simple sunlit finish without any unnecessary frills, allowing the overall design to take center stage. The blue and grey dials lack a minute track, making them feel a little less functional. In contrast, the black dial is unapologetically stark and industrial, with its own identity and feel.
The date display at three o’clock is well integrated into the design of the dial, and the date wheel is in a matching colour – something not found on many of its peers. It also has a thick frame that matches the weight of the quarter-hour numerals.
Although the BR 05 uses the same workhorse Sellita SW300 (itself derived from ETA 2892) as most B&R watches, it is more customizable than before. The movement, named BR-CAL.321, has a uniformly grained matte and a skeletonized complete rotor.
The oscillating weight is cleverly designed: to ensure that the oscillating weight is completely unbalanced – with enough weight on one side to wind the mainspring – it uses an asymmetrical cutout, leaving more mass on one half.
Other modifications are decorative, but attractive and perfect for the watch. The plywood, base plate and rotor are all sandblasted consistently. The spokes of the rotor are machined beveled for a consistent aesthetic and have the brand name engraved on the perimeter. All in all, for the price range, the finishing is clean and fair.
For many other brands, launching a stainless steel sports watch may seem like an impulsive roll of the dice, as such a watch departs from the norm of a small classic dress watch. But for B&R, it makes sense, and the move feels natural.
Then there are the design issues. While the BR 05 is inevitably reminiscent of the greatest in history, its price point se ts it apart, offering a case style and quality typically found at higher price points.
On top of that, the BR 05 also makes a case for its own merits. It's essentially a variation on the classic B&R aviation-inspired watch, with a touch of 1970s inspiration.
Material: Stainless steel
Movement: BR-CAL.321 (custom Sellita SW300)
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date winding
Frequency: 28,800bph or 4Hz
Power reserve: 40 hours
Strap: Rubber strap or bracelet