BELL & ROSS BR-X1 Hyperstellar
In the last years, the evolution of the BR collection has been extraordinary. It seems like yesterday when the brand launched its first BR collection that took inspiration from an aircraft’s cockpit instruments, but 11 years have actually gone by already. The first square-shaped case with pointed screws on the four sides has evolved a thousand times to transform itself into the manufacturer’s trademark. Nobody, me included, could ever think that BELL & ROSS could be so successful in such a short period of time but the brand managed to break all preconceptions by becoming a solid point of reference among military-inspired timepieces and by also making me one of their customers (I own a BR01 10th Anniversary). A sporty collection like the BR one is strongly linked together with the world of speeding too – including speeds above Mach 1 – and the world of space aeronautics. These two sectors require materials and technologies that are far more advanced than those used in everyday’s life.
Which are the characteristics that a timepiece should have in order to potentially become a support instrument to an astronaut? From a functional point of view, the chronograph is the most useful complication and history has confirmed that on many occasions, just think about the Apollo 13 mission and the fact that a chronograph could be your best friend when all your most sophisticated instruments have stopped working and you are alone in space and can only rely on the chrono wrapped around your wrist to find your way back to the atmosphere. The second characteristic is the correct balance between resistance and lightness, one of the requirements of aeronautical design, even more in aerospace engineering, these are sectors where a correct coefficient of design safety and requirements of lightness and resistance to corrosion is of paramount importance. The BELL & ROSS BR-X1 Hyperstellar has been designed with a zero-gravity-use in mind. The aesthetic side is without a doubt the result of the X1 labs’ work, whereas the main concept of the timepiece has been developed so that this watch can be used efficiently while in space despite the fact that it is not clear just yet whether BELL & ROSS is planning to use this watch in any space missions or not.
The 45mm case of the BR is a modular one; the central module is made of grade 5 titanium and is coupled with an anodized aluminum ring crafted in a bright blue colour. The basic idea behind this aesthetic design is matching together the gray colour of the case and the time viewing function with the blue colour of the chrono function in an attempt to recreate the contrast between the moon surface and the predominant blue colour of the earth surface as seen from space. It is quite a logic choice really since the chrono function with its tachymeter scale that goes up to 400km/h and the 30-chrono-minute-counter are also blue in colour and are therefore more easily readable than the time which then becomes a secondary piece of information on a hypothetical scales of priorities.
Whether you are an engineer or you are simply interested in mechanics, the modular built of the case is one of the most fascinating aspects of the BELL & ROSS BR-X1 Hyperstellar also thanks to the use of grade 5 titanium that allows the designer to craft small parts with complex shapes and extremely light weights. A perimetral bumper protection surrounding the case shields it from accidental damages and allows the user to easily access the rocker push-buttons even while wearing bulky astronaut gloves!
The “X” of the name has always referred to the upper bridge of the movement – and to the internal code used by NASA to identify its aerospace experimental programmes – and it is clearly visible on the dial. The BELL & ROSS BR-X1 Hyperstellar is a skeletonized timepiece that features a sapphire glass; that means that the indexes haven’t been directly applied on to the glass but rather on the chapter ring, this particular architecture has always been associated to skeletonized movements and to the idea that the movement would “float” inside the case.
The movement is a 4Hz chrono that has been highly customized by BELL & ROSS and is internally described as a BR-CAL 313 caliber pending the development of an in-house-built caliber that such a timepiece would deserve. The four through-screws located at the four corners are quite beautiful and they represent BR’s most recognizable trademark. A leather and rubber strap completes this timepiece and, unlike other brands, on the BELL & ROSS BR-X1 Hyperstellar leather makes up for a fraction of the rubber part and not vice versa.
The BELL & ROSS BR-X1 Hyperstellar retails at about 20,000 euro and it is an original alternative to luxury sport watches, on par with a sporty Hublot in my opinion as it shares with it the same principle and the same potential customers that this timepiece is geared towards. The crafting is extremely refined, the design is eclectic, the style is original despite being a bit over-crowded if compared to the classic standards of BR timepieces. I am a bit disappointed by the movement because if you consider the excellent developments the brand has gone through in recent years, it is more than fair that the Hyperstellar would deserve its own in-house-built caliber.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®