Bell Ross BR01 10th Anniversary
Ten years ago a young brand had an original yet brave idea: to conceive a timepiece that drew inspiration from those found in cockpits, especially of military planes. When the first BR01-92 appeared, I thought it to be quite eccentric, and I believed I was witnessing the birth of the umpteenth watch featuring an oversized case, soon to be forgotten.
That was not the case: the BR01 evolved over time, became a complicated watch with a GMT complication, Power Reserve, it continued to draw inspiration to other on-board devices and it even became a tourbillon, but has never abandoned its distinctive squared case, secured via 4 screws, that soon became the brand's hallmark.
Bell & Ross has this year celebrated 10 years from the birth of its iconic watch, and has unveiled at Baselworld 2015 the Bell & Ross BR01 10th Anniversary, a return to its origins, to the purity of the first BR01-92 with the addition of all the improvements that this case has undergone during the last 10 years of development, especially in those part that are invisible to the naked eye, but that often do make a watch. I'm not mistaken, the first BR01 featured a PVD treated steel case, while the Bell & Ross BR01 10th Anniversary sports a two-layer case, the inner in stainless steel, the outer one made by a matte black ceramic cover.
Perhaps this case geometry did not allow for a single black ceramic block, open at the back, that would have been resistant enough, so Bell & Ross went for a mixture of steel and ceramic, where the first works as a chassis while the latter serves as a cover, ensuring a scratch proof surface not even guaranteed by the best steel.
The Bell & Ross BR01 10th Anniversary is a neat and readable timepiece, as required by any cockpit's device, but each style choice is not casual but driven by functionality, and draws inspiration directly from aeronautics. The hour and minutes hands remind of those of an altimeter; the digit's typography is the same as an analog aircraft's counter's. The 10 years logo features on the dial, as well as on the case back, thanks to a micro-blasting and satin-finish technique.
Made in just 500 pieces, the Bell & Ross BR01 10th Anniversary is the one to choose in my opinion if you love modern Pilot watches and you care for a Bell & Ross. Once I would have gone for a BR01 simply as a second choice, but after having worn the Bell & Ross BR01 10th Anniversary, I believe it to be first choice material, as well as the most successful among all the three-hands timepieces released by the brand. The other models, the complicated ones I mean, are intriguing but sometimes too busy and can tire over time. Don't be alarmed by the 46mm case-side size that, thanks to its square design, makes it look even bigger than what it actually is, especially if you compare it with any round-case watch of the same diameter. Its rubber strap, the external ceramic case and the reduced thickness make it adhere perfectly to the wrist, so well that it almost feels like a bracelet, making it extremely light to wear. I am not totally convinced by its not very popular retail price of 4200€, partly justified by the case's technology, the overall finishes and the limited run, but to which I would have probably added something more upmarket in terms of mechanical movement.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Bell & Ross; Horbiter's proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C. @Horbiter - Watches & Luxury