The late Frederic W. Goudy, America’s most prolific designer of print typefaces, once said, “The old fellows stole all our best ideas.” He was lamenting the fact on how difficult it was to come up with truly new letter fonts in the early 1900s.
Indeed, if what the inventor said of the fonts we continue to use today in the digital age as our forebears once did in the time of steam engines is an indication, his comment appears an apt allegory to the watch industry, particularly in the category of integrated bracelet watches.
Bell & Ross often finds itself at the cutting edge of innovative watch design. It was only less than 20 years ago that the Parisian brand with Swiss watchmaking street-cred launched its very first square timepiece, the BR01, and overturned conventions for the quintessential “pilot’s watch” by taking a leaf directly off the instrumentation panels of a plane’s cockpit.
In Bell & Ross’ latest BR-X5, the innovative brand once more finds itself at the forefront of novel creation, pairing exceptional design with manufacture movement. What is design? It is a problem-solving framework that seeks a balance of aesthetics and function; and the design of integrated bracelet watches has been a well-tread genre since 1972.
Since the release of the original luxury sports watch, many watch brands have found it quicker and more profitable to simply tweak what the “old fellows” did. Even Gerald Genta himself was not above taking inspiration from his own designs, so when we say that what Bell & Ross has wrought with the BR-X5 is the genre evolved and elevated, we aren’t being hyperbolic.
During its debut in 2019, the BR 05 collection drew some comparisons with its distinctly geometric design. For 2022, the BR-X5 elevates the original integrated silhouette to its pinnacle by drawing from the brand’s strong DNA and presenting a sleek new design that avoids all the typical pitfalls of “tweaks” by embracing an avant-garde sandwich-type construction.
Measuring 41 mm in diameter with a palatable thickness of 12.8 mm (for timepieces of this genre), the exceptional case of the BR-X5 is at once familiar while simultaneously being bold for going where no other watchmaker has gone before: the BR-X5’s precise facets and highly considered cuts in the midcase enhance the technical nature of its case construction while drawing your eyes across the angular lines and facets of the daring aesthetic, making clear the Bell & Ross design team’s propensity for originative watchmaking reminiscent of the time they launched the original BR-01 time instrument.
At a glance, the multilayer construction of the BR-X5 is discreet when viewed from the front but comes into its own when seen from the side. The hollowed-out architecture of the case middle is captivating, revealing a technical construction that optimises lightness without compromising on utility or water resistance.
The different polished, satin-brushed and micro-blasted finishes throughout the case highlight the lines and surfaces of the design and ensure the successful completion of this watchmaking puzzle. In its construction, the case of the BR-X5 begins with a steel core, the central component machined from the same block of metal as the watch’s crown guards and in-effect ensuring the superior protection of the timepiece and its movement.
Flanking the core are the watch’s square bezel, highlighted via a rubber ring, and its caseback, both fixed to the two steel plates that form the top and bottom of the case. The novel assembly is kept watertight to 100 m by four screws that pass through the thickness of the case via four columns, each of which reinforce the solidity of the construction while providing a signature look.
Pairing sportiness with serious intrigue, all while being powered by the calibre BR-Cal.323 developed in partnership between the French brand and the esteemed mechanical manufacture Kenissi. Showcasing the extreme reliability of the movement, the BR-X5 comes supported with a five-year warranty, exceeding the previous standard warranty of two years for Bell & Ross’ timepieces.
BELL & ROSS BR-X5
PRICE + SPECS
Case 41 mm stainless steel with 100 metres water resistance
Movement Automatic BR-Cal.323 with 72 hours power reserve
(Images: Bell & Ross)