We go deeper into the Black Steel variant of the Bell & Ross BR-X5

Bell & Ross BR-X5 features several design advancements that catapult the brand’s offerings to a new sphere of watchmaking
Anyone familiar with its watches will attest to the fact that there is no mistaking a Bell & Ross timepiece for any other, especially the popular BR 03 and BR 05 collections. With such a distinct circle-in-a-square aesthetic inspired by flight instruments, Bell & Ross watches make quite an impression on the wrist. The BR 03, a complete ode to gauges found in cockpits, is purposefully built with the idea of turning these instruments into aviation watches, while the BR 05 has more of a style edge, with an integrated bracelet and a case construction that has rounded edges, and is more fluid and  softer overall.

Last October, the French-Swiss brand founded by Bruno Belamich and Carlos A Rosillo upped the ante on the BR 05 with the launch of the BR-X5. It marked an important progression of the line with substantial developments in both the technical and design aspects. The design of the BR-X5 was more potent yet sleeker, with an innovative, multi-material case design. Inside it beat a new manufacture movement by Kenissi that was more powerful and longer lasting.

Bell & Ross BR-X5

“There were multiple reasons for the development of the BR-X5 line,” says Romain Desmarest, Senior Sales Manager, EMEA, Bell & Ross. “We introduced the BR 05 in September 2019 and this collection has been a strong asset and source of growth for us in the past four years. Since the BR 05 was born, we worked and set up things in order to make the collection a new pillar for Bell & Ross. We extended this collection successfully and it now gives Bell & Ross a stronger position. We felt that we developed a strong design with the BR 05 and knew that we could do something even stronger by innovating, to attract connoisseurs and watch enthusiasts.”

In the over four months since its launch, the brand says that the response to the BR-X5 watch has been overwhelmingly positive, so much so that it had to set up waiting lists for the first time. The brand added that some BR-X5 models do not even stay 24 hours at partner stores, and only 20 per cent of the quantities delivered as of today remain available in the market. So, what is it that makes the BR-X5 so desirable?

The Design

Bell & Ross BR-X5

The BR-X5  has been introduced in three references—one with a carbon and titanium case, one with a steel and icy blue dial, and the third with a steel and black dial. We are going to focus on the last of these, the Black Steel. The BR-X5  Black Steel is a 41mm watch with the deep sunray-black dial, thanks to a broader flange with ten-minute markers on it. Unlike the BR 05, which featured Arabic numerals at 6, 9, and 12, the BR-X5 has applied and grade X1 Super-LumiNova-filled indexes with double markers at 12. The metal hour and minute hands are skeletonised and filled with Super-LumiNova.

At 3 o’clock is the date window, whose design is once again reminiscent of aeronautical instruments, specifically fast-moving altimeter indicators. Instead of the usual small aperture, the date window is elongated, allowing for a three date-format—a white pointer-triangle on the flange indicates the present date. The movement’s rapid date correction device allows for easy adjustment without any effect on timekeeping. The dial is protected by anti-reflective coating, while the screw-down crown is X-shaped, features an ampersand, and is protected by 
crown guards.
Bell & Ross BR-X5 side look

Bang opposite is the power-reserve indicator. And in what could be construed as a display emphatic enough to represent a solid three-day reserve, the sub-dial takes up a sufficient part on the dial. The Bell & Ross logo appears at 12, and there are sharp accents of red highlighting the look.

The case construction is one of two highlights of the BR-X5  Black Steel. With a height of 12.8mm, the multi-part, sandwich construction of the watch is the work of creative director Bruno Belamich. At the heart of this construction is the steel centre, which has been machined from the same block of metal as the watch’s crown guards, and which goes a long way to protect the timepiece and the movement. Above and below sit the square bezel, highlighted via a black rubber ring, and its caseback, both fixed to the two steel plates that form the top and bottom of the case. The assembly is kept in place by four screws that go through the entire case, i.e., the bezel, case, steel centre, and caseback, making the watch water-resistant to 100 metres.

Bell & Ross BR-X5

This is a construction that becomes apparent when viewed from the side, rather than from the top. The side view showcases a hollowed-out design, which contributes to the watch being lighter; the crown guards are also hollowed out. The bezel and case are polished, satin-brushed, and micro-blasted, and this finishing extends to the integrated bracelet as well. As with most timepieces today, the steel bracelet can be swapped for an open-worked rubber strap—black in the case of the BR-X5  Black Steel.

The Movement

Bell & Ross BR-X5 Calibre BR-CAL.323

The manufacture movement by Kenissi is the other reason this watch is grabbing attention. The automatic Calibre BR-CAL.323 is a result of several years of design, development, and fine-tuning, and features an exclusive configuration directed by Bell & Ross. This is the first Kenissi movement employed by the brand that so far has relied on ETA and Sellita to supply movements for it. Kenissi also supplies to Tudor, Norqain, Chanel, and TAG Heuer.

“Yes, it is the first time we set up a Kenissi movement in one of our timepieces,” says Desmarest. “Kenissi is a joint venture from Tudor and Chanel that provides very good quality movements. The idea was to reinforce the brand but also to propose an alternative to the BR 05 to clients who are more sensitive to manufacture movements.”

Bell & Ross BR-X5 caseback

The Calibre BR-CAL.323 is a 28-jewel movement featuring a variable-inertia balance wheel. Beating at 28,800 vph, the calibre has a 70-hour power reserve, along with a COSC certification, a first for Bell & Ross. The movement is visible via the sapphire caseback—wearers can see the Bell & Ross signed skeletonised oscillating weight, with a vertical brushed finish. The watch has a five-year warranty, compared with the two-year warranty of the BR 05.

“The BR-X5  truly represents a new milestone with strong potential,” says Desmarest. “There will be further developments on this line as it is subject to important traction and growing interest from watch enthusiasts and clients. It also gives a new dimension to Bell & Ross, and expresses the direction we are taking.”

Both the BR-X5  Ice Blue and Black Steel are currently sold out in India—the brand says it will be made available again shortly. Also arriving in April 2023 at Ethos Watch Boutiques are a few pieces from the 500-piece limited edition BR-X5 Carbon Orange, available for pre-order now.

This story first appeared in WatchTime India's April-June 2023 issue. 

Images: Courtesy brand

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