A Closer Look: Bell & Ross BR 03 Cyber Ceramic
Stealth yet striking, the latest Bell & Ross BR 03 Cyber Ceramic is a versatile piece both in dimensions and design, with a high build quality and proprietary movement to match.
The BR 03 Cyber Ceramic launched recently makes for an interesting arc of development from the BR 01 Cyber Skull – a futuristic timepiece that falls within the broader category of artistic and cultural expressions in horological history known as memento mori, poignant reminders of mortality. Retaining the angular, faceted case, the Cyber Ceramic boasts more compact dimensions, measuring 42mm by 43.7mm compared to the Skull’s imposing 45mm by 46.7mm size.
But more than that, while the Cyber Skull features a movement with its base plate and bridges forming the shape of a skull and crossbones, the Cyber Ceramic adopts a subtler approach, with a gentler, more approachable architecture that hints at the skull motif without overtly embracing it. The result is something far more versatile, with the capacity, we think, to reach a wider audience. While design-led watches have been a recurring focus at Bell & Ross in recent times, it makes for an interesting subcategory where mechanics are put directly at the service of aesthetics, recalling the high-concept watchmaking of the early aughts.
From professional instruments to high design watches
Over the past nearly three decades, Bell & Ross has undergone quite a remarkable and considered evolution. The brand’s journey began in stark black and white, adhering strictly to military specifications. Produced by Sinn, the initial watches were an exercise in rugged practicality and legibility, designed as tools for professionals engaged in high-performance endeavors.
A decade later, Chanel acquired a minority stake in the brand, prompting the shift of production to Switzerland. From 2005 onward, Bell & Ross introduced its now iconic BR square watches, drawing direct inspiration from the cockpit dashboards of military aircraft. Over the next decade, the BR 01 gave rise to the bigger, bolder BR-X, which served as a canvas for forward designs and complications.
In 2019, the BR 05 line emerged, comprising steel sports watches with integrated bracelets, inspired by the brand’s signature circle-within-a-square case design. The collection’s success led to the development of the BR-X5 range, featuring highly advanced movements produced by Kenissi, the movement manufacturer now owned by Tudor and Chanel.
All this while, since 2009, Bell & Ross has consistently produced skull-themed watches that grew in sophistication in tandem with the brand’s technological and mechanical ambitions. Initially, the skull-and-crossbones motif adorned the case and dial design, later extending its presence into the movement itself with creations like the Laughing Skull, which not only incorporated a form movement but also an automaton where the skull’s jaw actually moves when the watch is wound.
The BR 01 Cyber Skull was launched in 2021 and with it, the debut of a boldly modern polygonal, faceted case and movement, described by the brand as taking inspiration from the sharp-edged fuselages of stealth aircraft. The facets not only lend a contemporary edge but also creates somewhat of a pixelated effect, reminiscent of digital imagery, hence its name Cyber.
As part of the Cyber collection, the BR 03 Cyber Ceramic also features a faceted case and movement. It’s a monochromatic iteration of the Cyber Rainbow that was submitted to the ill-fated Only Watch auction in 2023. Notably, the movement was constructed to bear a fleeting resemblance to a skull and the overall effect is rather intriguing.
As with the skull-shaped movement in the Cyber Skull, the movement in the Cyber Ceramic was developed by Concepto, the complication specialist responsible for some of the most exhilarating, high-concept – and costly – watches we have seen in the market in recent years. Dubbed the BR-CAL.383, the movement is self-winding with a black skeletonized main plate and bridges. There is no dial; instead, the indices are printed on the underside of the sapphire crystal. The main plate and bridges form the outline of crossbones supporting in place a wheel train that is rhodium plated, creating a striking contrast and the impression of a skull.
While it might not be immediately apparent, its construction has been carefully thought-out to arrive at this effect. At 12 o’clock is the mainspring barrel which offers a 48-hour power reserve. The barrel cover has been skeletonized, along with its drum and ratchet wheel on the reverse, which enables the state of wind to be visually approximated. Notably, the movement is laid out to minimize overlapping and showcase as much of the going train and the other components as possible. Thus, it features an indirect drive minute hand. Rather than being located in the center, the second wheel is located on the left side of the barrel, and an extension wheel drives the motion works. The gear train is arranged on the left side before being taken inwards towards the balance wheel, subtly mimicking the shape of a skull.
Additionally, to achieve a cleaner appearance on the dial side where the components create a skull-like semblance, the majority of the keyless works such as the setting lever, yoke, and spring are positioned on the reverse side of the movement.
The bridges have a uniform sandblasted finish throughout which creates a textured surface on the facets, dispersing light in different directions without being overly reflective. The hour and minute hands are also black and micro-blasted. They are filled with grey Super-Luminova, enabling them to somewhat blend into the bridges while still being legible.
Compact Facetted Case
Executed in black ceramic, the futuristic case is an interpretation of the classic square BR 03 case. It features a two-part construction, consisting of the case back and bezel. On the wrist, its quality is indisputable. It was manufactured by G&F Châtelain, a renowned case and bracelet maker owned by Chanel. The bezel features eight sides with sloping and faceted surfaces. This is achieved with a diamond grinding process where diamond powder is used as an abrasive material to shape it. The corner facets do well in enhancing the outline of the crossbones on the bridges, creating a strong aesthetic unity between the case and movement.
At 42mm, the watch sits low and compact on the wrist because there are effectively no lugs extending from beyond the case, and the sloping facets also make it feel less broad.
The watch has an air of effortlessness but is so much more in execution and effect. While it is one of the pricier time-only watches from Bell & Ross, it is reasonably priced given the quality of the case and movement and is ultimately one of those watches with the capacity to offer far more than you initially anticipated.
Bell & Ross BR 03 Cyber Ceramic
Movement: Self-winding calibre BR-CAL.383; 48-hour power reserve; 4Hz (28,800vph)
Functions: Hours and minutes
Case: Black ceramic; 42mm by 43.7mm; water-resistant up to 30m
Strap: Black rubber with black PVD pin steel buckle
Price: EUR 13,600, or SGD 18,800
Availability: Limited to 500 pieces
FROM THE SHOP
|Manual winding Sellita caliber AMT5100, with rose gold plating and custom bridge for Furlan Marri; 58-hour power reserve; heated blued steel screws
|Hours, minutes, small seconds and flyback chronograph
|38mm (46mm from lug to lug); stainless steel with olive-shaped pushers for Honey Blue flyback, Taupe flyback and Tasti Tondi pushers for Salmon flyback; water resistant to 50m
|Taupe, blue, or two-tone salmon and black (Revolution edition); double printed text with pulsations scale, polished applied indexes
|Italian leather with quick release system
|270 pieces per reference + 30 collector boxes (including one of each references) in addition.