The Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Sky Blue, a fresh take on a versatile design

An immediate contender for the most versatile watch of 2023.

Fortune favors the bold

When Bell & Ross was founded thirty years ago, the watches produced by the company looked very little like the watches we most associate the brand with today. If you stripped the dial of the iconic ampersand-focused wordmark, you’d be left with something that looked like it rolled straight off of the Sinn production line. Why? Because, quite frankly, it did…

Although this curious fact has been somewhat forgotten in recent years, it was none other than the legendary Helmut Sinn (who sadly left us in 2018 at the ripe old age of 101) that breathed life into the vision of Bruno Belamich (Bell) and Carlos A. Rosillo (Ross). Sinn believed in the B&R project and agreed to manufacture the brand’s early watches. This relationship persisted until 2022, ceasing soon after Chanel became a minority shareholder in the brand.

I was fortunate to interview Carlo Rosillo recently and the fondness with which he spoke of Herr Sinn was truly moving. He asserted that he and Bruno had been blessed with Sinn’s assistance in their early days and were very fortunate to have been trusted by a series of benefactors that enabled them to get the brand off the ground. Now, with the expansion of the BR 05 line, Belamich and Rosillo are forging ahead into a new, more debonair era of Bell & Ross watches.

Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Sky Blue
Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Sky Blue

A tool for life

When one thinks of Bell & Ross watches, one thinks primarily of aviation tools. Yes, Bell & Ross dive watches exist. The catalog also features round watches. There are watches plastered with skull motifs and some highly complicated pieces you’d probably rather admire from a safe distance than wear while pulling a 4G loop.

But the brand is moving in an interesting, and, I must say, intriguing direction with the development of the BR 05 family. Tracking the brand from its early days to now shows a patient and organic exploration of how Bell & Ross’s calling cards can be shifted ever so slightly to fit comfortably with new goals.

Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Sky Blue
Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Sky Blue

The earliest models were tool watches without the kind of flair that would make them wearable in more formal situations. Had the brand jumped directly from its original offering to producing more versatile “beach to boardroom” fare, it would have resulted in no little head-scratching. By embracing the “second wave concept” of square aviation instruments, the brand did something that was perhaps cleverer than we realized at the time: it retained its foundational character but fused it seamlessly with an aesthetic that was unlike everything else in the industry. From that platform, a jump into a classier realm was possible. The resulting challenge faced by the brand was one of timing and execution. The BR 05 collection dropped at exactly the right time and the new interpretation of the square concept was executed both confidently and comprehensively.

What the BR 05 line skillfully offers, are watches that not only fit with what has gone before but can also be turned to a different application without missing a step. The finishes on the cases, dials, and bracelets make for a stylistically continuous yet characterfully distinct offering. We may not have expected this kind of progression from the brand but, now it’s here, it feels like it was always on its way. That, from a brand building and product diversification perspective, is a home run, in my opinion.

Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Sky Blue
Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Sky Blue

The specifications

The BR 05 has a 41mm square stainless steel case, water-resistant to 100 meters. It shows the time and date (at 3 o’clock in a generously sized black-on-white date wheel, which sits comfortably alongside the lighter colorway of this piece). The second timezone is read by way of a bicolor rehaut ring, which is subtle enough to not encroach on the legibility. Additionally, the second hour hand is sympathetically colored, with two-thirds of its stem painted in sky blue so that it flies under the radar until needed. A broad, lumed, triangular tip indicates the second time zone. This GMT hand can be set in the second crown position by turning the crown in a clockwise direction, while the date can be quick-adjusted in the same crown position by turning the winder counter-clockwise. In the first crown position, the watch can be wound manually, and the time can be set in the third position.

Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Sky Blue
Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Sky Blue

Ticking away inside this handsome housing is the automatic BR-CAL.325, which is based on the Sellita-330 GMT. The movement has a darker surface treatment than standard and provides a novel caseback view thanks to the use of a 360-degree rotor weight with a futuristic “web” design.

I’m a big fan of both peripheral and 360-degree oscillating masses, especially when deployed on otherwise standard movement architectures. While the movement in this watch is not particularly exceptional, the advantage of it (and anything from a major supplier like Sellita, ETA, STP, or LJP, for example) is that it is easily serviceable. An aesthetic quirk like an eye-catching 360 rotor that doesn’t negatively impact servicing potential is, therefore, a happy medium for me.

How to wear this watch

Perhaps the biggest choice for would-be buyers of the Bell & Ross GMT Sky Blue comes down to the bracelet or strap conundrum. When worn on the integrated bracelet, the watch has a strong, professional mien, and, for my money, would look very much at home with business attire. On the color-matched rubber strap, it has an altogether sportier vibe — something that appeals to me personally.

Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Sky Blue
Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Sky Blue

The extent to which the watch’s character shifts from a casual weekend watch on the rubber to a commanding weekday warrior on the bracelet is a triumph of design. I’m very impressed with the growth of the BR 05 collection and am looking forward to it becoming a cornerstone of Bell & Ross’s next phase.

Already, with the slightly advanced BR X5 series, we’ve seen the versatility of the design and how by employing different colorways, more interesting materials in the case construction, and more exciting calibers from Kenissi, the basic silhouette can turn its hand to all manner of applications. If Bell & Ross pursues this development further and brings in even more adventurous calibers to the collection, we could soon be looking at one of the better value/design propositions under five figures that the industry has to offer.

Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Sky Blue
Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Sky Blue

Tech Specs

Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Sky Blue

Movement: Automatic BR-CAL.325 (based on the Sellita SW-330)
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, and GMT function
Case: 41mm x 11.07mm stainless steel, water resistant to 100m
Dial: Sky blue sunray
Strap: Integrated steel bracelet or sky blue rubber strap
Price: USD 5,500 on the bracelet or USD 5,000 on the rubber strap


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1 comment

  1. Warky says:

    A very valiant attempt to make this watch sound appealing – but its still just a very naff Bell and Ross.

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