Design is an inherently cumulative process – a living, breathing entity which builds upon itself over time, like a clonal colony of engineering and taste. Where once there was but one steel timepiece available that sported an integrated bracelet (a highly disruptive thing in its day) the current state of the market is quite the opposite, with a multitude of brands offering options that sit at the intersection of luxury and sport. In 2019 Bell & Ross dove headfirst straight into the mix when it released the BR 05, a stainless steel integrated bracelet sport watch which drew on the design language of the BR 03, BR S Auto, and others. In the years that followed, the Paris-based watch brand has held nothing back in terms of its subsequent additions to the family, releasing a myriad of examples in two-tone, solid gold, colorful dials, diamond settings, and skeletonized dials. Now, they have added another example to the mix with the BR 05 Skeletonized Golden (in steel).
The beauty of a skeletonized movement is, typically, the ability to view the operation of a watch’s mechanism in an unobstructed manner while simultaneously basking in the sheer complexity of the machine itself. This effect is especially evocative when it is applied to complex timepieces with a multitude of complications. Entire cityscapes are formed by excised baseplates and bridges. The challenge comes, however, when one aims to skeletonize an otherwise ‘simple’ movement – simple, of course, being a highly relative term. While no doubt still captivating, a three-handed, time-only movement is never-the-less a more elementary system than that of a calendar or chronograph. However, Bell & Ross has done something rather clever to elevate their presentation in this case.
Where some skeleton watches create a more intricate, delicate, or even airy feeling to a watch, the BR 05 Skeleton Golden’s combination of exposed mechanism, color, and structured case and bezel results in a somewhat industrial aesthetic. While this is not the first time Bell & Ross has paired a clear and colorful dial with the skeletonized movement, it is somehow even more impactful with this iteration. The hands and indices float above a halcyon landscape of warm, bronzy gold crystal. The calibre BR-CAL.322 automatic movement (based on the Sellita SW300-1 a) having been painstakingly excavated to create the latticed structure, is framed within this gloaming window like the portrait of urban scaffolding captured through the sepia-toned filter of a camera lens.
The orbicular dial, framed with a concave, golden brushed rehaut, is positioned in diametric opposition to the almost brutalist square bezel, beset by four symmetrically angled screws, itself standing upon a slightly more contoured square midcase. A heavily tapered, blocky steel bracelet of complementary satin and polished finishing cascades uninterrupted to a folding steel clasp.
At what point does design stop being comparative and begin to stand on its own? Though it is frequently our immediate reflex to understand something by way of comparison, it is often to the disservice of the thing itself. Moreover, this impulse also limits our own understanding and, in turn, appreciation of that which we are trying to analyze. This is human nature. We all too often choose to relegate a watch to an analysis by way of reference, only seeing it through the lens of those pieces which came before it. We can isolate the watch, put it in a glass of analytical formaldehyde and attempt to understand it in isolation and without perspective – or, in a more nuanced approach, attempt to see it within the context of the wider market and as a response to an aesthetic idea but articulated in the dialect of its own brand.
It is through iteration that ideas are crystalized. Not through singularity, but through evolution. Nothing is taken away from that initial concept by others creating interpretations of it. With this perspective, we can truly come to appreciate watches like the BR 05 Skeleton Golden and, indeed what Bell & Ross has done with the entirety of the BR 05 collection – created an enthusiastic and dynamic collection of watches that fits squarely within the realm of ever-expanding market demand. Not only that, they have done so while maintaining a strong sense of influence – not by other brands, but rather by their own catalog and aesthetic priorities.
The amber dial of the BR 05 Skeleton Golden creates further dimension to an already intricate mosaic of metal that is a skeletonized movement. Its addition to Bell & Ross’ offerings not only adds another flavor to its current catalog, but also brings a fresh option to a variegated corner of the watch market. In a design category where public opinion is all too often limited to the bromide of comparison, the BR 05 Skeleton Golden is a bright and refreshing addition to the fray.
Bell & Ross BR 05 Skeleton Golden
Movement: BR-Cal 322, automatic
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Case: Stainless steel, 40 by 10.33mm thick, satin and polished finishes, water-resistant to 100M
Strap: Brown rubber or polished steel bracelet
Price and availability: Limited to 500 pieces, USD 6600 on rubber, USD 7100 on bracelet