Bell & Ross BR-X1 chronograph are not entirely unlike a rock band, in that where many set out to achieve greatness and immortality, only a very select few actually manage to break through to the mainstream and become a successful act with its own distinctive sound. Such a link might seem tenuous, but in the case of most enduring bands and artists their music is immediately identifiable, and if Bell & Ross have a trademark ‘sound’, it would surely have to be their square-cased, round-faced BR 01 (& 03) Instrument series.
Originally designed in the image of flight deck instrumentation, the BR 01 series was a watch like no other. It was not particularly glamorous nor dressy in any sense, but what it lacked in beauty, it made up for as a robust, durable, highly legible and multi-practical piece of kit – which ultimately would find favour with special forces and professionals to whom time was a critical factor, and where reliability and functionality took precedent over classic good looks.
Now, in 2014, approaching its tenth year of production, and with over one hundred variations of the Instrument watch now available, from the weird and wonderful to the purely functional, the iconic square design welcomes a new addition to the family. Bell & Ross claim that every one of their collections have been inspired by the most significant eras in military history and for the new Instrument, the company have taken the futuristic experimental Bell X1 rocket plane from 1947 as its inspiration, and at the same time have carried off another ‘hit’ in the making: the Bell & Ross BR-X1 chronograph. It was launched in Paris this week.
Based around its skeletonised automatic self winding movement, revealed beneath a smoked sapphire dial, the Bell & Ross BR-X1 chronograph breathes new life into the tried and tested formula. Whereas in previous guises the Instrument (tourbillon or skulls excluded) was just that, an instrument, the use of brighter brushed titanium for the rehaut and outer dial, subdial ring and hands, combined with a soupçon of red, adds a new exciting technical-looking element to the mix.
SuperLumiNova applications to the hands and elongated appliqué hour indices, which protrude over the mechanism, ensure excellent readability in day or low light environments. Small seconds feature at the 3 o’clock position on a printed counter, and further on around at the 6, the date is displayed through an aperture in the smoked dial. The 30-minute chronograph counter uses a black four-bladed aluminium disc resembling a turbine with a red highlight for reference, which works really well here.
Constructed from lightweight but supremely durable materials such as its 45mm brushed titanium case, protective rubber corner fenders, ceramic lug mounts, red ceramic pushers, that red rubber grip at the 9, and of course the rubber strap, the combination of textures and colour means the BR-X1 jumps out instantly, catching the attention and making almost the same impact as its original did almost ten years before. The fusion of high-tech materials and manufacturing processes with the influences of the experimental space-age flight results in a timepiece that is not only a smart sports watch, but also one which would not look out of place in the cockpit instrument panel of any boy’s imagined space ship, and that is pretty hard to pull off successfully.