This past November I had the rare chance to sit on the prosecution of this Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. For a single day, myself and 22 additional far-more-qualified watch lovers closely analyzed 71 watches in 14 categories, spanning the entire world of watchmaking in the $3,100 non-complication Tudor Black Bay into some woman’s tourbillion made by Bovet that retails for more than200,000. Of all the watches that I watched, one that really stood out to me was the Bell & Ross BR126 Sport Heritage Chronograph. An entrance in the Sport Watch class, The Sport Heritage Chronograph didn’t take home an award at the ceremony, but it left a lasting impression on me for holding its own against all the other watches at the running.Here’s one thing I’ve discovered in my years as both an artist and also a watch collector: excellent design costs the same to make as bad layout. It just takes some heart and soul to make it really mean something. Better materials cost more, sure, but a pad printer will lay whatever style correspondence on a dial that you let it. When an inexpensive (though reliable) Swiss ETA movement is involved, as is true with this BR126, most watch businesses start from a point of resignation and don’t even try to do something truly rewarding. Bell & Ross appeared past the cost point about the Sport Heritage and really broke the fantastic design barrier on watches in this level. We’ve seen brands such as Omega and Panerai experimentation with an artificial patina effect, but the BR126 claws the “aged luminous” look on its own hour hands and markers. If you’ve ever spent time staring at a vintage Sea-Dweller or Submariner, you’ll appreciate how persuasive this seems. And along with incorporating some historical realism, it also sets the tone for the remainder of the watch in terms of its colour palate: subdued, classic, and cool.
The signature square Bell & Ross generally comes in two flavours – sleek and minimalist or tech-maximalist. The BR-X1 Black Titanium falls into the latter category.
Made of titanium, the case is 45mm in diameter and framed with black ceramic. The chronograph pushers are integrated into the case and pivoted on one end, functioning like rockers, a trademark feature of the X1 line.
Like the other X1 watches, this has no dial. In its place is a grey-tinted sapphire crystal that reveals the chronograph module below, along with the open-worked date wheel. Because the BR-CAL.313 movement inside is modular – made up of an ETA 2892 with a Dubois-Depraz chronograph plate – the entirety of the chronograph mechanism is visible from the front. And the chronograph module has been skeletonised, with an X-shaped bridge in the centre, to reveal as much of the movement as possible.
While the BR-X1 Black Titanium is not quite the value proposition offered by the BR V1-92 by the same maker for instance, the price tag stems from both the skeletonised movement as well as the complex case produced by G&F Châtelain. A leading specialist in cases and buckles, G&F Châtelain is a Chanel subsidiary (the Parisian fashion house also owns Bell & Ross) that also makes components for cutting edge brands like MB&F and Richard Mille.
Price and availability
Limited to 250 pieces, the BR-X1 Black Titanium (ref. BRX1-CE-TI-BLC) costs €16,900 or S$27,200. Learn more on bellross.com.