#LookCloser – A Week On The Wrist: Bell & Ross BR05 Chrono in Blue Steel

Vincent

In 2019, Bell & Ross (“B&R”) introduced the world to their first ever integrated sports watch with the three-hander BR 05. Now in late 2020, the BR05 Chrono was subsequently introduced as a follow up of the original BR05 in the form of a chronograph variant. Marshall and I were lucky enough to have met up before the implementation of the Movement Control Order 2.0 (“MCO”) with our dear friend Tong, who is the General Manager for B&R Asia and he graciously loaned us his BR05 Chrono for an article opportunity.

The conversation of luxury sports watch design with integrated bracelets had always been a highly debated topic over the past decade, and one that I personally find very intriguing. With B&R’s participation in this particular market segment, I found that the introduction of the BR05 line-up has added value and an extra considerable option for prospective customers and enthusiasts alike for a modern sporty do-it-all watch. During our conversation with Tong, he noted that the BR05 Chrono was B&R’s attempt to penetrate the market with a more commercial objective in mind. It is essentially a watch that is specifically built for the urban go-getter, in other words – for everyday wear. I’m not planning to dive too deep into the details because all the specifications and details of the BR05 Chrono can be found here for your reference. 

Dial and case: 

In my humble opinion, B&R has been throwing punches with the introduction of this BR05 Chrono, why do I say this? You may ask. Well, this is largely due to the fact that the BR05 line-up has been realized in a slightly larger 42mm form factor, coupled with a symmetrical and very well-balanced dial design. In comparison to the three-hander BR05, I think everyone here at Team Matick can come to an agreement that the dial of the BR05 Chrono is well-populated with the appropriate amount of details. It’s not overbearing, neither being too minimal. Just right.

But wait. 42mm, isn’t that still quite large by today’s standards? Again, you may ask. Well, hear me out, even with watches that usually would be a stretch to wear at 42mm for half of the wrists out there, thanks to the BR05s steeply-angled lugs and integrated bracelet, I thought it provides a lot of accommodation with skinny wrists out there like mine at less than 6 inches. This is definitely out of the norm for the most part especially for skinny Asian wrists, especially myself. While we are currently witnessing a trend for many brands to opt of smaller case sizes in recent watch releases, B&R really did this one a great amount of justice even though with a size bump with the case. Well played.

Another aspect I really appreciate with the BR05 Chrono is that B&R did not forget its signature case design which helped shape their brand identity today. As you can see here, the BR05 Chrono comes in the form of its signature square case along with a touch of an aviation-inspired dial with the largely applied numerals on 12 and 6 o’clock. The sub-dials on top of the sun-burst blue steel dial just speaks to me. I think almost anyone, whether you are a watch enthusiast or not, can appreciate a nicely designed sports watch with a simple, detailed and yet well-balanced chronograph sports watch.

As for the hour and minute hands, B&R used minimalistic baton-styled, applied polished indices, this gives the watch a nice tinge of simplicity and greatly enhances its legibility. As marketed as a watch for urban go-getters, B&R did not forget the inclusion of a date window just in case you get lost in time and day working overtime at your desk job (lol jk), which is positioned at the 4:30 position. With a round aperture and a blue-coloured date wheel that matches the dial perfectly – an aspect many brands tend to overlook which can make or break a dial’s symmetry in my opinion.

If there’s one thing that I would give kudos to, is that the chronograph pushers are well-integrated too. It doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb like almost half of the chronograph pushers out there (I’m looking at you, AP and Grand Seiko). Instead, it embraces the curve and edges of the case design really well, with multiple case steps that make the watch look rather complex in an integrated form factor.

The pusher action is overall, decent. It doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb like almost half of the chronograph pushers out there (ahem, AP and Grand Seiko). Though I must point out that, the pushers on this watch may be a little too stiff for some to get the chronograph running, I’m totally fine with it as it is, but I can only hope that this is a calculated safety mechanism to account for any occurrences of accidental activation. Overall, I think the overall design embraces the curves and edges of the case design really well, with multi-layered case steps that lends the watch some depth in an integrated form factor. Good stuff.

Bracelet:

Before going into the conversation revolving around integrated bracelets, I understand that many would, one way or another, relate this watch to the two of the “firsts”, or rather Gerald Genta’s integrated sports watch designs, i.e. the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Phillipe Nautilus, due to their respective integrated bracelets. The integrated bracelet design dates back to the 1970s industrial design language, right when the Swiss watch industry was facing the quartz revolution and desperately in need of a disruptive product, which, I guess eventually turned out to be in the form of stainless-steel integrated sports watch. With the huge success of the two “firsts” that has opened up a brand new market segment, it also has solidified its position in the market as a point of inspiration where, to put it simply, many people took references off from. Just like how we talk about similarities between a lot of skin divers out there with slim and flat watch cases and straight long lugs (ugh, ew), the usual comparisons drawn on the similarities of industrial design on these integrated bracelets used on sports watches are inevitable, to say the least.

Really captivating under ample of light.

The integrated bracelet on the BR05 Chrono comes with brushed surfaces and mirror-polished center-links, as it should be, to invoke a perception of luxury (i.e. how a product shines and plays with light on most luxury goods). It also has good tapered dimensions which is meant to shave off some of that bulkiness and a butterfly clasp with an “&” logo on it. There’s an option with the rubber strap with the BR05 Chrono, but I’m all for the looks of the bracelet, as it is better looking when paired with the BR05 Chrono in my humble opinion. I have worn this continuously for an entire week and I can confirm that the tapered design of the bracelet greatly contributes to the comfort, as it should be. There’s no point in wearing an uncomfortable watch when you’re paying at the full retail price of approximately MYR 28,500, am I right? (Foreshadowing this, more to come later.)

Movement:

Housed inside the BR05 Chrono is a BR-CAL.301 calibre, which essentially is a modified ETA calibre 2894-2 with 42 hours of power reserve, and a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour. Nothing really much to shout about really, though I really enjoyed the exhibition caseback with the customized rotor in full view. The crown is also at the right size, which is sufficiently sized to handle, but nimble enough to not to stick out like a sore thumb.

Although I personally would appreciate it if it housed an in-house calibre, but because with B&R’s own proprietary design language that’s generally with costs associated, it’s still an A-okay for me.

Price:

Currently, the BR05 Chrono in blue steel dial is priced at approximately MYR 28,500 – still quite steep I know, but hear me out – considering some of the strong contenders in the price range, the BR05 Chrono has some high expectations to meet, especially with the price tag it bears. Personally, I think B&R certainly delivered with an emphasis of an integrated design, that is well thought-out and executed. Although, I get the feeling that many might look elsewhere, but with what the watch offers in dimensions, quality, and design; having experienced all of the above during my time spent with it on my wrist, I personally feel that the price tag can be justified.

Final thoughts:

Overall, as I have mentioned in the above, the BR05 Chrono is a well-designed watch in many aspects, but most importantly, it is a design that carries the B&R DNA so very well. I personally think that B&R has done a tremendous job in taking its original rugged design DNA and translating it into something very wearable for modern standards by many urban city people. My only gripe with the watch is the integrated bracelet which restricts convenient strap changes. I call this an iNteGRaTed Pr0bLeM (Pun totally intended by the way).

Anyway, there we have it, this is my take on the B&R BR05 Chrono: A great, no-nonsense, luxury all-rounder. In my mind, the BR05 Chrono is one of those watches where you have to put it on your wrist in order to pass judgment. In other words, this is a watch you should not overlook if you are looking for something that has a modern, sporty, daily-wearing and urban appeal. Therefore, I highly recommend you check it out at B&R boutiques after the MCO 2.0 period.

Quoting a Malay idiom: “Belum try, belum tau. Sudah try, hari-hari mau.”

(You won’t know it unless you tried it. And until you had tried it, you would come back for more.)

Finally, if you like it as much as I do, then just Buy la.

For Team Matick
Vincent
& Marshall

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