Bell & Ross is a brand that if, I may be honest here, has not been much on my mind lately. Sure, they have produced some cool watches like the F1 inspired RS17 which I find to be quite good-looking. At $24,200 it is not however in the usual price range of B&R and therefore makes it too exclusive to be a real hit. For them to release a real banger it would need to tick a few boxes. Firstly, it needs to be fairly priced compared to their usual models, making it attainable to loyal fans. Then it needs to hold the brand DNA. You need to be able to look at the watch and be able to identify it as a Bell & Ross. And finally, it must catch the Zeitgeist in some way, either riding with the trend or defining it.
So, does the BR05 have the ingredients to be a hit? First the price. At just under $5000 dollars for the steel model with the matching steel bracelet, I feel like it is well priced both for what it is and a Bell & Ross in general. Then the DNA. While much has been said of the design, which we will get into more detail later, for me, it is clearly identifiable as a product of the Swiss brand. The square, airplane inspired design can be found in this watch just as much as the typical B&R dial with the softly swung numbers and markers matching the hands. And finally, is it modern or trendy enough to capture a critical amount of interest. Well, a Gentra inspired all-steel luxury sports watch is nothing groundbreaking, in fact, this concept is almost half a century old. At twice my age however these watches have lost none of their appeals, arguably being nowadays more popular than ever, and I think Bell & Ross did well to show us their interpretation of this design.
Bell & Ross released multiple versions of this piece, in Steel or 18k Gold, with an integrated bracelet or a rubber one, or with different dial colours and even a skeletonized version. Let’s be honest, I think most people can agree that both the 18k and the skeletonized version are fairly forgettable. The 18k version fails as it does not pass the aforementioned price test. Not that there is anything wrong with wanting to get this watch in gold, but the fact of the matter is that at that cost most people would choose an upgrade to a different brand rather than a different model of watch. And as far as the skeletonized watch is concerned, these types of dials are very hard to do right and unfortunately, I do not think this was executed well enough due to a boring background making this a convoluted mess rather than a tasteful exposé of horology.
With the basics out-of-the-way let’s address the elephant in the room here. Is this just another Nautilus clone, and if it is, is that a problem? With similarities so glaring anybody could spot them, I think that yes this could be categorized as a Nautilus clone. At some point, you have to ask yourself though when we have to stop calling these watches clones and when to consider them as their own category. The fact is this is a very popular way to design a watch, and so I would say that even if you would want to call this piece a clone I do not think that it matters. This is underscored for me by the aforementioned design attributes which clearly distinguish this watch as a Bell & Ross. And on a side note here, running the risk of sounding like “everything that can be invented, has already been invented”, it is becoming every day harder to produce a watch that does not look like at least a little like some other watch that has already been produced.
There will always be the Watch Snobs who try to find the mistakes with any new release that threatens the holy pedestal on which they place their three grail watches. Even though I am not sure that I would personally buy this watch, I think it makes a worthwhile contender at this price range. A tiny problem I personally see with this watch is its size. Sure, 40mm is not exactly a massive timepiece, but the square design makes the watch feel chunkier which is why a millimeter or two less in diameter would allow this to be a great unisex piece. I hope Bell & Ross finds success with this model range and keeps developing it, as I feel like they have a real winner on their hands!