In September 2019, Paris-based Bell & Ross debuted its most ambitious watch in years: the Bell & Ross BR 05 (aBlogtoWatch hands-on here). The BR 05 (BR05) was ambitious because, for the first time, Bell & Ross was producing a watch simply designed to look and feel good, as opposed to needing inspiration from a particular world of sport or activity (such as flying, racing, or diving). The BR 05’s development was fueled by popular watch collector demand for easy-to-wear steel watches that came on integrated steel bracelets, and in some ways, it shared an aesthetic with watches that came before it. That said, the Bell & Ross BR 05 is most inspired by the past work of Bell & Ross itself. The amazing watch is among the most satisfying I’ve worn in a while — and then Bell & Ross decided to come out with the Chronograph version in the BR 05 Chrono.
Today, I review the Bell & Ross BR 05 Chrono reference BR05C-BU-ST/SRB in steel with a deep metallic blue dial and matching blued rubber strap. I will readily admit I was reluctant to review a watch so specifically designed to fit on a bracelet… on a strap. I’m actually really glad I did. While it can be particularly satisfying to review a watch such as the BR 05 on the companion bracelet that is designed to go with it, there are times when life doesn’t get any better than a supple rubber strap.
Bell & Ross debuted the BR 05 Chrono (on aBlogtoWatch here) about a year after the original three-hand BR 05 models came out. The BR 05 Chrono has the same 42mm-wide steel case, but it is a little bit thicker on account of the automatic chronograph movement. The automatic is, indeed, a bit larger of a watch as compared to the three hand-model, but when worn snug it is very comfortable, and the case proportions are lovely.
Speaking of the case, the BR 05 itself is a thing of beauty that takes the square case look of the Bell & Ross BR 01, then softens it and gives it fancier polished angles and surfaces for the BR 05. It’s the Gerald Genta watch Bell & Ross made — that simple. It also feels like a cousin to the Glashutte Original Seventies Chronograph that I reviewed here.
As a tool watch, the BR 05 is still pretty competent, even if it is designed for lifestyle appeal. The case is beefy and water-resistant to 100 meters, with a screw-down crown and a sapphire crystal over the dial. The side of the case has an attractive crown and chronograph pusher guard, and the dial legibility is very good, overall. I particularly like the design of the two subdials, whose shapes mimic that of the BR 05 case itself.
Bell & Ross chose a bit of style of functionality for the dial of the BR 05 Chrono, on account of the fact that the hour-counter chronograph register has been removed, even though the movement offers a full 12-hour chronograph. This means the base Swiss Made ETA 2894-2 automatic movement (which Bell & Ross calls its calibre BR-CAL.301) is outfitted to have a 30-minute chronograph, along with the time and a round date window located between 4 and 5 o’clock on the dial.
Through the rear of the watch you can admire the movement, which has been perlage-decorated for use in the BR 05 Chrono watches and given a custom Bell & Ross wheel spoke-style automatic rotor. This latter design element is a bit random, even though it does tie into the larger DNA of the Bell & Ross brand. The movement operates at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve.
Returning to the watch dial, I really admire how Bell & Ross skillfully played with levels and materials. The combination of slightly recessed subdials, applied hour markers, and the sloped flange ring gives the BR 05’s dial a welcome and handsome sense of depth. While you can opt for a more classic black-dial version, this blue-dial version of the BR 05 Chrono further delights with the dynamic way the dial color plays with the light and goes from deep midnight to glossy ocean blue.
One of the interesting surprises when wearing the BR 05 case on the available (and lower-priced) rubber strap is how much I like it — not only how it feels but how it looks. Visually, the lack of a bracelet actually enhanced visual attention to the case, while also emphasizing its squareness and unique looks. It all sort of blends together when on the matching steel bracelet. Thus, wearing a BR 05 on a strap or a bracelet makes for an entirely different style experience. There is also the matter of simple comfort. The tapering rubber strap is closed with a comfortable fold-over steel push-button deployant clasp. This combination of elements makes for extremely comfortable wearing experiences, as proven to the watch industry by Hublot. Now Bell & Ross has built a product that not only has an available Gerald Genta-style bracelet but also a luxury sports watch rubber strap option. Good for Bell & Ross — because this wearing experience is not really found elsewhere at these price points.
The choice between the Bell & Ross BR 05 three-hand and Chrono is a matter of taste and budget. Both are excellent choices and simply different flavors of the same treat. One must also determine whether or not you want the full bracelet experience or the sporty comfort and durability of the strap (which also has its own sense of high style). Price for this Bell & Ross BR 05 Chrono reference BR05C-BU-ST/SRB is $5,900 USD. Learn more or order at the Bell & Ross website here.
>Brand: Bell & Ross
>Model: BR 05 Chrono Blue Steel reference BR05C-BU-ST/SRB
>Price: $5,900 USD
>Size: 42mm-wide, ~14mm-thick, and ~50mm lug-to-lug.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Sexy looks as daily wear sports watch that will often end up looking like something more expensive.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Active socialite who wants a nice timepiece but doesn’t want to appear as though they are trying too hard.
>Best characteristic of watch: Even though Bell & Ross regurgitated its own cud and chewed it into the BR 05, the result is a yummy haute cuisine-style serving of contemporary timepiece appeal in price, wearability, and trendiness.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Bell & Ross will find it hard to explain to strict-tool watch enthusiasts what utilitarian purpose the BR 05 collection is meant to serve. It is a timepiece that only truly becomes endearing after some wrist time (i.e., it may be hard to fall in love with it from afar).