A beaming smile radiated from the face of Bell & Ross co-founder Carlos Rosillo as he presented his new “baby” to the aBlogtoWatch team a few months before its official debut — the BR 05 collection. The Bell & Ross BR 05 is the latest chapter in the Parisian brand’s ongoing saga to match modern fashion sensibility to the age-old pleasure of wearing an instrument on the wrist. Unlike most of Bell & Ross’ previous timepieces, which mostly focused on emulating a particular style or theme from the past (rendered for today’s tastes), the BR 05 is entirely inspired by something much more modern.
In short, the Bell & Ross BR 05 is the brand’s attractive, sensible, and distinctive answer to the popularity of the dressy sports watch on an integrated bracelet. Extremely well-loved watches, such as the Patek Philippe Nautilus, Audemars Piguet, and even, to a slightly lesser degree, the Rolex Submariner, are brimming with popularity as the taste among luxury seekers today is very much a hybrid between “look at me, I like to stay active,” and “look at me, I have money, good taste, and the confidence to wear it.”
The Appeal Of Watches With An Integrated Case & Bracelet
The most direct complaint anyone can make about the Bell & Ross BR 05 is also probably its greatest asset. “Isn’t Bell & Ross simply emulating the Patek Philippe Nautilus in its own style?” one might ask. The short answer to the question is “yes,” but that would entirely ignore the larger popularity of high-quality men’s bracelet watches that we see today since Bell & Ross isn’t exactly trying to steal sales from Swiss Patek Philippe. Rather, Bell & Ross is recognizing the importance of this product segment and giving it their best with a lovely new collection of timepieces. More so, one can easily argue that the Bell & Ross deserves much attention in this product category space because the value-to-quality ratio for the BR 05 is very high.
What makes integrated bracelet sporty-style watches like the Nautilus so popular in the first place? It isn’t as though Patek Philippe did anything remarkable to popularize this category. In fact, like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Nautilus was a dud for a long time. In fact, the Nautilus was initially criticized for how ugly it was. It did, however, embody a winning formula that the watch industry should generally credit Mr. Gerald Genta for popularizing.
The way I explain something like a BR 05 or a Nautilus watch is that it’s an attractive men’s bracelet that happens to have a watch attached to it. In plain terms, these are jewelry bracelets that, for me, are made utilitarian by the addition of a watch face. Even Gerald Genta himself was famous for quipping that he did not particularly like watches. Rather, his interest was in making the jewelry bracelet more popular for men. The trick was in creating a bracelet that wasn’t just a means to securing a watch onto your wrist, but that was also a decorative element unto itself. Logically speaking, this is sound reasoning, since the majority of the visual space on a watch (when worn) is the strap or bracelet.
The massive popularity of high-end (mostly) steel sports watches on bracelets today is not merely about related current tastes merging with this look. It is also about economics and watch-industry supply. Luxury spending has focused a lot more on value. That means that someone interested in a noteworthy brand is more interested in wearing the name — and also interested in convenience. The prospect of wearing a solid-gold, complicated (thus easier to break) Patek Philippe isn’t as good for a daily wearing experience as a svelte steel watch that only indicates the time. Sport-style watches also have the benefit of not making the wearer look too old or stuffy. Maturing men who spend most of their time in business attire, but who still want people to know they have an active life, love how a timepiece such as this suggests an interest in physical activity but is also very suitable when worn with more formal attire.
One must also consider that Patek Philippe and Rolex simply aren’t producing enough of their popular steel sports watches on bracelets to go around. As demand for the more entry-level products from these popular companies remains high, consumers wanting these watches are typically in for an unpleasant surprise when it comes to being able to buy one. The waiting list from Patek Philippe to get a Nautilus watch was (the last I saw) over 12 years.
Bell & Ross (along with other companies) logically sees this as an opportunity. If consumers are interested in a product category which has insufficient supply, then why not come up with their own answer to the integrated bracelet watch question. Bell & Ross is not the only company offering such watches, but the BR 05 is among the more interesting and, of course, it is inspired by the world of Bell & Ross itself.
Understanding The Bell & Ross BR 05 Design
The design journey behind the BR 05 — done entirely in-house at Bell & Ross — began with the brand’s own legacy, to my knowledge. That means that, rather than being inspired by pilot watches, cockpit instruments, race cars, diving equipment, etc., Bell & Ross was inspired to create its own answer to this product category. The result is interesting because it looks on its surface to be heavily inspired by Gerald Genta, but then you find many of those design elements showing up in previous Bell & Ross watches. This begins with the square-style case that is an homage to the Bell & Ross BR 01, and the bracelet whose links hearken back to early Bell & Ross watches produced for them by Sinn.
Design areas like the hands appear to be inspired by those Gerald Genta preferred and, along the way, the integrated lugs angle down on the side of the case. Bell & Ross clearly wants to be considered as an option when consumers are seeking out watches of this category, so some visual familiarity does them good. That said, Bell & Ross, in all other respects, attempts to focus on itself and its previous models as inspiration for the BR 05. In this regard, the BR 05 is very much in line with the brand’s DNA.