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Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull ‘Tattoo’ Watch Hands-On

Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull 'Tattoo' Watch Hands-On Hands-On

“Burning skull tattoo” is not normally what I would consider to be a solid formula for a cool new timepiece. In fact, it sounds like quite the opposite. And yet… well, let’s just say that this Bell & Ross BR01-92 Burning Skull Tattoo watch (officially “just” called the “Burning Skull”) is surprisingly not awful. Actually, it is rather well-done, in a tattoo-with-burning-skulls sort of way. It is also the latest in a long line of skull watches from Bell & Ross that commemorates the original 2009-released Bell & Ross BR01 Skull.

Back then, the BR01 Skull was easily the most controversial timepiece Bell & Ross had ever released. It quickly divides watch lovers and made fans (as well as enemies) of the brand. Nevertheless, the skull concept was a hit, and it inspired the typically conservative and instrument-themed watch brand to make more of them. I think the only other time I covered a Bell & Ross Skull watch was back in 2009 when they produced the BR01 Tourbillon Airborne watch (that has a skull on it). So let’s once again look at a limited edition watch using the famed 46mm-wide square-shaped BR01 case… and a skull.

Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull 'Tattoo' Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Why skull-themed watches are so “in” right now is beyond me. I mean, I have theories and explanations, but these watches aren’t really my taste, and for the most part they don’t speak to my demographic. Then again, I don’t write angry lyrics to bad songs, have a few too many tattoos I’ll regret when my (future) kids are high school age, or ride around on a dark and overly audible motorcycle with a far too serious look on my face and wearing enough leather to earn me an honorary place in the the local West Hollywood “daddy dom” association…

Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull 'Tattoo' Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Skulls on items of jewelry, clothing, or watches apparently are an uplifting reminder that we too shall expire someday – and so we must live each day to its fullest. Oh yes, the threat (and reminder) of our own mortality to really help our citizenry put in that extra 10% at work. The irony for me is that if I had even more reminders of my eventual demise I think I would start living life much more cautiously – that, amongst other things, may result in even fewer “skull-wearing” moments. Skulls are also supposed to remind people of all their fallen foes (you know, for people without a competitive streak) and, in this instance, have something to do with pirates.

Bell & Ross has fully embraced not just the skull, but the pirate-themed skull. Here we don’t have a purist’s favorite skull & crossbones (oh wait, there are crossed bones! See, Bell & Ross even managed to include that detail), but we do have a skull and crossed cutlasses. I can probably say that I’ve seen that represented in at least a few pirate-themed movies or video games, so it feels legit enough. In 2009, part of the controversy behind the original Bell & Ross BR01 Skull was the fact that the watch was such a departure from the brand’s typically simple and straight forward utilitarian designs. Clearly meant to combine the aviation instrument watch case with… pirate skulls, it was just a very new side to the brand’s personality.


Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull 'Tattoo' Watch Hands-On Hands-On

This 2016 “Burning Skull” iteration of the skeletal favorite takes things in an even more detailed direction. For one thing, our skinless friend on the dial is rendered in remarkable three-dimensional detail in full relief. If you are going for a cool “skull on watch dial” look, there are few better watches than something like this. The double blades that make up the hour and minute hands have strips of black luminant on them (which actually make the sword hands look better), and the entire skull theme is simply better-executed.

Bell & Ross didn’t stop there. Next, the entire surface of the steel case (as well as the sides and back) are engraved with some small symbols (fitting imagery like a rose, heart, and hourglass), and those engravings are filled in (by hand) with black enamel paint. In fact, in the video that will hopefully be part of this article, you can see how a technician literally tattoos the Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull watch with the black enamel paint, and how the entire watch case then is baked in an oven to set the enamel for permanence. Yes, Bell & Ross managed to successfully tattoo a watch.

Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull 'Tattoo' Watch Hands-On Hands-On

If you don’t have the heart (or dedication/commitment) to get a tattoo on your skin, then at least get one for your watch. Even your watch strap will suffice. As cheesy as it sounds, the resulting timepiece is actually pretty cool. No, the Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull isn’t going to measure up as a daily wrist wear for anyone but the most badass among us, but it succeeds in being a genuine work of art.

It is really all the little details that come together to make the Bell & Ross BR01 Burning Skull cool. The design of the case “tattoos” are clearly on point with the theme, but don’t look out of place on a luxury watch, and much of the meticulous effort put into the design is noticeable. It is hard to say how the case will “age” with wear, but the paint used to black-color the engravings is at least enameled, and that will greatly increase its longevity. The case itself is water resistant to 100 meters, and attached to an attractive dark brown alligator strap (that is also hand-made).



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  • Raymond Wilkie


  • laup nomis

    Crazy…. And hilarious

    • The Old Watcheroo

      Finally, an ashtray that warns you of the effects of smoking.

  • I agree with Ariel: if you are looking for a skull-themed watch, this is one of the coolest there is. And certainly the best of the 6 BR 01 Skull (or 8 if we include the tourbillon version and the Only Watch unit). I think however that the homage here is not to pirates but to the II World War Airborne Division that used the Jolly Roger as one of their symbols.

    What really intrigues me is the “do not unscrew” warning next to that central screw at the back. Never seen that on a case, and it actually makes me want to go ahead and unscrew it :0)

    Let me add a pic I took yesterday of how it looks in the dark:

  • BrJean


  • IanE

    A bit of fun for the macabre amongst us – perhaps a Halloween watch for the very well-heeled!?

  • ??????

    Never been a fan of skull-themed watches, but… this B&R looks cool! Attention to details is brought to the max, lumeshot (by Santiago) looks terrific – it reminds me of Korona watches by Sarpaneva.

  • Boogur T. Wang

    “—– Puh-leese”

  • SuperStrapper

    I love the caseback, but don’t really have an interested in the rest of the watch. I like B&R though.

  • I have always felt that their skull watches were a step too far from the cockpit DNA, but they have enjoyed so much success I think it’s time to accept them as their own thing. The patina’ bronze one from Only Watch is still my favorite skull outside of the Fiona Kruger universe!

    • Marius

      “…but they have enjoyed so much success I think it’s time to accept them as their own thing.” Successful when compared to what? Enron? Personally, I have never heard about, or seen a Bell&Ross skull watch, and I am the watch guru. I know everything about anything.

      • Success as measured against what I assume was their rather niche target. I used to frequent a B&R community and the earlier skull variants enjoyed popularity amongst a decent number of collectors despite freaking out a lot of other people including me.

        • Timestandsstill

          I think you lost him at “omniscient” ?

  • TriggerMG

    This will pair well w my Ed Hardy t-shirt collection .


    Too much totenkopf for my taste

    • laup nomis

      Could be the Prussian 5th Hussars…..
      (Among others)

  • Omegaboy

    What’s with this obsession with death? There are plenty of other icons and symbols that can be used.

  • I’m not in the target demographic either (although I do have a few tattoos), but…man that’s fugly. The off-center crown just looks ridiculous too.

  • David Williams

    Perfect for rock musicians of a certain ilk – real and wannabee – and their fans! Keef, Ozzie, Alice (when not playing golf!) and co. – this is for you!

  • cg

    ? aren’t cool anymore… Hipster motif now. They wannabe badass bikers or some stupid pop culture icon. The ? phenomenon is just dumb, I go for the living not the dead. Give me a T&A watch anytime!

  • Nick Chang

    I’ll keep my personal thoughts to myself on this one but it does look like another watch we’ll likely see on the wrist of Barney ROSS (Sly Stallone) on the next Expendables movie. It’ll be a perfect match for his Skull ring 😉

  • Chaz

    I give B&R another 4-5 years before they’re totally irrelevant

  • SwissMatic

    Even if skull motifs were my thing, that Arial typeface Bell & Ross logo just kills it for me.

  • Kurt Klimisch

    Great article Ariel – you got me at “Skulls on items of jewelry, clothing, or watches apparently are an uplifting reminder that we too shall expire someday…” I enjoyed your review, well written.

    Can we say the B&R has officially jumped the shark with this watch?

  • DanW94

    Seems quite a few commenters have a bone to pick with B & R on this one….

    • I can always count on you Dan, to enter the saloon puns drawn.

      • DanW94

        Better than entering with my guns pawned….

  • Javiersteva

    Even on Captain Jack Sparrow or a biker buddy of mine this watch would seem gauche.

  • Shawn Lavigne

    an interesting watch. i’d wear it if it was gifted.

  • Wandi Marco

    this watch will suit Sly perfectly on The Expendables 4 😀 😀 😀

  • ZL

    Was really hoping for more pirate jokes, preferably incorporating aRRRRR. Can’t get enough of those. The B aRRRRR 01, perhaps…

    Not at all what I am looking for in a watch, but pretty cool and well done for what it is. Not so crazy about the logo on the crystal like that.

  • word-merchant

    Finally, a watch I can wear with my Three Wolf Moon T-Shirt.

  • Neat piece of thematic jewelry – pretty shitty watch though. The hands and the print on the crystal ruin the skull. The rest is interesting and well done, just not apropos for a watch.

  • Jay

    I think this watch would be pretty cool to have for a while but the novelty would wear off sooner or later.

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