September 1, 2016
by Ariel Adams
“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.
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…
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.
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.
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).