December 6, 2021
Although the brand’s lineup is traditionally dominated by square-cased, aircraft instrument-inspired designs, the Bell & Ross catalogue has no shortage of unique and offbeat looks as well. The BR 01 Cyber Skull might well be the most dramatic of these more experimental offerings. First launched in 2020, the Cyber Skull reinterprets the brand’s long-running skull and crossbones motif through a low-res 3D filter, delivering a statement piece that owes as much to modern pop art as luxury watch design. For its latest release, however, the brand takes this audacious concept a step further, building on the success of its one-off Only Watch 2021 design with bombastic all-sapphire construction. The new limited edition Bell & Ross BR 01 Cyber Skull Sapphire is a playful and striking piece of haute horlogerie spectacle, with enough creative movement design to impress on a mechanical level as well.
The high-impact design of the Bell & Ross BR 01 Cyber Skull Sapphire begins with its 43.5mm-wide by 45mm-long faceted square sapphire case. While this low-poly form keeps the brand’s square design lineage intact, the overall execution feels futuristic and almost computer-generated in images, with simple angled case sides, notch lugs, and a tall sloping planar bezel that tapers inwards toward a flat sapphire crystal. The new sapphire case material gives this design a gemstone-like quality in images, with the facets of the case sides and bezel creating reflections and highlights not unlike a cut diamond. The only real concession to utility with this avant-garde clear design is the undersized stainless steel crown at 3 o’clock, with a faceted angular look that echoes the overall design language nicely but may prove more difficult to grip than a traditional coin-edge design. Although its clear construction leads to a nearly unimpeded view of the movement within, like most sapphire cases this new model seems to suffer from low durability, as the brand rates the watch for a meager 30 meters of water resistance.
Naturally, the skeletonized (no pun intended) sapphire dial is the centerpiece of the Bell & Ross BR 01 Cyber Skull Sapphire. The only truly functional elements here are the simple baton handset and a set of ghostly baton indices engraved on the underside of the crystal, presenting at least a token effort towards legibility in images. Of course, the visual highlight here is the faceted skull and crossbones design, stretching from edge to edge across the case and continuing the playfully futuristic computerized style set forth by the case. Each element of the skull itself provides a window into the Cyber Skull Sapphire’s movement. One of the eyes acts as a porthole into the gear train, while the other cheekily frames the brand’s ampersand emblem engraved onto a movement bridge. At 12 o’clock, the skull splits open to frame the “brain” of the movement, the beating balance wheel, creating a natural focal point in images. It’s at 6 o’clock, however, where the Cyber Skull Sapphire plays its greatest visual trick. As the movement is wound via the crown, the jaws of this stylized skull open and close, revealing the 6 o’clock mainspring barrel and acting as a makeshift power reserve indicator. While it may not completely reinvent the concept, the swap to sapphire for this new model’s dial adds even greater visual drama to this stylized design in initial images, and should lead to intense light play on the wrist as each facet of the skull catches a major light source.
Bell & Ross powers the BR 01 Cyber Skull Sapphire with the in-house BR.CAL-209 handwound movement. Slightly modified from previous iterations of the Cyber Skull to better showcase the gear train, the stylized skeleton form of the BR.CAL-209 bends and tapers to conform with the contours of the skull and crossbones design. The stouter plates that make up the “bones” anchor the movement to the case, while much of the “skull” itself is cut away to frame the mainspring barrel, balance wheel, and gear train. Given the unusual skeleton shape of the movement itself, Bell & Ross wisely opts to keep the finishing of the BR.CAL-209 clean and modern, with a mix of brushing and matte blasting, along with polished chamfers for the rhodium plated bridges. Performance-wise, the BR.CAL-209 is solid if unspectacular, with a 48 hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. Bell & Ross pairs the dynamic clear design of the BR 01 Cyber Skull Sapphire with a colorless translucent rubber strap in the brand’s signature tapering layered pattern. This unique material takes on an almost frosted appearance in initial images, complementing the overall design handsomely while reintroducing a more familiar element to the mix.
While its wild, transparent future-pirate aesthetic will certainly not be for everyone, the limited edition Bell & Ross BR 01 Cyber Skull Sapphire stands as an audaciously eye-catching new poster child for the more adventurous side of the brand’s stable. Only 10 examples of the Bell & Ross BR 01 Cyber Skull Sapphire will be made, and the watch is available now through authorized dealers at an MSRP of $117,000. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.