In my opinion, one of the most difficult price points for today’s luxury watch brands to successfully operate is the space that exists between a few thousand dollars and $10k. Once you start paying more than a few grand, people begin to expect an in-house movement, and brands must compete against some of the biggest names in the industry who enjoy enormous economies of scale due to the massive volumes of their output. That said, Bell & Ross is a brand that has consistently excelled within this price category, despite having a catalog of watches that are largely powered by movements based on ETA/Sellita designs. However, joining the catalog as a more advanced and premium version of the brand’s popular BR 05 sports watch is the Bell & Ross BR-X5 series, which takes things up a notch with a new multi-component case structure and an exclusive Kenissi-manufactured movement.
At a quick glance, the new Bell & Ross BR-X5 offers much of the same overall profile as the existing BR 05 range, consisting of a circular dial set inside a rounded square-shaped case with four screws positioned at the corners. Measuring 41mm wide by 12.8mm thick, the case of the BR-X5 is a millimeter larger than the standard BR 05; however the entire approach of its construction is significantly different. The movement resides within an inner cylindrical case that is machined from the same block of metal as the crown guards, and this inner assembly is sandwiched between two components that form the upper and lower parts of the outer square-shaped case. This layered construction creates a unique and modern appearance with deeply hollowed-out sides between the upper and lower sections of the case. Fitted to the top of this entire structure is a rounded square-shaped bezel that surrounds a circular sapphire crystal, while a display caseback mounts to the opposite side of the watch and works together with the signed screw-down crown to help provide the Bell & Ross BR-X5 with 100 meters of water resistance.
The entire multi-component structure of the case on the new BR-X5 is held together by the four exposed screws positioned at each of the corners that run through the entirety of the case and secure all of the different components together from either side of the watch. When looking at the new Bell & Ross BR-X5 straight-on, it looks incredibly similar to the existing BR 05, just with slightly more angular lines and larger crown guards. However, as soon as you catch a glimpse of the watch at an angle and see its unique structure with the prominent hollowed-out appearance of its side sections, it becomes clear that the case of the BR-X5 represents a significant departure from the original version of the brand’s integrated bracelet sports watch, despite maintaining much of the collection’s signature overall aesthetic.
The dials fitted to the new Bell & Ross BR-X5 watches also represent a noticable difference compared to what can be found inside the BR 05 range, although they still offer the brand’s signature instrument-inspired design ethos. Rather than having large Arabic numerals at the cardinal points like most of the brand’s models, the dial of the BR-X5 features Super-LumiNova filled batons with a double marker at the 12 o’clock location. Additionally, at the time of launch, dial options include either black or ice blue, and both options feature a radial sunburst finish. At the 3 o’clock location resides an aviation-inspired, arc shaped date window that simultaneously shows three different values, with a small arrow used to indicate the current one in the middle. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the dial at 9 o’clock sits a power reserve indicator that tracks the watch’s three days of autonomy, while surrounding the dial is an angled rehaut that features Arabic numeral markings every five minutes, along with the small arrow used to indicate the value for the date display.
All things considered, while the dial of the Bell & Ross BR-X5 is technically more busy and information-heavy compared to the dial of the standard BR 05 watch, it still manages to achieve a slightly more refined overall aesthetic, simply due to the fact that doesn’t have the large Arabic numeral hour markers of its counterpart. Additionally, to match the two dial options, the new BR-X5 lineup is available with either a black or ice blue rubber ventilated strap, although I imagine that the majority buyers are going to be most interested in purchasing the watch on its signature stainless steel integrated bracelet, and then potentially looking into a color-matched rubber strap so that they can have an alternate option. Given that the integrated style of lugs significantly limit the compatible straps for the BR-X5, it would have been nice to see Bell & Ross simply include both the strap and bracelet with the watch, and then incorporate a quick-release system so that owners can easily swap between the two options. As far as I can tell, neither the straps nor bracelets use a quick release attachment, meaning that while you likely will be able to purchase both the bracelet and strap for the BR-X5, swapping back and forth between them won’t be an instantaneous and tool-free process.
Next to the multi-component case structure, the biggest update to accompany the new generation of Bell & Ross BR-X5 watches is the fact that they are powered by an exclusive Kenissi-manufactured movement. Dubbed the BR CAL 323, the self-winding movement runs at a frequency of 28,800vph (4 Hz) and offers users a power reserve of approximately 70 hours. Regulated by a variable inertia balance wheel and fitted with a custom skeletonized oscillation weight that is inspired by the rim of a sports car, the Bell & Ross BR CAL 323 is a COSC-certified chronometer and therefore promises to run within the same stringent standards of -4/+6 seconds per day that it had to originally meet in order to receive its certification. The specs of the movement and its underlying appearance are similar to the calibers used by other brands who work with Kenissi, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a significant amount of overlap exists between all of these different “manufacture” movements. Even still, Kenissi only works with a handful of different brands, and the calibers that it produces are generally regarded as being a step or two above comparable ETA designs. Bell & Ross is positioning the BR-X5 as a more premium and elevated evolution of the BR 05 platform, and the inclusion of a Kenissi movement certainly helps separate it from the rest of the brand’s core collection.
Although the standard version of the Bell & Ross BR-X5 is crafted entirely from stainless steel, a third limited edition model is also joining the lineup, although it will not be available for sale until earlier in 2023. Known as the BR-X5 Multimaterial, the watch draws its inspiration from fighter planes and F1 cars, and it represents a lightweight and tech-forward version of the new BR-X5 platform. Following much of the same core design as its stainless steel siblings, the inner case of the BR-X5 Multimaterial is made from titanium, while carbon fiber is used for the construction of its outer case components. The sides of the case have been further hollowed-out to reveal orange rubber inserts that highlight the transverse case connecting screws, while the small pops of orange also get carried over onto its black dial, appearing on the power reserve indicator, depth rating, and centrally-mounted seconds hand. Unlike its stainless steel siblings, the Bell & Ross BR-X5 Multimaterial is exclusively available on an orange rubber strap, and production will be limited to 500 pieces worldwide.
While the new BR-X5 series currently spans three models, Bell & Ross has made it clear that this is just the beginning and the collection will continue to grow throughout the years, both in terms of design and functionality. Working with Kenissi expands the brand’s options for movements, and the multi-component case construction opens up the doors for a wide variety of different options in terms of both design and materials. Regardless of dial color, both stainless steel versions of the new Bell & Ross BR-X5 are accompanied by an official retail price of $6,900 USD when purchased on a rubber strap, or $7,400 USD should buyers opt for the stainless steel bracelet, while the limited edition BR-X5 Multimaterial watch is priced at $11,800 USD. Given that the standard time-and-date BR 05 models retail for closer to the $5k price range, these new BR-X5 watches undeniably represent a noticeable step up in price; however, it is important to keep in mind that you are also paying for a significantly more involved case construction, rather than just a new movement and the addition of a power reserve indicator. Unlike some of the other Bell & Ross models that feature an “X” in their names, the new BR-X5 isn’t some high-complication piece fitted with a tourbillon, but rather an elevated take on the brand’s highly successful integrated bracelet sports watch that takes things up a notch, both in terms of its case design and internal movement. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.