Like those conscription adverts about being from Carlisle but finding your true self on a nuclear sub in the Caspian Sea, Bell & Ross was made in the forces. The French air force, to be exact, with the marque supplying function-led watches to pilots since its formation in 1992. That date makes Bell & Ross a toddler by watch manufacture standards, but in its short life it's proved itself something of a horological prodigy. Now, the French-born Swiss-made outfit is landing hi-spec technicality on terra firma, with a brand new release: the BR 05 Chrono Black Steel.
Based upon a 2019 launch, the latest BR 05 has an added bonus of a chronograph: a mechanical complication added to cater to "the pace of urban life" (anyone who's cycled in Zone One knows that it isn't all that different to a dogfight over the Atlantic). The added focus on design goes beyond simple mechanics. An angled attachment to the steel bracelet follows the contours of the wrist, for a more comfortable, secure fit. Simple colour contrasts were specifically chosen to maximise legibility. A rounded square design allows the BR 05 t0 wear the marque's signature, but in a quieter, subtler way. It's all very thoughtful, but without sacrificing any of that tool watch solidity that Bell & Ross specialises in.
Because the most impressive thing about the new BR 05 might be just how wearable this added technicality is. Some watchmakers can over-engineer, making timepieces so function-heavy that they become something of a Frankenwatch; lots of different things, from different places, mashed together. But we want a watch, not a zombie. Bell & Ross has danced through that particular minefield with the BR 05; it's a chronograph, it works well, and it looks like it works well, but it also sits quietly with non-Tony Stark wardrobes. Technicality doesn't have to shout.
Available in models of black and navy, and upon a rubber strap or steel bracelet, Bell & Ross isn't all Top Gun and ejector seats. Granted, it made its name in the skies. But now, there's distinguished service in civilian life too.
Available online at bellross.com, priced £5,200
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