Bell & Ross has been knocking them out of the park lately, with several vintage-inspired watches that really hit the spot, like the new Vintage Collection and some derivatives, such as the Vintage V2-92 & V2-94 Garde-Cotes and the commemorative BR126 Renault Sport 40th Anniversary. Today, however, we’re shifting gears and getting hands on with one of the brand’s more futuristic-looking models; the BR-X1 Black Titanium Chronograph, a softer and more “monochrome” version of the bold chronograph we already tested here.
Part of the French brand’s extensive Instrument collection, the BR-X1 series made its debut three years ago with the intention of bringing the fight to the likes of the Hublot King Power and the Audermars Piguet Royal Oak. Given the series now boasts 17 different models – including the exceptional BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Monopusher – I think it’s safe to assume that it has performed this mission quite well. it is bold, it is very technical, it has a very striking movement and it is has a module architecture, allowing for several different versions. And a new one, in a very monochromatic style, is coming.
One of the latest models, unveiled at Baselworld 2017 earlier this year, is the BR-X1 Black Titanium Chronograph. Presented in a distinctive, 45mm grade-5 titanium square case with round bezel, the design of which is inspired by aviation instruments, it is light and comfortable on the wrist. Protecting the case against accidental knocks is a black ceramic band, which pairs nicely with the black rubber strap and complements the overall stealth look of the watch. The ergonomically-designed rocker pushers are done in this same ceramic material, and have rubber inserts to ensure a good grip, even with gloves on.
What really stands out on the BR-X1 Black Titanium Chronograph, and indeed all BR-X1 models, is the dial. Or more accurately, the transparent sapphire plate that sits above the skeletonized movements and is used as a dial. Despite giving the initial impression that it is barely there, closer inspection reveals that there is actually a lot going on. For a start, the logo and inscriptions, as well as the indexes of the running second at 3, are directly printed on this sapphire disc in a gun-metal silver color. At six o’clock there is a small aperture for the date, whilst there is a 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock for elapsed chronograph minutes, with an applied track in the same gun-metal silver color on the periphery.
The hours and minutes are indicated centrally via metal skeleton Superluminova- filled hour and minute hands, as are the chronograph seconds. On the periphery of the dial, there is a minute track printed on a brushed ring, on the top of which sit the metal applique Superluminova-filled indices, which denote the hours. These give the appearance of floating on top of the rest of the dial, creating a nice sense of depth. Completing the chronograph indications is an inner flange with a tachymeter scale. In keeping with the super-stealth styling, the sapphire crystal on top is grey-tinted. Arguably not the most legible chronograph out there but certainly very cool looking nonetheless. I particularly like how the matte-brushed look of the titanium and metal inserts on the dial contrast against the black of the ceramic band.
Inside is the automatic, calibre BR-CAL.313, the inner workings of which are largely visible on the dial side. The chronograph module was specially created by Dubois Depraz, with the base most likely an ETA movement or an ETA clone – however here, we talk about a very high-end version of this movement, not the classical one found in entry-level watches. To maximise the visual appeal, the movement has been designed to put the gears, levers and pinions on display, with everything on the dial-side as open-worked as possible. The central bridge is shaped like an X and the sapphire dial and enables you to observe the activation of the chronograph when pushing the buttons. The module is finished nicely with circular graining on the main plate, straight graining on the chronograph levers, sandblasted and DLC coated bridges and a sunburst pattern on the X bridge.
Worn on a woven black rubber strap closed with a pin-buckle, the BR-X1 Black Titanium Chronograph is comfortable, if a little large for my personal tastes. Keep in mind, however, that this is a watch designed to make a statement, it’s not something you wear if you don’t want to attract attention to yourself, even with its new stealth color scheme. Price is 16,900 Euro. More details on www.bellross.com.
Technical Specifications – Bell & Ross BR-X1 Black Titanium Chronograph
- Case: 45mm diameter – Titanium and ceramic with rubber inserts – rocker push-buttons – back with opening in tinted sapphire crystal, centred on the balance. – 100m water resistant
- Movement: calibre BR-CAL.313 – self-winding – 4Hz frequency – 56 jewels – hours, minutes, small second, chronograph with 30-min counter and date
- Strap: black rubber strap with steel and rubber pin buckle
- Reference: BRX1-CE-TI-BLC
- Price: 16,900 Euro