Bell & Ross achieve success for their higher-priced watches (their core business is from $2,000 to $6,000) by ensuring that demand is always higher than supply. Demand comes from quality design and originality, supply is restricted by limiting production. This piece, BR 01 Instrument de Marine, is a good example. Bell & Ross are tapping into the old-style theme that is high on the fashion agenda at the moment, with a surge in old-school beards, and a passion for vintage cars, vintage motorbikes, vintage anything. Perhaps that is why the marine chronometer watch style has seen the introduction of this and other new models from a number of manufacturers.
Bell & Ross are famous for their aviation watches, with square cases based on cockpit instruments. This foray into marine-theme watches is quite logical, considering that 18th and 19th-century marine chronometers were round clocks mounted on gimbals and placed in a wooden box. To reinforce the marine effect, Bell & Ross have used bronze and rosewood for the case, providing an antique look. The caseback on the other hand is in titanium, a modern material that doesn’t stain the skin (as would bronze) and is anti-allergenic. Water resistance is 100 metres. It’s a square shape 45 mm across and from top to bottom, and this means that it’s large. The lug attachment is very neat, but the shape makes it wear large.
The crown is also in bronze, knurled as befits the marine instrument style. The dial is in white lacquer with black Roman numerals and blued steel hands, with a small seconds dial at 6 o’clock. There is no date window, which enhances its vintage looks. The watch has a brown alligator strap with a bronze pin buckle.
The watch has a circular sapphire caseback revealing the hand-wound movement. This is the BR-CAL.203 movement, but Bell & Ross don’t make movements and so they have used the ETA Unitas 6498, originally made as a pocket watch calibre, and now used by many brands for their larger watches. It has 17 jewels, runs at 21,600 vibrations per hour, 3 Hertz, and generally has a power reserve of 46-50 hours. In the version used in the BR 01 Instrument de Marine, it has a power reserve of 56 hours, as in Panerai’s OP X1 developed from the Unitas 6497.
The caseback view provides an interesting contrast with the very classical front of the watch. The movement bridges have been brushed to match the titanium caseback. The jewels provide a note of colour, along with a few blued screws, and the brass wheels and balance. The absence of Côtes de Genève gives it a contemporary style.
Price and reference
The Bell & Ross BR 01 Instrument de Marine is a limited edition of 500 pieces, reference BR01-CM-203. Price €7,900. Considering the movement and the materials, this seems high to me, but Bell & Ross are extremely successful with their business plan, so… chapeau.