We take a look at the square-cased aviation watch that put Bell & Ross on the map
By Alex Doak
Bell & Ross’s BR01 Instrument is a no-brainer for inclusion in our Modern Classics series. It certainly helps that Bell & Ross itself is a “new” brand (in relative terms), dating from 1992 and therefore unaffected by a past and collectors’ expectations. But still, this massive (it still feels massive at 46mm) square-cased, cockpit-inspired statement piece was a shock when it appeared 12 years ago, and still retains its impact.
The plan was to turn an aircraft cockpit into a purist’s aviation watch, allowing the Parisian brand to demonstrate cutting-edge creativity beyond a then rather sober oeuvre. In fact, despite the BR01’s deliberate source of inspiration and Bell & Ross’s committed following among pilots and tool watch enthusiasts, it was a new-found crowd of architects and fashionistas who cottoned on most eagerly.
Since then, Bell & Ross has developed more than 150 models and 50 limited editions of the square watch, not to mention the BR02 (a tonneau diver) and BR03 (for the daintier of wrist). You can see some of the most interesting BR01 references in the slideshow above.
It’s particularly fitting that the 500-piece 10th-anniversary watch pictured here (£3,300) keeps things as simple as the original of ’05, albeit with a slick ceramic case straight from parent company Chanel’s groundbreaking case manufacture next-door to Bell & Ross’s factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The BR01: still fresh, and still ripe for re-designs in years to come.
Since then Bell & Ross has reinvented itself yet again, with the BR-X1 series, an association with Formula 1 and much more to boot. You can read our in-depth story all about what’s next for the brand here.
This is part of our Modern Classics series, profiling the most significant watch designs of the last 30 years. You can view the rest of the entries here. Disagree with our choices? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or by email.