Large, thin, and finished.
Bell & Ross’ one-piece bracelet sports watch has been updated this year with the larger and arguably better BR 05 Chrono.
The new chronograph retains the design of the basic BR 05, but incorporates the style of the racing chronographs of the 1970s and their double square chronographs. Meanwhile, the case design and finish perform better on the larger format, but the chronograph case is surprisingly thin, resulting in an unusually slim profile on the wrist.
In the populous one-piece bracelet sports watch category, the best value can often be found in less obvious brands. In its class, the Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono is excellent, as is the H. Moser & Cie. Streamliner, albeit at a higher price.
In the affordable category, the BR 05 does well. The third-hand and dated BR 05 is solidly executed and well-priced, but looks and feels a little smaller, albeit at 40mm (and the same skeletonized version is cooler, but expensive). The best feature of the BR 05 is the casing, which is well made and detailed, especially at its price point.
The new BR 05 Chrono fixes size issues. It retains the same case and finishes, but increases to 42mm. The larger size is just right – the proportions that fit the look of the watch.
And in terms of design, the chronograph is also better – and looks more unique than its chronograph counterpart. This chronograph has the vibe of a 1970s racing watch rather than the sleek and more common look of a luxury sports watch with an all-in-one bracelet. The secret lies in the square chronograph, a detail immediately reminiscent of the 1970s, reminiscent of watches like the Tag Heuer Monaco.
Because of this, the strap version is arguably more appealing, as it has a more distinct personality, and the strap model is really reminiscent of the popular one-piece bracelet watches.
Square case, evolution
Bell & Ross cheap was founded in 1992 but launched its iconic watch, the BR 01, in 2005. Modeled after an aircraft cockpit clock, the BR 01 was one of the “it” watches of the mid-2000s that later evolved into smaller watches. And easier to manage BR 03. Essentially a twist on the BR 03, the BR 05 is admittedly inspired by the more established designs in the luxury sports watch category.
The size and thickness of the chronograph make the case more impactful. The stepped structure from the middle of the case to the bezel now has more depth, better showing off the contrasting surface finish.
It’s worth noting that the BR 05 Chrono is actually surprisingly thin. At 12.4mm high, the case is only slightly taller than a Rolex Daytona.
The case handling is well done, especially between the bezel and the case. The bezel is wide and fairly tall, helping to hide some of the watch’s height, with a brushed top and a mirror-polished bevel around it.
The best indicator of the quality of the finish is the edge between the flat and the surface – everything is crisp, clean and well-defined. The only aspects of the case that are not so well done are the pushrod and crown guards. These are separate pieces that fit in the middle of the case, and they have softer lines and edges. It’s not noticeable on the wrist, which is forgivable considering the price.
The buckle is equally well-made, although it’s a single fold, which makes it difficult to get a perfect fit without a strap that’s just the right length. But with the correct size strap, it will wear just fine.
Although the chronograph shares the same design elements as the base model BR 05, it has a unique look thanks to the dual chronograph registers. They are squares with rounded corners (a shape known as a squirrel or superellipse), reminiscent of racing swiss watches from the 1970s.
The 1970s feel is tame, not as pronounced as Heuer Monaco. It could be made more visible with chunky hands and blocky hour markers, but that would end the uniform look of the BR 05 collection.
I’d prefer hands and markers with more personality; they’re a bit generic on the base model, but on the chronograph, the overall look is good.
The style of the dial is fairly simple, but everything is well done. A detail that stands out for its thoughtfulness is the square axis of the hands on the sub-dial, echoing the shape of the registers.
The two registers are actually separate discs attached to the main dial and thus sit in a distinct groove. The sub-dial is lighter in color than the main dial, which is more visible on the blue dial, and features an embossed concentric guilloche or blue, which is standard for chronograph sub-dials.
The rest of the dial is simple but equally proficient. The hour markers are applied, and the date disc matches the dial color.
By the way, I prefer the more pronounced texture on the flange, the five minute scale, with moderate texture.
Between the two dials on offer – currently only available in black or blue – blue is more attractive. Blue dials tend to be a bit too formulaic these days – it seems like every watchmaker has a blue dial sports watch – but it does look better here. The finishes of the dials are more pronounced in the blue, especially the patterned surfaces of the sub-dials.
Inside is the BR-CAL.301, which is actually an ETA 2894-2 with an open rotor. The large rotor conceals the movement, although the rotor’s wide central shaft reveals its identity. https://www.chrono4usale.co
Dominating the back is the oscillating weight, which has been engineered to allow for simple movement in an affordable watch. It’s a complete rotor that covers the entire movement, Bell & Ross labels it a “360-degree” rotor, with half of the rim being thicker and heavier.
It is made of tungsten, fully open-machined, and features an embossed brand logo. The top is brushed, while all edges of the open work are beveled. Tidying is undoubtedly done by machine, but it’s neatly done and visually appealing. The same goes for the movement itself, a premium ETA movement with pearls and blued screws.
A weak point of the ETA 2894 is its modular nature, which means that no timing mechanism can be seen on the back, making it less visually interesting. But given its thinness, the choice of movement is understandable.
The ETA 2894 has the advantage of being relatively thin at 6.1mm in height compared to the Valjoux 7750’s 7.9mm. A thicker movement results in a thicker case, which can be overly chunky.
The BR 05 Chrono’s 1970s looks good, it’s reasonably priced, it’s well made, and the case is particularly laudable – it’s well made and incredibly thin. The movement isn’t the most interesting, but it’s reliable and contributes to the watch’s thinness.
The BR 05 Chrono is currently only available in two forms, which is limited. Variations seem ripe for change, especially with lighter case materials – titanium for example is light, but can be done similarly – which would be interesting to combine with a distinctly 1970s retro dial.
Water resistance: 100 m
Movement: BR-CAL.301 (ETA 2894-2)
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds, date and chronograph winding
Frequency: 28,800 times/hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 42 hours
Strap: Steel bracelet or rubber strap