bell & ross br 01 cyber skull watch
Bell & Ross watches are, for a good reason, often associated with pilots and military forces. This has been the brand’s raison d’être since its inception. Serious, stealth, instrumental, the emblematic BR 01 and BR 03 collection, with its “circle within a square”, sums up the brand’s design language perfectly. Yet, from time to time, Bell & Ross gets a little “wild” and strays off the beaten track with watches that are more audacious. These watches are known since 2009 as the Skull collection. Today, the brand introduces the latest model in the family and breaks the traditional codes of this collection with a modern, architectural take on the concept. Meet the new Bell & Ross BR 01 Cyber Skull and its whole new case.
Since 2009, the skull has proved a great source of inspiration for Bell & Ross. We’ve seen almost a dozen watches depicting a skull-and-crossbones symbol on their dial. You might wonder about its relevance in a military/pilot watch context… But actually, the skull is one of the most military-oriented symbols you can imagine. From the Vikings to WWII paratroopers, and of course pirates, the skull has been widely used in warfare symbolism – mostly to impress opponents. Think about the “Jolly Rogers” pirate flags. In June 1944, on D-Day, American paratroopers landed on French coasts, a skull symbol attached to their uniforms with the words “Death From Above”. The Bell & Ross Skull series is an ode to this specific military symbolism, as well as depicting values of Memento Mori and Vanitas.
The first model in the line-up was launched in 2009, with the BR 01 Skull, followed by multiple iterations with different colours or materials, like this bronze edition. In 2016, the brand again used the symbol of the skull-and-crossbones, but this time combining tattoo elements to produce one of the boldest models ever created by the brand. Finally, in 2018, the brand `pushed the concept even further with an openworked movement equipped with an automaton (an animation of the jaws when winding the movement), the BR 01 Laughing Skull.
Until now, all of the Bell & Ross Skull watches were housed in the classic (oversized) BR 01 case, with its traditional square design and a transformation of the circular dial into a skull-shaped aperture. Also, the four functional screws were framed by classic crossbones, resulting in a vintage kind of style. Those days are gone; the BR 01 Cyber Skull is a complete departure from this style and introduces a brand new case.
This new watch comes with a “Cyber” case that is sculpted like a stealth aircraft. Modern, faceted, sleek and futuristic, it marks a new chapter in the brand’s evolution. Bell & Ross doesn’t hide its inspiration, which is the Lockheed Martin F-117 Nighthawk, one of the most emblematic planes of the United States Air Force. The 46mm case, made of anti-reflective matte black ceramic, reveals multiple angles and facets – created to reduce the radar signature of a plane – that underscore the ultra-modern approach of this watch. The square, the brand’s signature since 2005, has been transformed with 45-degree angles in the corners. The watch is topped by a faceted sapphire crystal.
There’s more to the design than just the shape. Indeed, an important element of the design of Bell & Ross watches has been repositioned. The screws, usually present at each corner sealing the case, have been relocated into the structure of the movement, inside the case and under the protective crystal. All in all, the BR 01 Cyber Skull evokes classic Bell & Ross codes but marks an important new direction in the brand’s design DNA. All the elements of the habillage are sharp and faceted, including the crown or the skull and its crossbones.
The BR 01 Cyber Skull is a large watch reflecting the classic 46mm proportions of the BR 01 collection. Certainly, it won’t go by unnoticed and requires a solid wrist to be balanced. However, the case remains relatively short (from 12 to 6 o’clock) with a lug-to-lug dimension of 45mm. The watch is worn on a classic black rubber strap with a “BR” inscription and a PVD-coated pin buckle.
The star of the show is the modern and faceted interpretation of the Laughing Skull concept. If the mechanics are familiar, all the decorative elements have been redesigned to fit the stealth and modernist idea of the case. The skull and its crossbones, floating inside the sapphire construction, are also made of black ceramic and are an integral part of the movement, where some of the technical features, such as the balance at 12 o’clock or the barrel at 6 o’clock, are visible. The movement is held in place by the four screws (the crossbones are some of the movement’s bridges) allowing for a stronger negative space around the calibre. To reinforce this “floating” sensation, the brand’s logo and hour markers are printed on the internal surface of the crystal.
As mentioned, the Laughing Skull concept is still present in this BR 01 Cyber Skull. This means that the watch retains its cool animation on the dial. When the wearer winds the movement by the crown, the lower jaw moves up and down, opening and closing as if it is laughing at you. As the movement unwinds, it will sometimes reveal part of the barrel, sometimes it will be almost hidden.
The other side of the watch reveals the hand-wound movement, the calibre BR-CAL.208 – developed with movement maker Concepto. Fully coated in black, the bridges are once again shaped like a skull and create contrast with the rhodium-plated moving parts – ratchet, barrel and gear-train. The movement, with its regulating organ positioned dial side (as the brain of the skull), runs at 4Hz and boasts a power reserve of 50 hours.
The Bell & Ross BR 01 Cyber Skull is a surprising watch… In a way, it remains close to Bell & Ross’ identity and codes. The military and aviation inspiration is still present, but the shape marks a strong departure from previous models. Ultra-modern, avant-garde, sculpted, it raises the question: could this become an entirely new direction for the brand, a new collection of watches with more modern inspiration, or will it remain a stand-alone design exercise? Time will tell. What is certain about this Cyber Skull skull watch is that, despite being shaped like a stealth plane, it won’t fly under the radar on your wrist. Clearly a bold statement from B&R.