Watches & Jewelry

Review: Bell & Ross Instrument de Marine

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With a square case, exposed screws, a round dial, and oversized hands and numerals, the Bell & Ross BR 01 is one of the most instantly recognisable watches today. Modelled after flight instruments on the dashboard of a contemporary fighter jet, the watch has evolved from this core aesthetic to take on a vintage guise as seen with the Vintage BR line and an edgy, hyper-realistic form à la the BR-X1. More than 10 years has passed since Bell & Ross introduced the BR 01, but it still hasn’t run out of ways to reinvent the watch.

The new Instrument de Marine line posits the question: What if Bell & Ross had been founded 200 years earlier, when the aircraft had not yet been invented? At an era when sea travel was the most state-of-the-art, it isn’t too farfetched at all to imagine that deck instruments on board a ship would provide the inspiration. And of all the navigational objects associated with seafaring, the marine chronometer is the most symbolic one.

Time is a key factor in sea travel and thus marine chronometers – the most accurate timekeepers of their time – were indispensible tools to guide a vessel to its intended destination. Invented by the English clockmaker, John Harrison, marine chronometers were often mounted on gimbals, which kept them consistently in the horizontal position, unperturbed by the rocking motion of the vessel. As they were relied upon to be extremely accurate, not only do marine chronometers need to be precise, they also had to display the time clearly. Every second counts when navigating the high seas; a one-second error in time reading could lead a ship astray by as much as five kilometres.

This is why the seconds indication in a marine chronometer is always clearly displayed.

BR 01 Instrument de Marine embraces the baroque style aesthetics of this bygone era. For the first time, this normally contemporary timepiece comes with classical Roman numerals and blued steel poire-shaped hands on a white lacquer dial. Not only that, its entire case recalls the design of those square wooden boxes, in which the round marine chronometers are housed for safekeeping. Finding this to be a perfect visual metaphor, this round timepiece in a square case, Bell & Ross constructed the case of the BR 01 Instrument de Marine with an interesting mix of materials, some harking back to the olden times, and others modern and high performance oriented: Indian rosewood (used for the hulls and masts of ships, as well as the wooden case for marine chronometers), bronze (a reminder of the brass fittings on board a ship), rose gold (pairing beautifully with the rosewood), and grade 5 titanium (resilient and lightweight).

Echoing the aesthetical direction of the BR 01 are two additional pieces that embrace the maritime theme without relinquishing their technical flair – the BR X1 Skeleton Chronograph and the BR X1 Tourbillon Chronograph. Both pieces feature an openworked dial but instead of bronze, rose gold is used for the tourbillon model, and all three timepieces feature sapphire case backs that expose the movement mechanisms. The delightful melange of colours and textures brought about by this intoxicating mix of materials makes the collection stand far out, but perhaps the most alluring factor about these watches is their individual potential to change over time, gaining a unique patina.

Specifications

BR 01 Instrument de Marine
Movement Manual-winding Calibre BR-CAL.203 with 56-hour power reserve
Case 46mm in precious wood, titanium, and bronze; water resistant to 100m
Strap Brown alligator leather with bronze pin buckle

BR-X1 SKELETON CHRONOGRAPH Instrument de Marine
Movement Self-winding Calibre BR-CAL.313 skeletonised chronograph with 46-hour power reserve
Case 45mm in precious wood and bronze; water resistant to 100m
Strap Brown alligator leather with bronze pin buckle

BR-X1 Tourbillon Chronograph Instrument de Marine
Movement Manual-winding Calibre BR-CAL.283 skeletonised flying tourbillon with four-day power reserve
Case 45mm in rose gold and precious wood, water resistant to 100m
Strap Brown alligator leather with rose gold pin buckle

This article was first published in World of Watches.

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