Following the trend set by brands like Richard Mille, Greubel Forsey, MB&F and Hublot, comes the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Tourbillon Sapphire. This new sapphire watch released by Bell & Ross during Baselworld 2017 was a big surprise, considering that the price point for their timepieces has always been under $8K and with just a few misfits highly priced in the $20K price range. Furthermore, an almost half million US dollars timepiece that is not even powered by an in-house calibre should be something even out of the question. Well, there is always a 'first' for everything and even for an entry level brand like Bell & Ross.
While the new Bell & Ross BR-X1 Tourbillon Sapphire looks great on and off the wrist and is a well executed model with the iconic square-shaped case that Bell & Ross is so well known for since 2005, its price tag couldn't be more unrealistic and out of line. Therefore, and in lieu of the unbiased watch journalism that we strive for, we will keep this hands-on review simple and straight to the point.
Things You Need to Know
The Bell & Ross BR-X1 Tourbillon Sapphire is available in a limited edition of 8 pieces and fitted with a 45 mm case in clear sapphire crystal that is composed of six different pieces of sapphire. While the watch that we reviewed is the prototype number '0', we really can't think that the final watches for sale will be that much different in terms of finishing and craftsmanship, but we could always be wrong. To give you an idea, the prototype calls for a limitation of 5 pieces when in reality there will be eight.
Featuring no dial at all and just a grey applied ring at 12 o'clock where the hours and minutes are indicated, the flying tourbillon features a cage with the Bell & Ross ampersand logo that takes the center stage at 6 o'clock.
With finishing on the bridges, hands and other areas that is a little bit rough around the edges and not in line with a watch with such a price tag, it is unfathomable that this brand decided to price this watch at a level that should've been reserved for grand complications from the holy trinity of watchmaking —Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin—, Richard Mille timepieces or Greubel Forsey creations.
Fitted with a semi-transparent rubber strap with a translucent woven inlay that we were told by the brand was carbon fiber —not sure it is made of that material—, the strap really feels cheap and not necessarily in line with the price tag of this watch. Furthermore, the strap is only fitted with a stainless steel pin buckle and not even with a fancier deployant type of clasp. Additionally, the watch is only water resistant to a depth of 10 meters/33 feet.
Powered by the manual wound movement calibre BR-CAL.285 that is not an in-house movement but a calibre produced by Geneva-based MHC Manufacture Haute Complication, the 35-jewel movement features a flying tourbillon that performs a full revolution every 60 seconds. While beating at a frequency of 21,600 vph, the movement provides a power reserve of four days when fully wound. Featuring a fully skeletonized and very geometrical design, the movement is bead-blast finished and a real treat for the eyes from the front and back.
On the Wrist & Pricing
On the wrist, the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Tourbillon Sapphire wears true to its size and just like all other Bell & Ross BR watches. In terms of design, this is a very good looking watch but with a price tag completely out of line for a Bell & Ross watch. While this affordable French brand is very well established when it comes to aviation-inspired watches and more recently getting their feet wet in the Formula One racing arena, releasing a half million USD watch without an in-house movement seems a little bit of a stretch.
With a price tag in the territory of grand complications from the holy trinity of watchmaking or some serious timepieces from independent 'haute horlogerie' brands, the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Tourbillon Sapphire is a great looking watch but a 'No Go' for us at this price.
Just to put things in perspective, with this amount of money you could alternatively almost get four Patek Philippe Nautilus 5976G or two Perpetual Calendar Chronographs 5270G.
Sticker Price $385,000 USD. For more info on Bell & Ross click here.