Watches: Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Chronograph Forged Carbon (+live pics)

By Thierry Ané on April 10, 2015

If you are a regular reader of Watch Agora you may remember an article I posted last DecemberWatches: Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Chronograph on a resolutely different model from Bell & Ross. The watch in question is the BR-X1 Skeleton Chronograph Titanium, an extremely sophisticated limited edition of 250 pieces introducing the new “High-Tech” collection.

The first element that set this model apart from the rest of the brand’s production was the extreme complexity of its case construction. If the circle-in-a-square configuration that has made the brand famous remains central to the design of this new watch, a glance at the exploded view of the case is sufficient to assess the extreme sophistication that goes into this new modular construction. The choice of materials was also quite innovative like for instance with the band made from ceramic and rubber placed around the grade 5 titanium that acts as a defensive shield against shocks and scratches.

The second revolution for this military-inspired brand was to give up the extreme legibility of its uncluttered dials for a more technically-oriented skeleton face under a grey-tinted sapphire crystal. With a black DLC coating, the X-shaped upper bridge together with an hollowed-out date disc and a skeletonised chronograph sub-dial provided an extremely masculine look in line with the contemporary design codes adopted by many other brands over the past few years.

As I noted at the time, the watch clearly offers “infinite design possibilities for future creations, including easy customisation for limited series”. Not surprisingly considering these attributes, a second rendition of this chronograph model was among the novelties presented by the brand during Baselworld 2015. Also limited to 250 pieces, the new BR-X1 Skeleton Chronograph Forged Carbon simply uses forged carbon in place of titanium on the original model.

Carbon is a wonderful material for horology and comes in many forms. The one called "forged carbon" is registered by an aeronautical company. It is obtained by compressing carbon fibres under high heat to merge them together. The material is very light and supposed to be very resistant but its main qualities are aesthetic: satiny and soft to the touch, it is also characterized by a random marbled effect. Audemars Piguet was the first brand to introduce it into Fine Watchmaking with the Royal Oak Offshore Alinghi Team unveiled in 2007.

The material remained exclusive to the brand for a while and building on its aesthetic success, other models in forged carbon were presented like the famous Royal Oak Offshore Bumble Bee in 2009, the Royal Oak Offshore Grand Prix and the Millenary Carbon One in 2010, the Royal Oak Offshore 44mm and the Royal Oak Offshore Automatic Tourbillon 44mm in 2011, or the Royal Oak Offshore Diver in 2012.

At Baselworld 2015, forged carbon made its appearance in the spectrum of materials used by other brands like Bell & Ross. But unfortunately, there is a reason why Audemars Piguet has only released a single forged carbon model since 2012, and stopped using it for bezels, preferring ceramic: the initial timepieces created with this material had enough years of service to realise the material does not age well: not only can it become very dull but it is also extremely prone to scratches!

In the case of Bell & Ross’s BR-X1 Skeleton Chronograph Forged Carbon model, the ceramic and rubber inserts act as protective shield around the inner forged carbon part and one could hope that they will avoid premature ageing but I am not so sure this will work for the bezel of the watch also crafted from this material.

Ultimately, watch buyers will decide whether they want to take this risk or not but, given the EUR 19,000 price tag, I would personally stick to the BR-X1 Skeleton Chronograph Titanium rather than purchasing the much more fun-looking BR-X1 Skeleton Chronograph Forged Carbon.

For more information please visit the Bell & Ross web site.

For a technical description of the timepiece and additional pictures: