Did it live up to expectations?
Launched two years ago, the BR05 is a one-piece bracelet sports watch from Bell & Ross—probably the hottest type of watch right now. The brand then introduced the skeletonized version and the double-counter BR05 chronograph. Now, luxury Bell & Ross has taken the wraps off what may be its most useful iteration yet – the BR05 GMT.
While a new addition to an established genre, the BR05 is essentially derived from the brand’s signature square case, a design that dates back to 2005 and was inspired by the dashboard of a fighter jet. But the BR05 differs from those of military origins, acquiring a more refined, slightly retro look through its case treatment, a mix of polished and brushed surfaces, and an elegant combination with a bracelet. The new GMT sticks to the same design, while adding the practicality of a second time zone.
I didn’t expect any surprises when Bell & Ross (B&R) offered to lend me a prototype BR05 GMT for a few days. But when I first got my hands on the watch, I found the fit and finish to be surprisingly good. The BR05 has an appealing touch that stems from its compact housing and attractive design. My initial impressions are positive – the BR05 GMT lives up to the expectations set by its retail price.
The best feature of the GMT is what it shares with its siblings in the collection, the BR05 case and bracelet. They are well done and look beautiful. But GMT is known for its simplicity – not too simple.
The addition of red GMT hands and lettering, as well as a wide sloping 24-hour flange, adds more detail to the dial. This eliminates the wide open areas of the dial in the time-only model, making it appear sparse. But the GMT dial doesn’t try to do much, and is deliberately kept simple, making it ideal for those who find the base model too bland and the chronograph too complicated.
While early reviews of other BR05 models have been pointed out, it’s worth mentioning that the case is well made. Its construction and finishing ultimately give the watch an appealing visual quality.
At 41mm wide, the case is large and heavy, but not bulky, thanks to the relatively thin movement inside. Still, the watch feels a lot like a big sports watch, and certainly more sporty than elegant.
As with other BR05 models, the price of the GMT will spark discussion. The GMT on the bracelet is $5,400, while the same price on the rubber strap is $500 less.
Alternatives to the BR05 GMT fall into two broad categories: integrated bracelet sports watches with an ETA or lower cost equivalent movement, and GMT watches with an in-house movement but the same cost but not an integrated bracelet design.
Most of the BR05 GMT’s competitors in its price range rely on in-house movements, while the GMT is powered by ETA, albeit beautifully modified.
My initial impression was that the watch was worth the money, but after wearing the watch for a week, I started arguing about that conclusion purely because of the movement inside. After all, the common wisdom is that internal movement is better.
I came to a conclusion: the fit and finish of the BR05 GMT is clearly superior to the more affordable alternatives, and the quality of the metal is evident both in the case and in the finish of the movement.
Compared with watches with the same price in-house movement, the BR05 GMT is in no way inferior in terms of technical characteristics, the most obvious power reserve and the most important intangibles associated with the in-house movement. But those shortcomings are more than made up for by its case and design—there aren’t many integrated bracelet competitors at this price point.
It is worth mentioning that the BR05 GMT, like the rest of the BR05 series, can be used on a bracelet or a watch strap. The natural choice is bracelets. It doesn’t cost much, but adds a lot to the watch’s appeal both in look and feel. Especially since the watch head is rather heavy, balanced by a steel bracelet. www.chrono4usale.co
Dual time zone
Adding a second time zone indicator might seem trivial, but it brings a lot of benefits in both functionality and appearance.
The watch is equipped with a red-tipped GMT hand that displays a second time zone on the outermost 24-hour scale. But perhaps more importantly, especially in an age of less travel, red hands and matching text look good. They add contrast and life to the dial, enough to be sporty but not distracting. Of course, they are reminiscent of old sports watches with red text on the dial.
The finish of the dial did not disappoint. The dial printing and painting on the GMT hands are well done, showing neat edges even up close.
Reading alongside the GMT hand is the 24-hour ring – a particularly interesting detail in terms of aesthetics.
Set on a sloping flange around the dial, the 24-hour ring compresses the dial, giving the watch better proportions than chronograph-only models, while adding some visual depth.
The 24-hour ring echoes the case and dial. The dark part is finished in matte black, and the light part is brushed linearly like the case.
Also worth mentioning are the hour markers, especially the oversized Arabic numerals at the quarters, reminiscent of the brand’s pilot watches. Therefore, the dial can be identified as B&R. perfect luxury watch
The case and bracelet are the best elements of the BR05 GMT as they differentiate the watch from the competition. They have the main hallmarks of a luxury sports watch – detailed, refined finishes and, of course, a bracelet that is integrated into the case.
Comprising three parts – bezel, case middle and case back – the case is held together by four screws in each corner, with details taken from the original BR01 case.
While the case is square, the dial is round, and the transition between the two contrasting shapes is smoothed out by rounded edges and rounded screws on the bezel. That said, while the bezel edges are softer, the case is angular and the facets are sharp, especially around the lugs, giving the watch a nice blend of geometry and surfaces.
Exposed screws are a consistent element of the BR05’s design – a common element in luxury sports watches.
For example, the crown guards are two separate pieces that are screwed into the case. Screws are simply finished with polished heads. That said, the screw slot on the bezel has a narrow polished countersink.
The BR05 case does the best job of finishing. The brushed surface and polished bevels are finely treated with a refined linear texture and precise edges, allowing the surface to capture light well. The bracelet is appealing for the same reason: the alternating brushed and polished surface reflections give it a feel above its price point.
What’s less obvious is that the finish is the result of high-quality production – the surface is free from the distortions typically found on simple stamped cases. Not surprisingly, given that B&R is owned by Chanel, which also owns one of the largest Swiss watch and bracelet makers.
Outsourced movement, done in-house
The BR-CAL.325 in the watch is based on the tried and tested ETA 2893-2, the large rotor bearing is a giveaway of its origins. The ETA 2983-2 is in turn based on the ETA2892-2, a slim time and date movement but with an added 24-hour hand.
A true GMT watch with a movement built from scratch will have 12 hours, local time can be adjusted independently in one-hour steps by hand, leaving home time unaffected. But ETA 2893 functions differently because the GMT function is an add-on.
In ETA 2893, the 24-hour local time hands adjust independently, backwards and forwards in one-hour steps. But the local time hour hand cannot be set independently – because the hour and minute hands are adjusted synchronously on the base movement – so adjusting the local time hand also moves the 24-hour hand. Therefore, after setting the time for the new time zone, an extra step is required to return the 24-hour hand to home time.
This setup does bring an advantage. The ETA 2893 has a quick set date, which means it’s easy to cycle through dates forward or backward. However, the date on a true GMT watch can only be adjusted by cycling the hour hand through a full day or 24 hours.
Meanwhile, ETA 2893 is also suitable for those who do not travel but need to keep track of different time zones, as the 24-hour hand can be adjusted without affecting the local time hand.
Although the movement is clearly an ETA to a keen observer, it is not immediately recognizable.
That’s because the BR-CAL.325 is not the stock ETA 2893. It has been upgraded, especially in terms of looks. The most obvious is the addition of a complete rotor that has been subtly hollowed out. The open construction leaves more weight on the half, while retaining a relatively symmetrical design reminiscent of the “mysterious” rotors found on some high-end movements.
The bridges and baseplates are sandblasted to create a grained surface – which certainly looks better than industrially applied pearl powder – in contrast to the brushed surface on the rotor.
On closer inspection, the chamfer on the base plate and bridge is slightly brighter than the chamfer on the rotor, indicating that it was milled with a diamond drill on a CNC machine.
The BR05 GMT is a beautiful, functional and well-made watch, perhaps the best value for money in the BR05 collection. On the one hand, it’s more attractive than the time-only model in both design and features, but at a slightly higher price. Chronographs are indeed more fun, but they cost a lot more. For those who appreciate simple design but want a little more flair, the GMT is a stylish, affordable and practical option.
In competition, the BR05 GMT did not disappoint. Apart from the outsourced movement, every part of the watch feels good. But that’s not inherently bad — the ETA has been upgraded — although it does mean the movement lacks the specs of modern in-house movements, most of which have longer power reserves.
Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT
Water resistance: 100 m
Movement: BR-CAL.325 (ETA 2893-2)
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds, date and GMT winding
: Automatic winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 times/hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 42 hours
Strap: Steel bracelet or rubber strap