Bell & Ross BR-X1 Hyperstellar
The Bell & Ross BR-X1 Hyperstellar is imbued with a high degree of modernity. Inspired by space, the case is highly complex and comprises of aluminium, rubber and grade 5 titanium elements. Angus Davies dons his space suit and takes a close look at this eye-catching skeleton chronograph.
This detailed review of the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Hyperstellar includes live images, specification details and pricing.
I still recall as a young boy, walking around my bedroom with a rucksack affixed to my back and two empty Coca-Cola bottles attached either side as pretend air tanks. The oversized pair of headphones on my head allowed me to hear ‘Space Control’ and the wellington boots I wore proved superb space boot substitutes. In my mind, I was a suitably attired astronaut, negotiating the moon’s surface in an imagined world of zero gravity. And the musical narrative to this boyish dreamworld was most definitely David Bowie’s 1969 release ‘Space Oddity’. Indeed, the line ‘Can you hear me, Major Tom?’, fuelled my imagination like no other.
Space continues to power the dreams of many and I suspect it still occupies the nocturnal thoughts of today’s young. However, space also continues to provide inspiration for creating objects of desire and fuelling the visionary thoughts of many adults.
Launched by Bell & Ross earlier this year, the BR-X1 Hyperstellar is a skeleton chronograph, inspired by the world of space exploration and presented with a highly unusual aesthetic. Its case is composed of cutting-edge materials, such as grade 5 titanium, and its styling is most decidedly modern.
Framed with a circlet of metallic ‘electric blue’ aluminium, the BR-X1 Hyperstellar eschews a conventional dial, delivering an open-worked landscape populated with movement parts and various indications. This is a fascinating territory, viewed through a grey-tinted sapphire crystal, which implores the wearer to explore.
The hour and minute hands are partly skeletonised and lined with luminescent treatment near their tips. The central chronograph hand features a faceted counterweight and interacts with a ‘stone grey’ chapter ring. A tachymeter scale is presented on the aforementioned ‘electric blue’ aluminium flange.
This dial delivers a captivating strata of parts. Sitting on high, luminescent hour markers protrude over the mechanical goings-on below. They appear to reach out into a sea of nothingness, almost floating on air and reinforcing the symbolism of this space-themed watch. At 3 o’clock, a small running seconds display is presented with minimal markings, allowing more of the skeletonised movement to be seen below.
At 9 o’clock, a 30-minute chronograph register resides. It supplants the customary hand with a four-spoke wheel, marked with a discreet line and collaborating with an electric blue ring to show the elapsed minutes. This free-spirited design element is both eye-catching and functional.
Floating on high, the brand’s nomenclature and logo are applied to the underside of the sapphire crystal and masterfully play with dial depths. Indeed, a key strength of this design is that the various components, visible dial side, are presented at different heights and, in so doing, augment visual interest.
An aperture at 6 o’clock features a white background, highlighting the prevailing date. A series of open-worked dates adorn the periphery of a latticework disc. At its centre, large open sections reveal an array of wheels and movement components, including the hour wheel and minute wheel.
The dial is highly legible, yet provides a fascinating glimpse of some areas of the movement usually hidden from view.
The product designers at Bell & Ross have not made life easy for themselves. The case construction of the BR-X1 Hyperstellar is incredibly complex. The case is made from titanium and aluminium. The ‘cover, centre and surround of the case are made from polished and micro-blasted grade 5 titanium’.
The bezel is delivered in an eye-catching blue anodised aluminium, while grey rubber provides an additional entry to the inventory of materials employed. Four screws, one in each corner of the case front, together with four further screws occupying the rear, provide a steadfast means of holding the assemblage of parts together. Two additional screws on the left hand flank of the case hold the rubber inserts in position.
While the BR-X1 Hyperstellar measures 45mm in diameter, its size appears smaller when worn, owing to minimal protrusion of the lugs. Indeed, the lugs are very short while the inter-horn width is substantial, providing sufficient room for the wide format strap. The grey strap pairs Alligator leather with grey rubber to pleasing effect.
I personally found that, despite its obvious size and highly original shape, the BR-X1 Hyperstellar granted a very agreeable fit. The crown nuzzles shyly into the caseband, partially hidden by the neighbouring rubber protectors. The chronograph pushpieces are charmingly adorned with the same ‘fast forward’ and ‘rewind’ symbols found on tape recorders of yesteryear. However, beyond their playful design, the pushpieces prove very easy to operate.
The flat surface of the caseback features a small aperture, according partial sight of the self-winding movement within. This central flat surface is vertically brushed, granting a delightful contrast with the highly polished angled edges of the case. This repeated interplay of satin brushed and polished surfaces makes the gestation process of this timepiece protracted, but the handsome outcome justifies Bell & Ross’s efforts.
The self-winding calibre BR-CAL.313 is based on an ETA 2892 with a Dubois Dépraz DD2162 module made exclusively for Bell & Ross. It features 56 jewels and the balance has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz).
Bell & Ross tantalise the wearer with the merest glimpse of the balance wheel via the aforementioned aperture on the caseback. Notwithstanding this, my curious eyes were denied any meaningful sight of the movement front. Furthermore, those components presented dial-side whilst visible are difficult to examine in minute detail owing to the tinted sapphire crystal. It is therefore difficult to pass comment on the quality of the finissage.
However, one thing I can state with certainty is that the pushpieces operated smoothly, with a pleasingly positive action.
Bell & Ross has made the square shaped watch case very much its own, bestowing its models with an instant recognisability many other watch brands would, no doubt, crave. The Bell & Ross BR-X1 Hyperstellar builds on this recipe of originality, delivering a fascinating dialscape and a complex case which proves too tantalising for inquisitive fingers to ignore. Indeed, this is a watch you wish to repeatedly examine, appraising the various tactile surfaces presented and the fascinating space age design language employed.
Most of all, with the deft stroke of a designer’s pencil, Bell & Ross has encouraged me to reminisce and reflect on my childhood dreams of space exploration. Indeed, with the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Hyperstellar strapped to my wrist, my protein pills consumed and my helmet affixed, I now feel suitably equipped for a space flight. Can you hear me, Major Tom?
- Model: Bell & Ross BR-X1 Hyperstellar
- Reference: BRX1-AL-TI-BLU
- Case: Titanium, anodised aluminium & rubber; diameter 45mm; sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback with small sapphire crystal aperture.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small sweep seconds; date; chronograph
- Movement: Calibre BR-CAL.313 (ETA 2892 with a Dubois Dépraz DD2162 module exclusive to Bell & Ross; self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 56 jewels; power reserve 40 hours
- Strap: Grey rubber and alligator leather strap supplied on a steel pin buckle
- Price: £14,000 (RRP as at 7.9.2016)