Bell & Ross BR01 Red Radar ¶
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Matt Baily was the first Bell & Ross retailer in Canada, and we have witnessed the evolution of the company from a quirky producer of professional watches into a powerhouse brand driven by distinctive industrial designs. Their BR01 and BR03 Instrument series are still the benchmark for modern military-industrial watches. To keep the design fresh, Bell & Ross has introduced numerous colour variations and complications over the years; the Red Radar limited edition in particular has garnered a lot of press in the watch media as a seriously cool design that takes the Instrument to another level.
When a company has a signature model that sells well, the challenge is always to introduce new variations that will attract attention and lure new buyers - while offering new versions that appeal to existing owners who like the design but don’t want to buy the same thing over and over again. Departing too much from the initial style will surely attract flak from fans. The original BR01 Radar was introduced in 2010 and attracted a lot of attention for its unique display of time, using three concentric disks that were powered by an automatic movement. It’s a sort of mystery dial for the 21st century, where moving the dial itself shows the time. It was still clearly a Bell & Ross, featuring all the hallmarks of the Instrument (46mm square monobloc case with exposed screws, matte PVD finish, round dial, etc) but with a very innovative and unique way of displaying the passage of time. The first Radar was produced in a run of 500 examples; a second version has been released in the BR03 42mm case with a limited production run (but not a numbered limited edition like its bigger brother).
The BR01 Red Radar was announced at Basel 2011 and we were immediately stunned by the design. Yes, it used the same idea as the first Radar. But it took the appearance to another level. Instead of having simple stick markers to indicate the time, it uses printed gradients that give it an appearance of constant motion and makes it look much more like a classic radar screen. Why red? Red is the standard form of illumination for low-lighting conditions to preserve night-vision, often used by the military for displays and lighting that won’t produce glare or night blindness. Think of a darkened submarine or aircraft cockpit. If I can level one criticism against the design, it’s that the gradients are not luminescent. Apparently making a smooth printed gradient in luminescent pigment wasn’t feasible.
The time is read on the leading edge of the “sweep”. The crystal is tinted a deep red colour, with the hour and minute scales printed on a crosshair on the underside of the crystal. You need to take a moment to think when reading the time – not only is the concentric display a little counterintuitive, but the hours are read on the outside (longest) scale – the opposite of what you are used to seeing, where them minute hand is longest.
Aside from the dial and crystal the watch is a classic BR01. While 46mm may not sound crazy by current standards, where 48-50mm watches are common, it wears quite big owing to the square dimensions. BR01s are relatively slim for a large watch and wear comfortably, and look good owing to their excellent proportions. Like all BR01s the Red Radar comes with two straps, a rubber with tang buckle and a black nylon with a Velcro closure (and the tools needed to change them). For comfort the nylon is hard to beat. There isn’t much more to say about the BR01, it’s been out for several years now and still looks fresh. It’s simple and wears well, and it looks great. The Red Radar takes the basic concept to a new level. At the 2012 Baselworld show Bell & Ross introduced a new series of limited editions that continue the Instrument theme – the Horizon, Altimeter, and Turn Coordinator. Expect to see these watches in store later this year, but if you must have one we recommend placing a deposit – normally we only receive one piece and once it is sold we can’t order another.
The Red Radar is limited to 999 pieces worldwide, and is a difficult watch to acquire. Most have been spoken for already, but we are fortunate to have one in stock that is available - which is exceptional considering it is one of the hottest limited editions since the BR01 Phantom. For more information about Bell & Ross, give us a call at 514 845 8878 or visit our contact page.