Bell & Ross has a thing for skulls. Since 2009 they’ve regularly enjoyed the danse macabre (or dance of death if your French is a little dusty). Of course, being Bell & Ross there’s an aviation link – the skull is a symbol commonly used by US Airborne Divisions. But as the years pass, the brand has taken the basic concept of a skull-emblazoned BR 01 in some exciting new directions, like 2015’s Skull Bronze. This year, Bell & Ross continues to explore the themes of adventure, daring and general badassery with the impressive BR 01 Burning Skull.
For once the giant skull that comprises the dial isn’t the first thing you notice. Instead it’s the intricate black-lacquer filled engraving that stands out. Inspired by the world of tattoos, the 46mm steel case is dominated by the detailed flames that give the watch its name. These flames engulf the entire watch, including the sides and the caseback, which is hands down one of the best-looking solid casebacks we’ve seen in a long, long time.
Hidden in the flames are other common tattoo motifs: a rose, a heart, an hourglass and the ace of spades. The skull itself is rendered in the realistic relief, which adds to sculptural quality of the watch. The hands aren’t what we typically mean when we say sword ‘style’ hands (like these for example) – here they’re actual swords.
The Burning Skull is perhaps my favourite 2016 release from Bell & Ross (along with the more under-the-radar Desert Type chrono), For me it’s a perfect summation of what the brand does so well, which is to playfully mix their own distinctive design DNA with the unexpected. We didn’t see tattoos, skulls and the world of aviation coming together for Bell & Ross this year – but now that we’ve seen how well-executed the Burning Skull is in the metal, we’re all in.
Bell & Ross BR 01 Burning Skull Australian pricing and availability
Bell & Ross BR 01 Burning Skull, limited to 500 pieces, $11,000.