I had the pleasure to encounter the Bell & Ross BR01 Laughing Skull several times this year. I had the chance to wear the piece on several occasions, disparate in time and space just enough to form a strong and well-cemented opinion about it. I like the watch and declared it with every occasion possible. Read below why.
Hands-on review Bell & Ross BR01 Laughing Skull
My first encounter with Bell & Ross Skull watches happened almost ten years ago. It was one of the first times when I became interested more seriously about the brand. Because the Skull watches were rare back then and Bell & Ross already had fascinated me with their signature case. The combination was fatal, I was conquered… But my old soul didn’t take the Skull watches too serious: big watches for my relatively small wrist, the question of where to wear them, on which occasions and so on. This changed this year. Meeting with Carlos A. Rosillo, co-founder and CEO at Bell & Ross, and listen to the story behind the Laughing Skull and experimenting it first-hand made me desire it, maybe more than I expected.
Let’s make an imaginative exercise: Carlos A. Rosillo in a grey suit covered with skulls and swords. What a view, what an appearance! He explained that the skull was and is still used by the elite troops as a symbol of courage. During World War II, special elite forces were sent behind the enemy lines in special missions. These men were using badges with Skulls as a special mark of their courage. Carlos explained that the Laughing Skull pays a tribute to the men of honour.
“It’s called the Laughing Skull!“, said Carlos showing the automaton movement of the Bell & Ross BR01. “Why the Laughing Skull? Because it is a manual winding movement and when you wind the watch, the skull will laugh. It will laugh to death!“
To understand that, have a look at this short clip provided by Bell & Ross:
The presentation of Carlos impressed me. I was curious to play with it, to have it on my wrist.
The skin and bones of the Laughing Skull
The Bell & Ross BR01 Laughing Skull comes in the brand’s signature squared micro-blasted steel case. The matt finish fits excellently to the watch’s theme. The 46mm case is further adorned on top with a “Clous de Paris” pattern finish. Producing this finish in combination with the top skull shape and the crossed bones requires special machining – a more complex manufacturing process.
Unexpected but not an issue: the matte finish is so fine that is prone to the fingerprints, like the one clearly visible above on the case’s side.
The Laughing Skull is pleasant in hands. I have noticed that I tend to touch it all the time and to play with the tip of my fingers on the face’s “guilloche” pattern or on the chamfered edge of the case. I wondered what is happening, in time, if it gets dirty. But even if it does get a little bit of mud, chocolate (it happened to me) or whatever, one just need to wash it a bit with some warm water. At 100m water tightness, there is no issue by cleaning. But carefully, using soap and warm water can have unpleasant surprises.
Die another day – a laughing dial
Regardless of the beauty and the originality of the case, the main character is the “skull dial” – a likeable skull, friendly stylised. It is like an actor in the play of life. Unaffected by our opinions, decisions or life, it is sending a strong message: laugh in front of death.
The details on the dial’s skull are lovely. The Bell & Ross managed to get a rather pleasant presence. The skull presents many constructive details. And, of course, it laughs. It laughs by winding: the skull’s mandible moves during the winding process.
Some nice elements on the dial are the sword hands. These are skeletonised and filled with SuperLuminova®.
The dial does not suffer from the lack of hour and minute indexes. The bezel presents a series of indentation that, besides the nice visual occurrence, serves as a minutes and hours rail tracks.
A cold heart – but a strong one – the calibre BR-CAL.206
The Laughing Skull is powered by an in-house developed movement, the calibre BR-CAL.206. The movement was also designed into a skull shape.
The design team found a remarkable technical solution, using the crossed bones design from the top to mask the movement’s mounting system. The mainplate suffered the same micro-blasting process as the rest of the case and a black PVD. The back view wins a nice contrast between the case, mainplate and the gear train.
Unfortunately, the photographed BR01 was a boutique piece and the protection label could not be removed for a better picture contrast. Still, there are quite visible the finishes of the calibre BR-CAL.206: chamfered main plate, sunray brushing on wheels and polished screws.
A watch for eternity?
The Bell & Ross BR01 Laughing Skull made me a good impression from the first time I have seen it. A nice presence with a strong message without being scary or unpleasant. The watch fits firm on the wrist. The wide strap confers a good position on the wrist. I was surprised to see how comfy the 46mm watch is.
As I have already said, the legibility is quite good on the BR01. Together with the impressive water resistance, the laughing Skull tends to get out of the comfort zone of a fashion watch. If you don’t mind getting it a little dirty, this timepiece can serve as a tool watch, at least as a daily watch. The case is not too sensitive to scratches and could be proper to an active lifestyle.
The versatility of the watch is convincing. Good specifications and a price that reflects the complication of the manufacture movement and the unusual design (and all the drawbacks of the complex manufacturing process) makes from the Bell & Ross BR01 Laughing Skull an interesting proposition. My only wish would be to have this automaton linked to the barrel, so the skull will laugh slowly as the power is depleted. But I can leave happily ever after by winding it on every occasion.
Bell & Ross BR01 Laughing Skull Technical Specifications
- calibre BR-CAL.206. Hand-wound
- sapphire with anti-reflective coating.
- Hours and minutes.
- Moving skull when wound by hand.
- 100 metres.
- 46 mm in diameter.
- Micro-blasted steel with “Clou de Paris” design.
- variants: Light Diamond – bezel set with 104 diamonds 1.032 ct. / Full Diamond – case and bezel set with 394 diamonds 2.891 ct.
- Brown alligator and black rubber.
- Applique metal skull.
- Metal skeletonized Superluminova®-filled hour and minute hands.
- Micro-blasted steel.