Bell & Ross’s New Watch Is a Rare Achievement

Welcome to Dialed In, Esquire’s weekly column bringing you horological happenings and the most essential news from the watch world since March 2020.

People who get into watch collecting often disappear down the rabbit hole—which is kind of the point of collecting anything. With watches things can get pretty specific, pretty fast. Some collect only one brand; others collect only one type of watch like, say, a diver. Once you know what you like, it can be hard to see outside those self-tailored blinkers. Which explains why about 95 percent of my watches have black dials; if I parse it out, it’s because I love lume, the stuff that glows green or blue (or occasionally white) at night. And black dials offer the maximum contrast by day too. To me they just feel more functional and tool-y.

There are technical implications that make white dials a little trickier to execute. If you want your watches to glow with an impressive amount of lume at night, having black markers to contrast with a white dial is pretty much beyond the capabilities of science. The darker the marker color is by day, the less the lume can shine through it by night. Generally, brands get around it by making the lume the outline—rather than the meat—of the markings. At best it’s a halfway house.

But in adding a watch with a new starkly white opaline dial to its roster of BR05 watches, Bell & Ross has (maybe) changed my mind about white dials and, in the process, skirted neatly around the lume issue. Black dials are the natural habitat of the brand, which from its start in the early ’90s was always inspired by the instrument panels of airplane cockpits. So white took a lot of thinking about. The newly minted BR 05 GMT White model has all the sportiness of previous editions—including a GMT, a chronograph, and a three-hand model—which all have black dials. But the white dial gives the watch an added elegance, too.

Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT White

BR 05 GMT White

Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT White

Elegance, in fact, is something of a developing trend right now. After a decade or two during which we wanted our watches only beefy and functional, there are indications in both the new and vintage markets that watches that put style to the fore (without, of course, sacrificing on functionality) have a strong new cachet. Watchmakers are skewing a little dressier in their materials, finishing, case diameter, thickness, and general demeanor. So, robust-looking though it is, the 41mm BR05 White is definitely on trend.

Now about that lume. Instead of attempting to maximize contrast by day, Bell and Ross just leaned hard into the all-white motif. The tiniest contrast in shades of white between the slightly pearly, opaline dial and the matte markers and hands (with a sliver of metallic trim surrounding them) is enough to make the watch fully legible by day. Even the day-night indicator on the 24-hour scale around the dial for the GMT hand is a subtle gray against white. The only shot of color is the red on the arrow-tipped GMT hand for visibility. The watch is available on a black rubber strap for those seeking a high-contrast experience. But for our money it’s all about the brushed and polished steel bracelet, which leans into the subtle style the BR 05 GMT White executes so well.

Nick Sullivan is Creative Director at Equire, where he served as Fashion Director from 2004 until 2019. Prior to that, he relocated from London with his young family to Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. He has styled and art directed countless fashion and cover stories for both Esquire and Big Black Book (which he helped found in 2006) in exotic,uncomfortable, and occasionally unfeasibly cold locations. He also writes extensively about men’s style, accessories, and watches. He describes his style as elegantly disheveled.

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