Crafting the components to create a watchcase from a block of sapphire is a true technical challenge. It requires extended and complex machining, grinding and polishing and demands a superior expertise in shaping the transparent metal.
The case of the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire, a limited edition of three unique pieces that debuted in early 2018, is made from five individual blocks of aluminum oxide (also known as sapphire) that are each carefully shaped and polished before being assembled with supreme precision.
Suspended within the transparent tank, the tourbillon components, garbed in black, make a bold statement as an avant-garde dress watch. Here, the rubies in the tourbillon cage are the only touch of extravagance. The blue finished version is pure playful sport. In any color however, this watch is a pure exhibition of contemporary horological savoir-faire.
The top of the line here is definitely the solid gold version. Elegant without overbearing masses of precious metal, the tranches of gold suspended in situ within the crystalline frame create an amazing effect. Four lateral and four horizontal screws frame and secure the flying tourbillon movement and enhance the effect of having a movement suspended in space. Transparent aluminum cases don’t come cheap and each of these three pieces unique represents the ultimate big boy’s toy at $480,000.
iW Rating: Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire
Design: 8 (out of 10)
Excellent display and contrast of visible and transparent elements.
Crafting sapphire is not easy (but has several precedents).
Crystal case is finished to transparent perfection while mechanical components also receive multiple finishes.
Small skeleton hands embedded with SuperLuminova mark the time.
Only one of each variation will be made.
Rarity factor should maintain a strong percentage of initial cost in future value.
Overall iW rating: 45 (out of 60)