Bell & Ross BR-X5: A Masterclass In The “Foot-In-The-Door” Technique
Back when door-to-door salesmen were a normal thing and not just a movie trope, many popular culture ideas came from the business phenomenon. One of the most lasting is the “foot-in-the-door” technique of slowly getting a person to agree to larger and larger requests until they finally agree to a sizable, originally unspoken request. This sales method has been shown to be the most effective and consistent compliance technique in influencing others.
The psychology behind the foot-in-the-door technique is complex and not fully understood, but aspects of internal self-consistency, belief perseverance, and escalation of commitment (aka the sunk-cost fallacy) combine with the commonly held belief that we ourselves are rational and so the decisions we make must be rational as well. The core tactic of the foot-in-the-door technique relies on the average person’s willingness to accept something trivial due to its unimportant nature, therefore building a baseline in the person’s mind that they are acquiescing to a reasonable request.
Once the person agrees, they will retroactively try to rationalize why they made the decision to reinforce the idea that the decision was rational. This is all done almost immediately and usually unconsciously, which primes the person for another request. To remain consistent with the previously offered consent (because “I’ve already said yes”), they will then agree to something more impactful, which now builds a pattern of behavior and reinforces the belief that they are acting rationally – “I wouldn’t make the wrong choice twice!”
Finally, this culminates in an escalation of commitment where they believe they have already consented and invested so much in this exchange that they might as well take it one step further. This is how people can be asked, “Are you happy with your current vacuum cleaner?” and end up buying $1,000 worth of vacuum accessories to go with a brand-new vacuum cleaner when their house has hardwood floors and only one small area rug.
This technique can get people to confess to crimes, participate in dangerous behaviors, or spend all their money on unnecessary junk. It can also be used to deprogram people from cults, successfully negotiate a raise, or build a healthy relationship formed on trust and mutual acts of kindness.
The foot-in-the-door technique is widely versatile and can even be used to slowly introduce a brand-new watch aesthetic to an already highly specific watch brand that has built a fanbase within a narrow niche, just like Bell & Ross did with the BR 05 collection.
The latest iteration, the BR-X5, sports a rather dramatic shift in aesthetic as well as a new “manufacture” movement, and is possibly one of the most successful uses of the foot-in-the-door technique I have personally seen in the watch industry.
Bell & Ross BR-X5
Bell & Ross is most recognized for the BR 01 design aesthetic, which is based on historical cockpit instrument designs. It was surprising when it was first seen almost two decades ago.
It is not the only aesthetic of the brand, and there have been a variety of vintage inspired pieces, wild avant-garde designs (many surrounding the skull), and a healthy dose of rather expensive tourbillon pieces. But the BR 01 is still the core identity of Bell & Ross and the reason many collectors new to the brand will be enticed to enter the brand’s circle.
The launch of the BR 05 collection in 2019 was a bit of a shift for Bell & Ross since it was entering the red-hot luxury stainless steel sports watch arena, but the brand was smart to essentially tone down the BR 01 while keeping its essence. The new releases from the collection maintain the sporty yet dressy look of the steel sports watch market, while also staying true to the square-and-circle juxtaposition of the instrument gauges. The dials also held onto the same typography and hashmarks while using applied markers as seen on some of the X-designated models.
That should have been a giveaway that the BR 05 was intended to form a bridge from what the brand was known for to something a bit different. The BR-X5 is that something different, a new design language that is still clearly Bell & Ross at its core but could be considered something dramatically different. The numerals are gone and have been completely replaced by the lozenge-shaped applied markers typical to X-designated models, though this model separates the two at 12 o’clock.
The right side of the dial sees an expansion to the date window: where it formerly highlighted the current date, it now highlights yesterday, today, and tomorrow in a triple-date window. Then on the left side of the dial we see a massive power reserve subdial that shows off the three-day power reserve. Around the edge of the dial is a larger flange with numbers for every 10 minutes interspersed with short hash marks as well as an arrow pointing to today’s date.
Finally, the hands have changed from those on the BR 05, which were a simple rounded baton, to a rounded baton with heavy chamfered edges, mixing styles from the BR 05 with the BR 03 and BR-X1 to create a new hand style. A small change, but taken in the aggregate it plays a role in changing the vibe of the BR-X5 into its own beast. The crown has been made more angular and heavily ribbed, taking after other X-designated pieces, plus the case middle has been recessed to depart from the smooth and solid case of the BR 05.
And something new here is the switch to a new movement manufacturer.
It is called a “manufacture” movement, but the more accurate truth is that it is manufactured by Kenissi, the group formed by Tudor to construct in-house movements for its own brand and provide resources to third parties. Through its partial ownership by Chanel, which already has a partnership with Kenissi, Bell & Ross has used this resource to start making more customized movements made for the brand’s regular pieces, starting with the BR‐CAL.323 in the BR-X5.
Like everything in the watch industry, it is all about relationships and supply chains so having multiple sources for movements and developing a relationship with a manufacturer to develop movements is obviously a smart move. Some will decry moving away from a more tried-and-true movement by ETA or Sellita, but moving in new directions requires some risks. This is just the latest step by Bell & Ross to introduce something entirely new to its collector base and that is why it is such a great example of the foot-in-the-door technique.
A foot in the door
First the much softer and more rounded square of the BR 05, which was a big jump but familiar enough, and it added the outlined rounded square date window. Then we see the rounded square chronograph dials while the model retains the original plain, round date window that fades into the background. Next is the GMT, which tones down the original GMT hand and moves the GMT bezel inside, surrounding the dial, once again spanning a couple of collections.
Each of the initial models was a step farther, but each evolution was small enough that it wasn’t asking too much of consumers to appreciate the new style. Thus, it was a rather successful model and signaled to Bell & Ross that it could keep pushing the envelope, making larger requests from the collectors to accept more distinct styles.
Now we have the BR-X5, the biggest departure from the BR 01 aesthetic, and while it is still obvious that these watches come from the same brand and design language core, if this watch had happened to come from a different brand, one might be able to argue that it is different enough not to be accused of stealing from Bell & Ross.
That is the magic of the “foot-in-the-door” technique: it slowly gets people accustomed to an idea by presenting it in small steps, and the BR-X5 makes it clear that Bell & Ross has effectively shifted the window of acceptable deviation from the norm enough for a distinctly different watch to be a successful addition to the brand aesthetic. It also doesn’t hurt that the BR-X5’s BR CAL.323 is a certified chronometer, making it a solid timepiece if you dig the aesthetics, which I do.
And regardless of any individual’s opinion on this exact watch, I wanted to point out the success in shifting the perception of accepted aesthetics because it is a lesson in how to do it right.
Apples to apples
To demonstrate it more clearly, I propose as a comparison a brand that tried to do the same thing without easing people into it and had it sort of blow up in their faces: Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59. Now it has been a few years since the somewhat cringeworthy release that saw angry pushback from the CEO and brand reps when people panned the new design and sort of botched the rollout, and now we can see that it has a lot of great features and is clearly a great watch in a lot of respects. But it shocked people who weren’t ready for it.
AP didn’t try to slowly ease people into the massive shift of the Code 11.59 aesthetic, and it dropped a product that might not have been perfectly ready for release and that fans also were not expecting in kind of a bad way.
People loved the Royal Oak and did not know what to make of the model as it was so different than what they had expected to be released. It has taken years for many to warm up to the collection, but I fear that initial jolt will always be hanging out in the back of collectors’ and journalists’ minds when they see any new models in the collection.
Bell & Ross did the exact opposite with the BR 05, and it shows. If the brand had dropped the BR-X5 as the first piece, it is very possible that many would have panned it the same way because they hadn’t been slowly introduced to new details and the shifting aesthetic.
Instead, the very clean and simple BR 05 was very well received and allowed the brand to keep progressing down a new stylistic pathway. As a result, Bell & Ross has a very solid new collection on its hands that could become a lasting core to the company, all because the brand took it slowly and asked for small allowances with each new release, gently nudging consumers along and priming them to enjoy the BR-X5.
The BR-X5 has now been released in three varieties to test out this hypothesis: a classic black-and-white dial that fits right in with the original BR 01 aesthetic, a black-and-orange variation with forged carbon for an even more rugged look to tie into the classic aesthetic, and the very dressy ice blue steel version that almost glows with an iridescent dial. Now Bell & Ross might discover that the black versions sell the best, but because it was introduced slowly with multiple fancy BR 05 models with gold, skeleton movements, and now another new model called the Artline (maybe my favorite of them all) with Art Deco styling, the choices might allow the more dramatic and flashier or colorful models to do just as well.
Either way, I think Bell & Ross was very clever in using the tried-and-true “foot-in-the-door” technique to release this model after it had laid the groundwork and showed that it is possible to dramatically shift aesthetics without drawing fans’ ire about everything from everywhere all at once. If the brand keeps it up, it could develop a robust and broad collection with tons of options that is ripe for complications and collaborations, and the BR-X5 signals that it should be possible. Let’s see what comes next!
While we ponder how to convince people to want something new, let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 8.4 It may have been a slower build up, but the BR-X5 definitely has wowed!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 84 » 823.759m/s2 The shift in style has definitely kept me up late pouring over the details of the watch!
- M.G.R. * 56.1 Three days of power reserve with a chronometer certification is not shabby for a watch like this!
- Added-Functionitis * Moderate With a date and power reserve, this watch adds a couple nice functions, so I’d suggest regular strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream while rocking the new BR-X5!
- Ouch Outline * 8.4 Leg cramp in the middle of the night! After a weekend of long hikes sometimes you wake up at 3:00 am to your leg seizing up, and it is not fun. Still, I might consider letting it happen if I had the chance to get the BR-X5 on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * This is something really different! The realization that you are experiencing something new and pretty different from what you would expect is a refreshing moment of quiet blossoming of feelings!
- Awesome Total * 899 Begin with the caliber number (323) and multiply by the initial variations (3) and then subtract the hours of power reserve (70) to land on an inevitable awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.bellross.com/us/en-gb/our-watches/our-watches-urban/BR-X5.
Quick Facts Bell & Ross BR-X5
Case: 41 x 12.8 mm, stainless steel or forged carbon and titanium
Movement: automatic Caliber BR‐CAL.323 (Kenissi), 70-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency, official C.O.S.C. certified chronometer
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, power reserve
Limitation: 500 pieces (black and orange variation only)
Price: $6,900 (stainless steel with rubber strap), $7,400 (steel on bracelet); $11,800 (forged carbon)
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