Sapphire crystal watch cases are not a new thing. We have covered at least four, dating back to 2012. Two from Richard Mille, here and here, and one from H. Moser & Cie and Hublot from earlier this year.
Additionally, H. Moser & Cie made a similar model a few years back, and Rebellion recently produced the 540 Magnum Tourbillion in sapphire. Greubel Forsey even jumped on the bandwagon, so to speak, earlier this year.
As far as who did it first, I have read that Alain Silberstein made the first sapphire crystal case equipped timepiece, although I could not find anything confirming that.
Today, Bell & Ross has announced the BR-X1 Tourbillon Chronograph Sapphire, their first sapphire crystal cased timepiece, and it features a tourbillon no less. (Ref. BRX1-CHTB-SAPHIR)
Much like skeleton watches, tourbillons, and sapphire crystal cases tend to stand out amongst conservative timepieces, you know the kind that you cannot see-through in someway or another. And, that, I suppose is the point.
Skeletonization and sapphire crystal cases, which are often used in combination, offer a great way to show off the components of a mechanical watch. But they are also almost always ostentatious, and quite frankly lacking good taste, in my opinion. Who wants to pay extra to show view your arm hair? Many people do, apparently. And in some cases, they will pay more than a million bucks for the opportunity.
I guess this is where I should discuss the specs of the watch, but in reality, they don’t even matter. This is for someone who just wants to show off their arm hair. And with a strap that is made of “translucent rubber with metallic Kevlar weaving,” show off their arm hair they will.