Bell&Ross: New BR 03 Golden Heritage & Military Ceramic21 December 2023
Bell & Ross was born in 1992 when the two friends, Bruno Belamich (Bell) from the Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle and Carlos A. Rosillo (Ross) from HEC Paris, akin in outlook and dreams, chose to create as a university project a highly functional and durable watch. This idea of theirs, guided by the philosophy of “function shapes form”, has a way of materializing and conquering the world of watchmaking.
The French brand, with its emblematic logo bearing an “&” inscribed in a circle, draws its main inspiration from the aviation industry, its history and related technological advances. The first creations are not made in Switzerland, as we might traditionally expect, but in Germany by a company called Sinn Spezialuhren (known for its “tool watches”) according to military specifications.
Among the cornerstones of the “Bell&Ross by Sinn” period are: a tribute to the first Space 1 automatic chronometer, worn by physicist and astronaut Reinhart Furrer during the 1985 Challenger Spacelab D1 shuttle mission, and the iconic Type Demineur (1996), which offered an anti-magnetic case and unbeatable accuracy (as a “wrist armor” that facilitated the defusing of explosives). After making a name for itself with aviation watches, Bell & Ross went on with diving timepieces, and just a few years later, in 1997, the Hydromax was introduced, intended for both professional and amateur divers. This expertly designed instrument not only promised a distinct and well-balanced aesthetic, but also achieved a position in the “Guinness Book of World Records” by boasting an incredible water resistance of 11,100 meters (a little deeper depth than the Rolex Deep Sea Challenge, which reached 10,908 meters in 2012). In the 2000s, when Chanel Horlogerie acquired shares in the company and the watchmaking facilities were moved to La Chaux de Fonds (in Switzerland), Bell & Ross also ventured into women’s watches with the Mystery Diamond (2003), another design marvel that used a floating diamond above the dial as the hour hand.
But it’s in 2005 that we witness the big step! The brand launches a watch that soon becomes a true milestone, a modern watchmaking icon: the BR 01 Instrument. The BR 01 becomes the brand’s declaration of independence, an easily recognizable watch with a distinctive design that will later be declined in many editions. BR 01 is not only important to Bell & Ross. It’s vital! This watch immediately brought international visibility to the brand and was a hit for the entire watch enthusiast community. The main reason for the success of this watch lies in the synthesis capabilities of its design. The BR 01 is minimalist, unique, and strongly identifiable but also rich in historical references as it is “contaminated” by military origins.
Do all the dashboard instruments produced by Wittnauer, Lemania, or Wakmann and found on military aircraft remind you of anything?
Well! Bell & Ross has reinterpreted the design of these instruments by bringing them from the instrument panels directly to our wrists without any exclusions: 4 screws at each corner of the case, a round dial inscribed in a 46mm square case, and a black dial color (which also recalls military echoes as it avoided reflections in the cockpit and offered great contrast with the radio/tritium markers and hands).
A REDISCOVERED CONTINUITY
In 2023, Bell & Ross’ milestone, the BR 03, or successor with complication to the BR 01, receives a new update. Portability and ergonomics drive the subtle but significant (given the square nature of the case) change in the watch’s proportions. The case is resized and in the transition from 42 to 41mm the corners are more rounded and the lugs thinned: 4mm compared to the previous 4.5mm, with a faceted effect.
To mark the case restyling, Bell & Ross presents the new line of the BR 03 consisting of six iconic, reimagined designs: three models with a black ceramic case and three polished steel versions. Two new timepieces complete the series: a steel model equipped with a copper-colored dial (Copper) and a ceramic version with a khaki-colored dial (Military Ceramic).
The reference BR 03A-GH-ST aka “Golden Heritage”, with its ultra-modern retro touch, fully embodies the brand’s sporty spirit. Its brown dial (a new shade for Bell & Ross watches) is illuminated by the soleil motif and offers great legibility through its gold applied numerals/hour markers and sword-shaped hour and minute hands filled with Super-LumiNova.
Instead, the reference BR 03A-MIL-CE aka “Military Ceramic” follows the wake of the military-inspired watches that have determined the Bell & Ross style since the brand’s origins. It has a micro-sandblasted black ceramic case and features pierced lugs with regular spring bars, rather than screw-on bars as in the stainless steel models. The stunning khaki dial is complemented by black numerals and indexes in printed/Bilight luminescent material and hands coated in photoluminescent material.
All new models (in both steel and ceramic versions) also feature: date window in the usual 4:30 position, sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment, and a guaranteed water resistance of 100 meters.
The last noteworthy update concerns the movement. Originally, the BR 03-92 used a modified ETA 2892 automatic movement. The “92” shown on the dial, which connoted the presence of the ETA caliber, is no longer present and makes way for the words: BR 03-A. Inside we now find the automatic movement BR CAL.302, and even if this is not the first time Bell & Ross has used this caliber, it now has a power reserve of 54 hours.
CONCLUSIONS AND PRICE
The set includes two straps: brown calfskin leather and ultra-strong black synthetic fabric for the steel Golden Heritage edition while rubber and ultra-strong khaki synthetic fabric for the Military Ceramic. The price is €3,990 and €4,400 for the two versions, respectively.
Given all the details, the BR 03A are a perfect combination of sophistication and utility, made to put you in the cockpit heading for your next adventure!
By Luca Barone