If Bell & Ross were around in the 80s there’s a good chance they’d have penned a few songs with Huey Lewis because they’ve built a large part of their watchmaking identity around the fact that yes, it’s hip to be square. At least if you do it as well as they do.
Their signature shape, taken directly from an aircraft cockpit has done Bell & Ross well over the years, adapted as it’s been beyond the aviation background it came from into a host of other instrument practicalities. Possibly the arena it’s worked best in though – and I do include the skies as one of those – is diving.
That’s a bold claim I know. 99.99% of dive watches are round but then at least 80% of those are Submariner clones, so statistics aren’t really of help here. And as ways to stand out among the host of underwater watches out there, going square is a solid one. The fact that a diving bezel suits the chunky shape to a tee in a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea porthole kind of way, is just the icing on the cake.
Needless to say I’m already a fan of a Bell & Ross diver or two. I’m also a fan of their more militaristic pieces, specifically the BR-V2 92 Military Green. Combining them together seems like a no-brainer and the result is this, the BR 03-92 Military. Consider this the counterpoint to the also recent Red Bronze. Whereas that’s a flashy, colourful take on the Bell & Ross diver, this is the stripped-back, utilitarian version, and it’s much more my tempo.
The dial is the typical khaki we’ve seen taking over the watch world for the past year, particularly in this sub-sect of tool pieces. It’s taken from olive drab and isn’t really worth dwelling on. It’s nice, not groundbreaking and you’ve seen it before.
Perhaps what’s more impressive here is the inclusion of a full ceramic case. The 42mm case is substantial and this much ceramic makes for an impressively hardwearing, lightweight watch. Not that I intentionally whacked it on anything, obviously. The bezel too is ceramic (and one of the more satisfying to use, besides) and the combination lends a bit more of a tactile feel that takes this to the more modern side of militaristic.
That’s especially true on the chunky black rubber strap we have here, which curves to fit the wrist perfectly, a great match for the case which feels larger than your usual 42mm piece for obvious reasons (corners). That said, the khaki canvas version sets off the dial nicely, even if it’s a bit less comfortable.
Inside is the BR-CAL.302, a solid, ETA-based number with a not fantastic 38-hour power reserve. It does its job but for a bit less time than the benchmark these days. Still, it’s protected by 300m water resistance so the watch as a whole has some decent specs.
Overall, the BR 03-92 isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it is possibly my favourite Bell & Ross. I like utilitarian and military vibes; I like Bell & Ross divers. I like squares as much as the last outdated 80s musical reference – and a full ceramic watch for under 4K is nothing to be sneezed at (quiet, Tudor). Now if only they’d give the movement an upgrade…
Price & Specs:
Model: Bell & Ross BR03-92 Military
Case/Dial: 42mm diameter, matt black ceramic, khaki dial
Water resistance: 300m (30 bar)
Movement: In-house calibre BR-CAL.302, automatic, 25 jewels
Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Power Reserve: 38h
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds and date
Strap: Woven black rubber and ultra-resilient khaki synthetic fabric
Price/availability: £3,990, limited to 999 pieces
More details at Bell & Ross.