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Bell & Ross BR 01-92 Carbon Watch Review

Bell & Ross BR 01-92 Carbon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The BR 01 (BR01) watch collection is probably the most iconic timepiece of the Bell & Ross brand, and one of the most influential timepieces of last decade. Exactly where did it come from and why is it so popular? Bell & Ross as a brand is highly inspired by the German brand Sinn. In fact, one of the founders of Bell & Ross worked at Sinn, and early Bell & Ross watches were actually Sinn watches that were dual branded.

Sinn is sort of the anti-Swiss watch in theme. The brand offers high-quality tool and professional-use watches that are reasonably priced and have zero lifestyle marketing behind them. I believe at the time, the new Bell & Ross brand saw an opportunity to market the Sinn concept to a more lifestyle and fashion oriented demographic, while retaining the core look and functionality that made Sinn what they were.

Bell & Ross BR 01-92 Carbon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Soon after having success with offering Sinn watches in a new way Bell & Ross quickly started to develop its own personality and was among the first high-end watch brands that I recall ever noticing and lusting for. Born from historic military watches and functional instruments, the brand then (about 10 years ago), and now is still easy to love. A major part of that reason is that the majority of Bell & Ross watches feature very refined designs and dials that are often extremely easy to read. The mission of the brand was to offer a good-looking watch that said the people wearing them had good, but conservative taste, and weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty when necessary.

Using Swiss movements, Bell & Ross is a contemporary French company. Even their “vintage” models have a fresh feel, while the brand’s entire collection is modern through and through. How did Bell & Ross manage to retain this look while featuring a collection that is mostly aimed at the past for inspiration? I think it has to do with restraint. Design restraint. Most Bell & Ross watch designs are simple at first glance. There are a few key design features that make each piece what it is – without going overboard. I can only guess that this type of design process is difficult because rather than adding features designers often need to strip them away.

Bell & Ross BR 01-92 Carbon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

I mention all this because in my opinion it is particularly salient to the BR 01 models. The BR 01 is a watch based on the look of an airplane cockpit dashboard clock. Im fact, you could probably use it as one. The square case is modeled after the modular design of cockpit instruments complete with retention screws. Go in any number of airplane cockpits and you’ll see where the design came from. The design includes large hands, easy to see hour numerals, and perfect contrast.


The purest BR 01 design when it comes to honoring these plane clocks is the BR 01-92 Carbon. Black coated metal is preferred in cockpits because it does not reflect light that may hinder visibility. Also a black and white dial offers the best contrast for legibility. This model also removes the date window which was offered on other BR 01-92 models. Just the time with seconds – a pure dashboard instrument.

Bell & Ross BR 01-92 Carbon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Bell & Ross BR 01-92 Carbon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Bell & Ross has always in my opinion expertly shrunken down the plane clock for use on the wrist. Some of the little details are the best, such as the well-rendered hands and four dial mounted screws that match the four bezel mounted screws. The dial is clean and crisp with indicators that are slightly raised due to the healthy amount of SuperLumiNova used for lume.

“Shrunken down” is of course a relative term as the BR 01 is still a 46mm by 46mm wide square cased watch. When it first came out there was a lot of skepticism as to who might wear such a watch. The “big watch” craze wasn’t quite mainstream yet, and it look a lot of wrist time for people to be convinced that Bell & Ross was on to something. Nevertheless, Bell & Ross still released the slightly smaller BR 03 model a few years later to satisfy more wrist size preferences. Interestingly enough, as wide as the watch is, it feels very thin at 10.5mm thick. This low wrist profile is a major benefit of the design.

Bell & Ross BR 01-92 Carbon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Personally I love the size and would choose the BR 01 over a BR 03 any day of the week. Other equally educated people might say just the opposite. The steel case is PVD coated black and water resistant to 100 meters. The sapphire crystal is AR coated for viewing ease. More little touches like the grating texture on the screw-down crown with engraved Bell & Ross logo are welcome bits. The large flat watch sits very comfortably on the wrist, which also means that while it is large, it won’t slide around.

One of the most clever design elements of the watch is how the straps integrate the lugs for a single, seamless look. The straps gently taper and are faceted (on the rubber versions) to help visually reduce the size of the watch. It is a quite refined and visually elegant strap design, while also being very simple. Also offered in leather, nylon Velcro, and other straps, the best strap for the BR 01 is still probably the rubber strap. Beautiful in it design, the strap is matched to a sexy buckle and is effortlessly easy to wear and comfortable.

Bell & Ross BR 01-92 Carbon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Inside the BR 01-92 is a Swiss ETA 2892-2 automatic movement. Most BR 01 watches make it very clear which movement is inside of them. The BR 01-94 for example has a 2894 automatic chronograph movement while the BR 01-97 has a 2897 automatic with power reserve movement, and so forth. A number of brands out there use basic ETA movements and try to disguise the caliber names with their own lexicon. Bell & Ross seems to have little interest in this practice and I applaud them for focusing on what counts. They are not a watch movement maker but a watch maker. They use reliable industry tested movements inside watches of their own design, and don’t mean to confuse anyone in the process.

I’ve said a lot of good things about the BR 01-92 Carbon watch and overall BR 01 collection because I have followed the evolution of this collection since its debut several years ago and have continued to really like it. When it comes to watches the true test of merit is time. That might sound painfully cliche, but only time separates good designs from trendy designs. Bell & Ross has proved to me that with the BR 01 Instrument it is hip to be square. Quality and execution are very good, and if you think like me you already know that you like the look of it. Price for this BR 01-92 carbon ref. BR 01-92-S-00009 is $4,200 retail.

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  • Michael

    Very handsome. There’s something brilliant about watches that are designed to be used, as opposed to being designed as decorations. They always look better in my opinion!

    This watch reminds me of what the French do best; simple, minimalist tools, that are purely functional, whilst retaining this certain style and flair. It’s very subtle, but very French!

    Great article as always.

    • kris c

      I thought what the French did best was crepes and surrender.

  • dej

    “Personally I love the size and would choose the BR 01 over a BR 03 any day of the week. Other equally educated people might say just the opposite.”

    Education? Please educate me on what that even means. You sound pretentious. It is a watch. It costs a certain amount.

    There are only 4 choices:
    1. You either like it and can afford it.
    2. Like it and can’t afford it.
    3. Don’t like it and can afford it.
    4. Don’t like it and can’t afford it.

    I’m sure Bell + Ross will sell you one if you want one even if you aren’t educated but have the money.

    • Mike

      Wow. This unfortunate comment demonstrates just how much education you lack. If I were you, I would defer to Ariel’s demonstrated expertise.

    • I think you misunderstand me. I was saying that I like the 46mm wide size version of the watch personally. I added that I feel that way due to personal taste and that there is nothing wrong with the smaller BR 03 versions if you like that size better. That it is a matter of taste rather than “what is better.”

      • Jack

        I’m a pretty easy going guy but I have to admit I noticed the “educated” comment and thought… wtf? I’m not quite sure what a level of education–of any sort–has to do with preference for watch size, or with qualifying anyone to make a comment about watch size. Why not just say this: “Personally I love the size and would choose the BR 01 over a BR 03 any day of the week. Other people might say just the opposite”?

        • What can I say Jack, literary experiment gone wrong for me?

        • Rance

          I think education level helps you understand that not every word should be taken literally.

          • Greg

            Agreed, that and not being constantly on the alert for a perceived slight. I quite liked the turn of phrase actually, but then again i’m a well balanced guy; I’ve got a chip on both shoulders! 🙂

          • Jack

            Hmm. Last time I noticed “education” was a pretty unambiguous word and kind of hard not to take literally. But heck, pretend I didn’t make that one tiny comment ‘cos I don’t want to seem like I’m on “alert.” Haha!

  • Ulysses

    As much as I like some B&R designs, i’m getting a bit bored with them, frankly. Love the instrument style face but it wouldn’t hurt to move in another direction.

  • Mr. Champ

    Way too big, ugly, and over $4000 for an ETA movement? There’s nothing good about this watch.

  • George

    I took the educated comment to mean educated in the world of horology, not educated in a broader sense. I suspect that was the intention, though I wouldn’t speak for the writer. I’m also kind of bored with the big square look from B&R. I get that it’s iconic in a way for the look. But it’s also iconic in a way for being a very expensive case housing an off-the-shelf ETA movement. I like their newer vintage models better.

  • Rich B

    I was thinking of getting one of these but I’m not sure. I like them but I’m always afraid this design will be outdated quick.

  • Sean Hennessy

    I own two BR01 92’s, one in stainless w/black dial that I’ve worn just about every day for the past 5 years; the other is a Carbon Ltd edition w/orange markings, which I wear occasionally. I love this brand and I wish I could afford a few more. I feel the BR 01 design is classic, dead simple, & stunningly beautiful. I don’t think the design is as tired as some suggest, but that the proliferation of cheap big squares (knockoffs & imitators) that we see all the kids sporting has muddied the pool so to speak. The BR 01 is as timeless as its inspiration.

    As for education, sadly I don’t have one except what for what I’ve chosen to explore. I think the authors’ use of the word implied one who knows what they like in the watch world. I like Bell & Ross.

    • Sean, thank you at least for getting it.

  • David

    Thanks for a great article about Bell and Ross. Is there any way to download the clock so it can have it on my computer? This article is the first I have read and I hope to read more. Great job!

    • Happy to be of service.

  • Seth

    I was on Canal St. in NYC last month, and almost bought a B&R knockoff, because, let’s be honest here, this is a watch that could easily be copied, cheaply. I’d like to say that I chose to not buy because of moral or ethical reasons, but the reality is that they just felt too cheap and flimsy. The real deal has a very solid feel. Like you could run it over with a car and it would still run.

    The BR-01 was the first watch that really GRABBED me and turned me towards the dark side (i.e., I’m a WIS now) but I couldn’t afford one. But that’s what drew me to Lüm-Tec, so I think it all worked out.

    Now, I can afford one, and I’m really eyeing the BR01 and BR03. But I’m hoping to find a pre-owned one. I don’t know what the mfg costs and marketing costs are, but I’ll bet they make a VERY hefty profit on each piece.

  • THMonacoLover

    I think a more objective review would have been better. You give the review a fanboy air, not a true review of the watch. You gave no cons about the watch, and there are a few, like its outrageous price point for only having a ETA 2892-2, a very good movement, but can be had in many watches starting at mid-price level(700 +). At that retail, B&R should have at least COSC chronometer certified the movement. It is big,, almost too big, making it look indeed like you took it off a cockpit panel and slapped it on your wrist. it is too big for your wrist, garishly so, looking almost like a clown watch. The buckle  does not center nicely, and the case extends past the radius of your wrist. The PVD coating could be better. I’ve heard complaints of the PVD wearing at the edges prematurely. I think you can get utilitarian and a bit of style with the same movement for less money. The watch has no style. It’s a big square with a dial. You will bump it into everything on the planet. However, it is accurate. The 42mm model would suit your wrist better.

  • THMonacoLover

    I also think it’s very dumb to put a screw on the back that says ‘Do not unscrew’. You know someone is going to unscrew it and disassemble the crown. It’s stupid to give the end user access to any disassembly of main components of the watch in this manner.

  • THMonacoLover

    I consider that a serious design flaw in a watch that retails at 4200 dollars.

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