When the original Bell & Ross BR01 watch collection debuted about a decade ago, it was a sort of manly dress watch and there was nothing like this BR01-93 GMT model. There were a few versions, but many of them focused on the piece’s inherent luxury status and ability to not look like “just” a 46mm wide wrist instrument. As the collection evolved, Bell & Ross increasingly turned the BR01 into just that – a military-inspired instrument-style wrist watch without too much polish, and lots of matte surfaces. There are exceptions of course, but from a sales perspective I think that is what ended up being best for the line.
Bell & Ross’ challenge is to keep the BR01 collection fresh, while at the same time maintaining the look and feel of the genre (i.e. the design DNA of the BR01 family). That is a tough task for sure. Only brands like Rolex and Omega are able to sell the same watch year after year with little or no changes. Today the BR01 is still important for the brand, and my hope is that Bell & Ross will update the BR01 with minor upgrades and tweaks and keep it as an icon. Until they get to that point, the consumer is presented with a relatively large range of limited and non-limited BR01 (and its smaller BR03 sibling) to choose from. One of my favorites is this BR01-93 GMT watch originally released a few years ago.
It might be easy to simply pronounce that this BR01 model is like all the rest, but with a GMT hand. That isn’t quite true, but it isn’t totally off. The case and profile of the GMT is identical to that of the BR01-92 (three-hand automatic). However, the BR01-93 has a different movement, extra spice of color, and a flange ring. Are these different enough to merit a new addition to your collection as well as the price premium? For your reference, you can see our review of the Bell & Ross BR01-92 Carbon watch here – probably the most basic of all the BR01 models, designed for elegant simplicity.
In order to keep its dial simple, the BR01 Carbon doesn’t even include a date,. That for me is the “base” BR01 design, and everything else just sort of adds on to it. This GMT also has the 46mm wide case in matte black PVD, that is actually quite thin at about 10mm thick and is water resistant to 100 meters. The sapphire crystal is double AR coated. Because case size is always an issue, I will once again reiterate that the flat style square case of the BR01 collection is actually very comfortable. It sits well on the wrist, mostly because of how close the lugs and strap are to the bottom of the case. If you are terribly concerned about its size then I recommend you look at a smaller 42mm wide BR03 model. However, there is no direct GMT analog such as this model in the BR03 collection.
For me, the most important design difference of the GMT compared to most other BR01 watches is the addition of the flange ring. This diagonally aligned internal ring around the dial is used as a place for the 24 hour markers for the the second time zone GMT hand. It also visually increases the size and style of the dial, making the BR01-93 look noticeably different and with a more expansive face. I find this to be very flattering to the overall design and a key benefit of the watch. The dial isn’t actually larger, but it just appears that way. Because the flat part of the dial is a bit smaller, another benefit (though minor to most people) is that the hour and minute hands are better suited to the proportions of the hour markers. That means that finally, the minute hand completely covers the hour markers rather than just cover them halfway. Again, a tiny difference, but seeing it really improves the overall presentation of the core BR01 dial design.
Then there is the matter of the large orange GMT hand. Clearly inspired by the orange GMT hand on some older and current 42mm Rolex Explorer II timepieces, this highly functional element is both legible and adds a welcome dash of color. Where I have found that adding blue or red doesn’t accent the BR01 dial that well, adding orange or yellow looks very good. The middle section of the GMT hand is painted with lume for darkness viewing. Unfortunately, the full 24 hour indicator scale is not lume-painted.
Inside the Bell & Ross BR01-93 GMT watch is a Swiss ETA 2893 automatic GMT movement, that also includes the date (with a window located between 4 and 5 o’clock on the dial). The watch comes with a comfortable rubber strap and the price is refreshingly “round.” People continue to appreciate Bell & Ross watches but many also complain about their prices. There is an inherent simplicity to them that makes people feel as though they are overpriced. This, in my opinion of course, is an issue with all luxury watches, but isn’t disproportionate with Bell & Ross. The effort is in the materials and minor details, and if Bell & Ross watches were so easy to duplicate with cheaper prices, then I am still waiting for someone to do so successfully. I’ve seen several Bell & Ross fakes, and to my trained eyes they are embarrassing. Not to mention that fakes break with haste.
I’ve taken apart a BR01 case before, and you’d be surprised how complicated it is to access the movement. The one-piece case has the bezel lift out and with it the case and dial. All the screws on the case are totally functional, and it is a delicate item that is much more sophisticated than some basic case where a movement pops into the back. I am not trying to defend Bell & Ross or the pricing of luxury brands which of course is higher than it “needs to be,” but I am merely pointing out facts that others tend to not be aware of when complaining that simple looking high-end timepieces inherently require less detail than more complex looking timepieces. Moving on, this again is one of my favorite BR01 collection pieces and if you are looking for the right model in the collection, this could be for you. Price for the Bell & Ross BR01-93 GMT watch is $5,000. bellross.com
>Brand: Bell & Ross
>Model: BR01-93 GMT
>Size: 46mm wide
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone who wants a bold looking high-end military-style watch that doesn’t scream luxury and enjoys a dash of color.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Difficult to read GMT time in the dark
>Best characteristic of watch: One of the best looking BR01 watches today remaining a standout model in the collection