I’m wearing a Bell & Ross as I type. I love it, but I’m always a little embarrassed that it isn’t one of the square ones. I mean, that’s the whole point, right? The brand is so firmly committed to that concept, it’s hard to believe they ever made a round watch. But perhaps the fact that they did and were able to get away with it is a testament to just how far this brand has come since its foundation in 2005. Fourteen years in, we’re treated to yet another timekeeping “instrument,” reminding us that there’s a hell of a lot of aviation history to work through before we’re done. The Bell & Ross BR03-92 Bi-Compass Special Edition watch takes its cues from the myriad dials that keep a pilot in the air, and it looks awfully good for it.
Color is a big deal in watchmaking. When you approach a task like designing a watch, you’ve got to be very selective about where you make changes to the tried and true formula. There are only so many things you can do and, within these stringent parameters, you’ve got to find an avenue for novelty. Color is always an option, however risky it may be. Here, with the Bell & Ross BR03-92 Bi-Compass watch, liberties have been taken, and are justified by historical provenance.
What do I mean by that? Typically, “baby turquoise,” or whatever you want to call that saccharine color in the middle of the dial, is not a colour used in watchmaking. Much less for men’s watches. Two things must be said, however, the first of which is that it is a color that has gained a lot more traction in recent years, cropping up particularly in microbrands looking to separate themselves from the pack. Additionally, Bell & Ross have provided just cause for their decision, thanks to a page from the history books (see below).
Slap bang in the middle of that seizure-inducing dash is a dial marked “Radio Compass,” decorated with colors very close to those chosen to bring the dial of the Bell & Ross BR03-92 Special Edition to life. Here’s a close-up if you’re struggling to pick it out of the crowd:
The colors used on aviation dials are, obviously, important. The “baby turquoise'”in question is actually known as “Munsell green” in these circles. When paired with the “coquille d’oeuf” (eggshell) white of the outer ring, a dial of supreme legibility is born.
In addition to color, the multi-level aspect of the dial also improves legibility. The raised outer edge provides a pleasing depth; the disc hour marker in the centre of the dial is a really clean touch.
The hands and markings are coated in Super-LumiNova compound to provide excellent legibility at night. Next to the black ceramic case (water resistant to 100m), the contrasting lume colors stand out nicely.
This watch is very much within Bell & Ross’s wheelhouse. It shouldn’t, however, be criticized for that. Maybe there are some people who are bored by the endless releases in the “same” case. Personally, I love it that a brand has carved and, for the most part, kept to its own niche.
I really do like the Bellytanker and the Guynemer Special Edition strapped to my wrist right now, but when it comes to classic Bell & Ross, it has to be a dashboard-inspired dial instrument. The Bell & Ross BR03-92 Special Edition does exactly what it needs to sit comfortably alongside its myriad predecessors, and would easily justify a place in any collection. The retail price is $3,900, and it will be limited to 999 pieces. Visit bellross.com to learn more.