In 2017, Bell & Ross introduced the BR03-92 Diver as the first dive watch in their well-known square case, and 2018 brought updated versions with a blue dial and this limited edition in bronze. The Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver Bronze goes further than a dial and bezel color with an all-bronze case, of course, but it otherwise retains more or less all the things I loved about the Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver when reviewing it in steel here. It’s good to see this collection expand, as I feel it deserves a permanent and prominent place in Bell & Ross’ lineup.
The properties of bronze as a currently trendy watchmaking material are something we’ve had a chance to discuss multiple times. First, as an alternative to steel, bronze is at least somewhat interesting for being different. And with its warm tone, it is always nice to have color variations without a coating or the price of, say, gold. Then, there is easily the oddest apparently desirable feature of bronze, which is its tendency to form a patina that will uniquely reflect the conditions in which it is worn. Does everyone need a patinated bronze dive watch in their collection? No. But it seems like just about every brand needs to offer one, and Bell & Ross doesn’t have many dive watches to choose from being largely focused on aviation themes – though they do offer a couple of other bronze watches, including a BR01 Skull and this BR 01-CM Instrument De Marine (hands-on).
Dive watches are considered a particularly appropriate base for a bronze model for a couple reasons. One is bronze’s historical association with marine applications. The other is that tool and dive watches are supposed to be rough-wearing, so the aged look of patina will – supposedly, presumably, hopefully – look particularly appropriate and cool. Naturally, we are talking about a fully capable “professional” dive watch with 300m of water resistance here. Bell & Ross explains a number of other ISO dive watch standards that drove the design of the Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver. It doesn’t need to be square and it doesn’t need to be bronze, but one of the things I most appreciated about the Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver is that it looks unique and wears boldly but still seems very purposeful.
The square case, remember, is going to wear a bit larger than the Bell & Ross BR03’s 42mm width would suggest if you are thinking in terms of round watches. It is also a bit thicker than other BR03 watches with its tall bezel, and bronze is slightly denser and heavier than steel (depending on the specific alloy). Even on my 6.5″ wrist, however, I found it very wearable. The Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver in steel was pretty perfect, in my opinion – though, as mentioned in the review, potential improvements could include a display caseback or chronometer certification, say, but especially a ceramic bezel insert rather than the aluminum used for both the black and blue versions. The Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver Bronze, on the other hand, has a solid bronze bezel.
That consistent metal texture and color of the bezel and case is one major difference between the Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver Bronze and the steel versions with blue or black dials and matching aluminum bezels. Another is the engraved caseback, which is steel because bronze can turn skin green and its nickel content can cause allergies for some people. As a limited edition, the bronze version has a decoratively engraved caseback with watery, wavy lines and an old-timey dive helmet (the kind that might have been in bronze). The Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver Bronze has a black “aged leather” strap with a bronze pin buckle, but it also comes with the same soft black rubber strap as the steel versions, which will be better for actually going in the water.
As expected, the Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver Bronze dial is extremely legible with good contrast, strong lume, and a nicely AR-coated flat sapphire crystal. In fact, while the hour hand of the steel version was deemphasized by having weaker orange luminant as part of the ISO 6425 dive watch standards, I prefer stronger white lume all around as found on the Bronze limited edition. To be tonally consistent, the hands and applied indices are gold-plated.
Bronze cases and blue dials almost seem like natural extensions of successful watch lines nowadays, even if they would have been considered uncommon several years ago. The Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver Bronze is limited to 999 pieces, so if there is enough demand, future bronze limited editions could perhaps combine the blue dial, as has proven an attractive combination, for example, on this Mühle-Glashütte Yacht-Timer. Bronze and green dials are sometimes cool too. The Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver Bronze has a price $290 more than the non-limited steel versions at $3,990 USD. bellross.com