While Bell & Ross may be best known for its aeronautics-inspired watches, the Swiss brand seems to be fastened with almost anything that goes fast. Proof positive of this is in its past collaborations on ground-bound vehicles, including two post collaborations with Shaw Harley Davidson and the brand’s work with the Alpine and Renault F1 teams. Most recently, the brand launched a much more modern collaboration with designer Sacha Lakic’s Blacktrack Motors. Immediately familiar as a Bell & Ross thanks to its squared case, the Bell & Ross BR 03-94 BLACKTRACK is a stealthy all-black twist that brings the brand’s instrument panel design down to earth — though doesn’t slow it down one bit.
Designed in tandem with the Blacktrack BT-06 bike seen above, the BR 03-94 BLACKTRACK shares the same lines and black-out design. Fittingly for Bell & Ross, the bike is inspired by the forms of stealth aircraft, so even while this is a motorcycle collaboration, it maintains the brand’s ties to the skies. The overall silhouette hews closely to the standard BR 03-94 chronos. In the metal, the 42mm case’s sloped corners make a big difference, giving the watch a decidedly modern look even in the already-modern black ceramic material. In creating the slopes, B&R seems to have gotten creative. If you look at the standard models, the screws (which are replaced by bolts on the BLACKTRACK) are near flush with the case, with a rising bezel around the crystal. Here, the entire case slopes up to form a massive bezel around the crystal.
While I didn’t have my calipers handy, the watch didn’t seem much thicker than the standard BR 03-94s. The additional perceived thickness that’s brought on by lifting the case around the flat sapphire crystal is compensated for by the sloping corners, which create a draping effect (similar to that seen on the Circula ProTrail and the Formex Reef). The short angular lugs remain the same, as do the rectangular pushers and the knurled crown. For this limited edition, we get an entirely new strap, though. While B&R has made leather straps, this one gets a bit more padding and quilting to mimic rider’s suits and bike saddles. It’s not quite as comfortable as the usual B&R leather, but it’s close, and it still affords the same slimming effect: because of its flare to the full external width of the lugs, it gives the entire watch a bracelet-like feel that allows it to wear much more easily than if it were on a standard style strap.
Perhaps more so than the case, the dial is where the Bell & Ross BR 03-94 BLACKTRACK distinguishes itself from the rest of the brand’s chronos, and where Lakic seems to have really had some influence. Instead of the flat matte black, we get depth and texture in spades. The raised flange carries the minute track and hour markers, which protrude out into the grooved dial, styled to mimic a cooling grid (I was reminded of the updated Zenith Pilot, though those are raised ridges rather than sunken grooves). Unlike the brand’s other chronos, the design here isn’t taken from a cockpit, but rather the small dash of a motorcycle. (Not coincidentally, the watch can actually be fastened to a stand on the dash.)
Gone is the soulless emphasis on legibility, replaced with character and panache. The flange splits apart and crosses the dial to frame the subdials, which receive a subtle brushed finish. That framing draws the eye in person, while the red tips on the chronograph hands add a pop of color. The hands are blacked out with a bit of texture, but because they hover over such a sea of varied surfaces, it’s easy to read them, even at a glance. One easter egg the brand pointed out while I was handling the watch: when the counterbalances of the minute hand and the chrono seconds hand overlap, the superimposed shapes form Blacktrack’s ‘B’ logo. There’s lume everywhere you expect, but I didn’t get a chance to test it out. My experience with black-out lume doesn’t bode well, though.
That pop of red in the chrono hands is carried over to one of the most significant divergences this watch has to offer (at least for an incorrigible date lamenter like me): the date window is placed at 6 o’clock. This may seem like small potatoes, but outside the BR 05, almost every other Bell & Ross with a date has it at 4:30. I’d love to think that this means the brand is rethinking its commitment to 4:30 dates, but all those 6 o’clock dates are on collaborations that forego the brand’s usual rounded 12 and 6 numerals. So I won’t get my hopes up, but instead, I’ll accept Bell & Ross’ better-than-average execution of the 4:30 placement.
The caseback is very similar to most of the B&R Instrument watches, with military-like text, but this time space is made for a profile of the BT-06. Underneath, you get the automatic BR-CAL.301 chronograph movement, a rebadged ETA 2894-2 movement, which uses an ETA 2892 base with a chronograph module. This is the same movement seen in every Bell & Ross chrono outside the BR 05 series, which is now equipped with the BR-CAL.326, itself a rebadged 60-hour Sellita SW510. As it is, the BR-CAL.301 offers 42 hours of power reserve at 28,800 vph, which is certainly acceptable.
As opposed to a watch like the Omega Dark Side of the Moon Black Black — which is all-black for its own sake — the Bell & Ross BR 03-94 BLACKTRACK takes advantage of a specific design ethos, using angles, pops of red, and a range of the greyscale to achieve its stealthy look. It’s a highly stylized, futuristic design that provides plenty of personality without making any real sacrifices. One thing is for sure: when I strapped this on, I felt cool. The Bell & Ross BR 03-94 BLACKTRACK is priced at $6,900 USD and is limited to 500 pieces. It does not come with a bike. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.