We’ve told the story of Bell & Ross many times, and most of you will be familiar with its most emblematic watch, the BR Instrument. A circle within a square, a watch directly modelled after dashboard instruments found in antique military aeroplanes, this watch (and all variations) is the brand’s icon. Recognizable among all is the BR 03 (the smaller version of the BR 01, which has become the standard model), which has been around for more than 15 years now. It was about time to give it a slight update. But with such a cult status, it had to respect some codes. Let’s find out about the updated Bell & Ross BR 03 Collection in this article and our video above.
Bell & Ross was founded in 1992 as a university project by two friends: Bruno Belamich (the Bell in the name) and Carlos Rosillo (the Ross in the name). The initial idea was to create instrumental pieces inspired by everything military – special forces, diving commandos, air forces and field action in general. The first watches were made with German manufacturer Sinn and quickly gained recognition from civilian enthusiasts and military personnel. But the real turning point in the brand’s history occurred in 2005, with the creation of a watch that would become the emblem of Bell & Ross, the BR 01 Instrument.
It was the brand’s declaration of independence, a watch with its own design and identity. A key watch for Bell & Ross, it gave the brand international exposure. The main reason for the success of this watch lies in the simplicity of its design. Unique and easily recognizable, it is permeated with military roots. The distinctive design came from transferring the shape of vintage dashboard instruments from a plane to the wrist. This no-nonsense design made it into a wristwatch with the now-emblematic circle within a square, held by 4 functional screws (one in each corner) and an extremely legible dial in the centre. Soon after, the imposing BR 01, with a 46mm width, gave birth in 2006 to a smaller version, the 42mm BR 03, which has now become the cornerstone of the collection, derived in dozens of versions, even some directly inspired by the display of dashboard instruments.
With more than 15 years of existence, this design is getting a discreet but welcome update in 2023 with the new BR 03 Collection. Rest assured, the emblematic, instantly recognizable shape and the military and aviation inspirations are still at the heart of the watch. But it’s been lightly revamped to make it even more attractive.
First of all, the new collection respects the original canons of the watch: it still has a square case with a perfectly round dial under a flat sapphire crystal, it is still secured by 4 screws, and it still has one of the purest and most legible dials in the industry. However, some changes have been made to make the BR 03 slightly more appealing without denying its military roots. First, the case is now 41mm x 41mm, meaning it’s now 1mm smaller. And considering that a square watch has more presence than a round watch with an identical width, every millimetre counts.
More subtle changes have been made to the case. The lugs, for instance, are now 4mm in width, compared to 4.5mm in the past. Also, they have a new faceted profile, which brings more curvature towards the wrist. In the same vein, the rounded corners have a slightly larger radius, and the lateral bevels on the side of the case and the bezel are much larger than before for more depth. The case retains its comfortable 100m water resistance, with a solid back and a sapphire crystal on top.
The small changes can be felt, and the watch wears slightly smaller and sits more comfortably on the wrist. The design is more refined, thanks to more rounded corners and larger bevels (polished on the steel models). More importantly, the rubber strap has been redefined, with a narrower profile and a more tapering effect at the buckle, again increasing comfort.
Following this evolution, the new Bell & Ross BR 03 only bears very light changes on its ultra-legible dial. Mainly, the hour hand is slimmer, while the tracks and numerals are slightly more pronounced. Thanks to high-contrast matte dials and the generous use of Super-LumiNova, time is visible at a glance in all situations. The date window at 4h30 will remain a point of debate; we think the watch could do without it.
The BR 03 new generation is presented as a complete collection of eight references. It comprises three classic black ceramic case models – Black Matte with white numerals, Phantom with a full-black look, numerals and hands included, and Heritage with a retro look. The three classic steel versions are back too, with the Black Steel, Blue Steel and Golden Heritage models, respectively, with black, blue and brown dials. Also, Bell & Ross introduces two new models. First is the BR 03 Copper with a galvanized brushed dial, engraved black numerals and indexes that give it further depth. It has blue metallic hands, a steel case and a brown strap. The second is the BR 03 Military Ceramic, with a black ceramic case and a khaki green dial, as the most military inspired model of the collection.
Last but not least, Bell & Ross also updates the movement with an upgraded calibre 302. It uses the latest innovations of Sellita with an extended power reserve of 54 hours versus 38 hours in the past and is based on the Swiss manufacturer’s SW300 architecture.
All in all, the new Bell & Ross BR 03 collection isn’t a revolution. And this is exactly why it is a clever move. It would not have been clever to dramatically alter a watch with such a recognizable design. Instead, gradual evolutions to bring slightly better specifications and refined design feel like the best solution to ensure the BR 03 retains its emblematic status over the years.
The eight new references in the Bell & Ross BR 03 collection are all part of the permanent range and will soon be available from the brand and retailers. Prices range from EUR 3,700 (Black Steel, Blue Steel) to EUR 4,500 (Military Ceramic, Phantom). For more details, please consult bellross.com.