Earlier this year at Baselworld, Bell & Ross presented the BR 03-92 MA-1, a classic square-shaped BR 03 model with a khaki and orange colour scheme poached directly from the US Air Force MA-1 bomber jacket of 1958. With its contrasting matte khaki ceramic case and vivid orange accents, this time-and-date model drew crowds to the stand and became an instant hit. Finally available in shops and online for those who pre-ordered the watch, we spent some hands-on time with the watch and this is what we found…
Bell & Ross took off as a brand in 2005 following the launch of the square-shaped BR 01 Instrument watch with its cockpit instrument-inspired looks. The BR family – now comprised of BR 01 (46mm), BR 03 (42mm) models and BR S (39mm) – has grown considerably since then and is the most pre-eminent ambassador of the brand. Nobody with an interest in watches could fail to identify the square profile of the BR and its overt connections to the world of aviation and military history. For an in-depth look at the brand and how it has evolved, don’t miss this article. In 2019, Bell & Ross decided to branch out to seek inspiration from other military sources and modelled the BR 03-92 MA-1 on the green nylon bomber jackets used by US Air Force jet fighter pilots from 1958. The particularity of the reversible MA-1 bomber jacket was its bright orange interior, which downed pilots could use as a beacon to attract Search and Rescue teams.
Squaring the circle
The distinctive 42mm square case with its circular bezel picks up on the khaki colour of the bomber jacket and is crafted in lightweight, scratch-resistant ceramic. The cool, smooth surface of ceramic against the skin is extremely pleasant, and the fact that it has a matte finish promotes the covert/stealth military theme. Have you noticed how the four screws on the dial side of the case (merely decorative, mind you) are aligned to create an invisible X across the dial while those on the caseback (functional) are not? I was a bit concerned about the 42mm x 42mm case but have to admit that the short lugs go a long way in helping the watch sit squarely on the wrist. It is large, but still wears quite comfortably.
The dial features the same sandwich architecture as the BR 03-92 Black Camo and is composed of two plates; on the lowest level is a coating of orange Super-LumiNova while the upper khaki level features cutaway numerals and hour markers to let the groovy orange glow shine through in the dark. The perforated dial, very similar to Panerai’s dials, adds an interesting visual dimension.
Since legibility is a lifesaving feature of a pilot’s watch, the hour and minute hands and the tip of the seconds hands are also treated with luminescent paint. The date window is neatly tucked away in a small cut-out circular aperture between 4 and 5 o’clock and retains the same khaki/orange colour scheme as the dial. The calfskin leather strap further reinforces the jacket’s theme, being reversible with both khaki and orange sides.
Underneath the sealed caseback is the automatic BR-CAL 302 based on the Sellita SW300-1, a movement common to Bell & Ross time-and-date watches. Beating at 28,800vph, it has a power reserve of 38 hours.
This model, like the bomber jacket, is cool. It is not a prodigy of mechanics (nor does it pretend to be) but a stylish, fashionable timepiece with an iconic square profile and a strong aviation vibe.
Price and availability
The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1 is a limited edition of 999 pieces with a retail price of EUR 3,500. More information at bellross.com.