Squared off: The Bell & Ross BR 03-90 B-Rocket – Full Review (Live photos, specs & price)
Collaborations are not uncommon within the watch industry. We’ve seen projects between watch brands and charitable causes take a surge over the past years, and we’ve even seen brands work with artists or sculptors to create unique pieces. One branch that is often contracted for a cooperative creation is car and bike manufacturers. Bell & Ross teamed up with Shaw Harley Davidson, official dealer and customizer of the brand, to create a pair of watches. One of these creations is the Bell & Ross BR 03-90 B-Rocket we will be reviewing here.
First off, the combination of a purely aeronautical inspired watch brand and a legendary bike manufacturers seems a bit strange but there is more to it than you might think. The Parisian brand teamed up with Shaw Harley Davidson in 2011, to create the Nascafe Racer, a unique custom Harley Davidson bike with a BR-01 Carbon mounted onto a center console. For the second installment of their collaboration, the B-Rocket was inspired by the heyday of the jet aircraft.
The one-off bike shares more than a few design cues with the airplanes from the 1960’s. Two distinct turbine inlets on either side of the bike, a fuselage-like fairing, a stabilizing fin on the rear fender, and various aviation related and of course Bell & Ross markings. To finish it off, a Bell & Ross designed tachymeter is housed deep inside the nose cone. So much for the bike, now onto the watch…
The key with every square Bell & Ross is that it seems bulky. Whether it is the relatively smaller BR-S or BR-03 or the 46mm wide BR-01, they seem larger than they really are, and they definitely seem larger than they actually wear. They still look somewhat out of place on a slim wrist, due to the square case and the wide strap. It is, however, by no means uncomfortable to wear.
The Br-03 90 B-Rocket is a very tough, sporty, industrial looking watch. The link between the watch and the bike is evident, sharing a silver and black color scheme, finished with red markings throughout. The contrasting colors of the dial make it very legible, and the various markings and indications are clearly noticeable on the dial.
Something that might throw you off at first is the red triangular marking floating over the chapter ring, positioned at 12 o’clock. This watch features no internally rotatable bezel, although you might expect it. A triangular marking can be found on just about every dive watch out there, as an indication of when you’ve started your dive. Perhaps it is there to help orient the eyes when looking down from the road ahead? Peculiar.
In terms of features it differs very little from other BR 03-90 models. Despite the partially skeletonized subdial for the power reserve and date wheels and window, the features are basically the same. That means central hours, minutes and seconds, a big date window at 12 o’clock and a power reserve indicator at 6.
Given the fact this is an aviation-inspired timepiece, the legibility is very good, especially of the big date. The open-worked sections of the date wheels do not distract too much from the actual date window, and I am glad it matched the color of the wheels with the colors of the dial. We sometimes see this done differently, as we recently explained in the review of the H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Black.
Dial and hands
The B-Rocket features a partially skeletonized, matte black dial. As with every BR 03-90, the large date window is placed at 12 o’clock and in this case it has been opened up to reveal the date wheels underneath. The white on black markings are very legible, and the date is finished off with a metallic window.
Placed at the bottom half of the dial, the power reserve indicator is also partially opened up, and shows parts of the movement underneath. A circular graining, or perlage, can be visible. The indicator itself features four rectangles, placed in an arc; the first is red to indicate ‘empty’ and the last is full white to indicate ‘full’.
The rest of the dial is finished with silver and red markings, and a surrounding bi-color chapter ring in black and silver. On top of the chapter ring, there is a red triangle but it serves no further purpose other than an esthetical one, as I’ve mentioned before. The straight hour and minute hands have been filled with Superluminova to enhance legibility in darkened circumstances.
Case and straps
The 42x42mm satin-polished steel case of the B-Rocket is very recognizable as a Bell & Ross. The squared case with raised, circular window onto the dial is instantly linked to the Parisian brand. We’ve mentioned the comfortable feel on the wrist earlier in this review, but that is mainly due to the short and downward angled lugs. It allows for a good, secured fit despite having a flat and large caseback, which can be a bit of a hassle on some wrists. It might slide around a bit more, it might brush against the joints of your wrist uncomfortably, but none is the case here.
The 4 screws surrounding the round dial-window are functional, and hold down the case-front. A little detail that bothered me personally was that the screws didn’t align. Understandably, this is debatable whether or not it adds to the watch. If you are talking about detailing, and consider that B&R are aiming for AP-level finishing and complexity, it would seem logical to have them line up. The official PR photos of the Bell & Ross BR 03-90 B-Rocket show the watch with 4 aligned screws.
The front crystal is a sapphire crystal that is treated with an anti-reflective coating. The crown on the right side of the case is knurled for extra grip and adorned with the familiar ‘&’ from Bell & Ross. On the caseback we find the traditional Bell & Ross engravings about the brand and the watch, including the “do not unscrew” screw which always makes me smile a bit. It is used to hold the crown-assembly in place, a screw normally found on the inside of the case. Tempting, but not to be messed about with.
The strap that comes with the Bell & Ross BR03-90 B-Rocket is a thick, padded black leather strap and is finished with red lacquered edges. As it is with every square Bell & Ross, the strap widens out towards the case to a point at which it includes the lugs. The padded area is segmented with black stitching and mimics the padded cushion on the bike’s fuel tank and knee supports. The only minor thing to nag about is that the very edge of the lacquer, so the corner of strap surface and strap edge, seemed to chip a little when feeding it through the buckle. This isn’t a major issue, just something that stood out during my experience.
Bell & Ross has always relied on ETA-based movements. But, as you’re probably well aware of, ETA (owned by the Swatch Group) is downsizing the delivery of ‘ebauches’ and movements to third parties, and companies like Dubois Depraz, Soprod, Sellita, TechnoTime and others are filling their books with orders from brands outside of the Swatch Group. This means that the BR03-90 B-Rocket is not equipped with an ETA 2892-A2 but with a similar movement from Soprod – calibre A10 that is also used by Sarpaneva among others – with an added module. The module indicates the big date at 12 and the power reserve indication at 6 o’clock. It delivers 42 hours of power, and operates at the rate of 28,800 vph.
Pros and Cons – Bell & Ross BR 03-90 B-Rocket
- Well finished case
- Excellent wearability
- Supple, comfortable, detailed strap
- Misaligned screws on case front
- Chipping red lacquer on strap edges
- Do not unscrew-screw might be too tempting for some
There are a few very recognizable icon’s in the industry and although B&R might not have the heritage of a Royal Oak or Nautilus, people generally know what it is. It is wise to keep in consideration that Carlos Rosillo, one of the two founders, has set its sights on Audemars Piquet or Hublot in terms of competitors. The Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Chronograph is a prime example of more complicated timepieces to come out the Parisian woodworks.
The Bell & Ross BR03-90 B-Rocket is available in a limited run of 500 pieces, and will cost you € 4.300 Euro.
The bike you see in the pictures is a customized 1963 Harley Davidson Shovelhead, provided by one of our readers for the shoot, for which we thank him.
For more information: www.bellross.com
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