“A divers’ watch with corners? That’s absurd.” This comment, or a similar one, might be heard from techies who know that it’s much harder to make a square watch case watertight than a round one. But Bell & Ross has succeeded in constructing the brand’s characteristic quadratic case in such a way that it can pass pressure tests up to 30 bar (300 meters) – plus another 25 percent for safety’s sake. The technique involves a screw-down crown, an extra-thick (2.85-mm) sapphire crystal, and four massive screws joining the upper part of the case to the middle piece and the 2.8-mm-thick steel back. The result is the BR 03-92 Diver, a terrific-looking dive watch with a round, black rotatable bezel atop a square stainless-steel case.
Divers can also look forward to the harmonious styling of the displays on the BR 03-92 Diver, our test watch. All important indicators light up strongly in the dark: from the zero point on the bezel, through the applied indexes, to the important minutes hand and, of course, the seconds hand that shows that the watch is still running. Only the orange hour hand remains dark so it doesn’t distract a diver from seeing essential information.
The hands and indexes are very well crafted and contribute to the overall high-quality impression made by this watch. Ditto for the stable multifaceted case, except for two small details that rein in a diver’s enthusiasm: the bezel’s calibrations are made of aluminum rather than scratch-resistant ceramic, and the rotatable ring itself is difficult to turn, even if its user isn’t wearing diving gloves.
But these drawbacks are outweighed by the extra-wide rubber strap, which has complex styling and ends in a large, intricately shaped pin buckle. A thick bar and sturdy Allen screws affix the strap to the case, so losing this watch would be very unlikely, even if it happens to snag on coral or on diving equipment.
Incidentally, the rubber strap is suitable only for dives in relatively warm water. For immersions in colder diving areas, where the watch would be worn over a neoprene suit or even over gloves, the diver would want to use the textile strap with Velcro fastener, which is delivered with the watch.
Bell & Ross has placed greater priority on the watch’s exterior components than on the movement, which is hidden behind a massive steel caseback. The timepiece encases large-series ETA Caliber 2892 in the “Elaboré” version, which is the simplest of its three quality levels. “Simplest” in this context means that the balance is made of gold-plated nickel instead of Glucydur and is finely adjusted by ETA in four, rather than five, positions. Furthermore, Bell & Ross uses only a few unobtrusive polished patterns and an engraving of the brand’s logo on the rotor as embellishments.
This caliber in its simplest quality level is quite commonly found in high-quality watches and would not be viewed as a shortcoming – were it not for the poor rate results achieved by our test watch. The loss averaged 17.5 seconds per day, which means that its timekeeping would lag by a full minute after four days have passed. That’s not acceptable performance, even for a mechanical watch, where a lack of precision is easier to pardon than in a quartz or electronic timepiece. Our time with the model, which lasted several weeks, confirmed the results of the electronic measurement: here the loss ranged from 14 to 20 seconds per day.
Some consolation can be taken from the fact that the values measured in the individual positions are “only” 10 seconds apart, which means an experienced watchmaker would be able to bring this watch’s rate up to an acceptable level with a few deft adjustments. But the buyer would have to surrender the watch into the expert’s custody, which is a situation many purchasers prefer to avoid.
The appeal to Bell & Ross is to regulate the watch with the same perfection it used in the other aspects of its quality control. Our test model passed the quality-assurance tests with flying colors. The wearer of the BR 03-92 Diver can enjoy this watch above and below the water’s surface – because the corners and edges are only in the watch’s design, not in the craftsmanship.
Strap and clasp (max. 10 points):
The extra-wide rubber strap is very sturdy and culminates in a high-quality buckle with a milled pin. 8
The rubber-coated crown is easy to operate, but the rotatable bezel is hard to grasp; a stop-seconds function and a rapid-reset mechanism for the date display are a matter of course these days. 4
The case resists pressure to 300 meters, is solidly constructed, multifaceted, and well crafted, but the scale on the bezel is made of aluminum rather than scratch-resistant ceramic. 8
Chic, individualistic, sports-watch styling. 14
Daytime and nighttime legibility are perfect, but glare sometimes reflects off the flat surface of the crystal. 4
Wearing comfort (10):
This large square watch is surprisingly comfortable on the wrist, but the rubber strap isn’t quite as comfortable as the leather straps by Bell & Ross. 8
Bell & Ross encases the time-honored automatic ETA caliber 2892 in its basic quality level, “Elaboré.” 10
Rate results (10):
The watch ran much too slowly, which led us to drastically reduce the number of points given in this category. The greatest deviation among the several positions was somewhat better. 3
Overall value (15):
All components except the simple mass-produced movement are appropriate for this watch’s price. 12
Total (100): 71 points