Pilots’ Watch Review: Bell & Ross BR 03-94 Chrono

This watch looks quite handsome on a man’s wrist. Schütte was particularly impressed by its legibility. Large white hands contrast very well with the matte black dial. Good legibility is made even better by the large numerals 12 and 6, which work well with 60 white minutes indices. The case’s matte finish also enhances the legibility: only the edges of the case are polished, thus reducing the likelihood of annoying glare or reflections. The date is placed between 4 and 5 o’clock, where it doesn’t eclipse any of the minutes indices. However, the date display is somewhat small, so more than a fleeting glance may be needed to read it.

Of course, a pilot doesn’t check the date very often. He’s far more interested in knowing the exact time, and that’s one subject Bell & Ross has mastered perfectly. In our test, the fully wound watch gained 3.3 seconds and we measured its balance’s amplitude at 294 degrees. The rate was even better when the chronograph was switched on: the daily gain decreased to just 2.4 seconds, although the amplitude declined somewhat, to 286 degrees. The Bell & Ross was relatively unaffected by wild loops and other aerobatics. After the maneuvers, our timing machine measured a gain of 0.7 seconds and the balance’s amplitude was 274 degrees. These overall satisfying results were confirmed by a measurement we made 3 days after the flight, when this flight-friendly chronograph gained 2.6 seconds and its balance oscillated with an amplitude of 294 degrees.

“The Bell & Ross is essentially comfortable to wear,” Schütte said. The rubber strap holds the watch firmly on the wrist and prevents it from slipping or sliding, although Schütte said the rubber made his wrist perspire during the flight. The smoothly running crown contributes to the user-friendliness of the BR 03-94. To-the-second time setting is facilitated by a stop-seconds function, which instantly stops the small seconds hand when the crown is pulled outward. Operating the chronograph mechanism is a bit more difficult: Schütte reported that the push-pieces were a bit clumsy to handle and somewhat hard to operate. If you happen to press the wrong button by mistake, your measurement is not lost because the zero-return function is blocked.

BR 0394 Chrono side view
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