Bell & Ross has been making pilots’ watches since the company was founded two decades ago. Initially, they were traditional-looking, round watches, but in 2005 it came out with BR 01, a square-case, round-dial watch meant to resemble the flight instruments in an airplane cockpit. The watch is very big: 46 mm across. Bell & Ross, headquartered in Paris (although its watches are made in Switzerland), followed up with a smaller version, the BR 03, which is 42 mm across, and then with an even smaller one, the BR S, 39 mm wide. We tested the Golden Heritage version of the flight-instrument-inspired Bell & Ross BR 03-92. With photos by OK-Photography.
Our test watch, introduced in 2013, is a member of the 42-mm family. The “92” is a reference to the ETA Caliber 2892, which was used in the BR 03-92 series when it was first introduced and is still used in many of its models. (The Golden Heritage itself contains the Sellita SW 300, which was designed to be used as a substitute for the ETA 2892.) The “golden” in the name refers to the gold-plated hands and markers. The watch is called “Heritage” because it has a vintage look to it, thanks to the finish on its gold-plated components and the styling of its strap.
The case is a monocoque, meaning it has no separate caseback. It is made of steel. To access the movement, the watchmaker must remove the top part of the case, take out the winding stem and crown and then lift up the movement and dial (the dial is attached to the movement by small, soldered feet). The top part of the case and the dial are each affixed to the bottom of the case with sets of four screws.
Bell & Ross does not use a spacer ring in the case: instead, it fashioned the case to fit the movement precisely. The interior of the case has grooves that hold the movement in place. To provide shock absorption, there is a plastic ring between the dial and the case. The case is water resistant to 100 meters; it has an O-ring gasket with sealant, which is also applied to the screw holes.
Every visible component is well made and sturdy. The dial is securely affixed, the case well finished, the strap thick and very wide. Bell & Ross placed less value on the movement. It is minimally decorated and of Sellita’s “spécial” grade, the lowest of the company’s three quality grades. That means the movement has a gold-plated nickel balance rather than one made of Glucydur, and that Sellita regulated it in just four positions.
The rate results were nonetheless acceptable. On the timing machine, the greatest deviation, 9 seconds, was a little too high, but the average deviation was only +5.5 seconds per day. The wearing test showed even better results, only +4 seconds per day.
The simple, mass-produced movement is the only reason that the price, $3,900, might seem too high. Every other aspect of the watch is top-notch: its design, finishing, comfort in wearing and legibility. And our on-the-wrist test proved that this isn’t a watch for introverts: it attracts attention.
Manufacturer: Bell & Ross, Rue Copernic 8, FR-75116 Paris, France
Reference number: BR0392-ST-G-HE/SCA Functions: Hour, minutes, seconds, date
Movement: Sellita SW 300 “spécial” grade, automatic, 28,800 vph, 25 jewels, hack mechanism, quick-date adjuster, Incabloc shock absorption, fine regulator with eccentric, power reserve = 42 hours, diameter = 25.6 mm, height = 3.6 mm
Case: Stainless steel, monocoque, flat sapphire crystal with nonreflective coating inside, water resistant to 100 m
Strap and clasp: Embossed calfskin strap and stainless-steel pronged buckle
Deviations in seconds per 24 hours Dial up +4
Dial down +5
Crown up +3
Crown down +10
Crown left +10
Crown right +1
Greatest deviation of rate 9
Average deviation +5.5
Flat positions 289°
Hanging positions 243°
Dimensions: Length and width = 42 mm, height = 10 mm, weight = 116 g
Strap and clasp (max. 10 points): The strap is made of calfskin and is very wide. It is neatly finished and stitched and has a sturdy, high-quality buckle with a machined prong. 8
Operation (5): Setting the watch is simple, thanks to the grooved crown. 5
Case (10): The case is solidly constructed and has a complex design and excellent finishing. 9
Design (15): Fashionable and well proportioned, from the dial to the strap 14
Legibility (5): Perfect legibility except when there are reflections on the dial 4
Wearing comfort (10): Even though the caseback is flat, the large, square case fits snugly against the wrist. 10
Movement (20): Bell & Ross used the solid but simple automatic Sellita SW 300 of the “spécial” grade, with minimal decoration. 10
Rate results (10): The watch gained only 5.5 seconds per day but the greatest deviation, 9 seconds, was somewhat too high. 7
Overall value (15): With the exception of the movement, all components are high in quality and justify the price. 11
This article first appeared in the December 2014 issue of WatchTime Magazine.
This is a very nice watch but if Bell & Ross want to really ‘Up the Ante’ and be taken seriously then they need to make this in a smaller classier 40mm single-piece CERAMIC CASE with 18k ROSE GOLD HANDS and INDEXES not plated. Gold plating is something watch enthusiasts like me totally reject. Use a top grade ETA movement with COSC certification and presto…..I would pay up to $6500. For these reasons Bell & Ross is just not on my radar.
There’s a reason why so many B&R watches show up on the used market as “new/unworn”, it’s because they are grossly overpriced for what they offer. Why someone would choose a full price Bell & Ross over say a Sinn pilot watch is a mystery.