The new Bell & Ross BR 03 Military watch series is a return to what makes B&R great. Their original watches were big, bold, and square and this new model, based on the original BR 01, is a 41mm version of their storied aviation-themed watches.
The smaller size and non-screwdown crown are basically the only difference in this watch and their original BR 01s. Everything else is there – the styling, the cool screws, the fun writing on the back, and the absolutely stunning dial.
The new watch runs a Calibre BR-CAL.302 automatic movement with 54-hour power reserve. It is water resistant to 100 meters – the pushdown crown is beefy and keeps the insides safe. The 41mm size is perfect. It fits wonderfully on the wrist and the crown doesn’t dig into the wrist like the original BR 01.
In all, this is a massive improvement and a great direction for B&R. I cannot wait until these things get some actual complications like a chronograph or GMT.
First, let’s talk a little about the history of Bell & Ross.
The Bell & Ross story
Bell & Ross, established in 1992, is a relative newcomer in the luxury watchmaking arena. Founded by two childhood friends, Bruno Belamich and Carlos A. Rosillo, the brand’s moniker draws inspiration from the surnames of its creators. With a shared vision, they embarked on a mission to craft functional and robust watches for professionals who demand reliability.
In its formative years, Bell & Ross formed a pivotal partnership with German watchmaker Sinn. This collaboration afforded the fledgling brand the advantage of Sinn’s expertise, leading to the production of watches known for technical precision and durability. These early models, often bearing both companies’ logos, found favor among divers and pilots.
Perhaps the most iconic turning point in the brand’s history came in 2005 with the introduction of the BR 01. Designed to mirror the utilitarian nature of airplane cockpit instruments, its square case housing a round dial became emblematic of the Bell & Ross ethos: the belief that function should dictate form.
While the brand’s heart beats for aviation, its spirit of exploration led to ventures beyond the skies. From diving watches like the BR 03 Diver to forays into the intricate world of high horology with tourbillons and other complications, Bell & Ross showcased a diverse range. The BR 01, however, proved to be their most iconic and most popular style.
Is the BR 03 a good watch?
Yes. I tested the Bell & Ross BR 03 Military Watch version which features a micro-blasted ceramic case and rubber strap, so there are some caveats, but the BR 03 is probably the best watch they’ve made in the last five years. The BR 03 is wonderfully-sized and very comfortable.
The price, however, gives me pause. The Military costs $4,300 and the cheapest, steel model costs a hearty $3,600. This isn’t a great price for a three-hander but I won’t hold it against B&R. B&R is doing exactly what all watchmakers are doing right now: putting a stake in the ground for their particular brand and creating a very distinct watch in multiple styles. The result is a range of BR 03s that range from the mundane to the super-fun gyrocompass. I’m honestly surprised they didn’t make a Tiffany blue version although this Bell and Ross one could qualify.
With that in mind, we can easily say the BR 03 is a triumph of branding and design. It’s is B&R to the core.
Now, to talk about the Military in particular. This watch is definitely an acquired taste which is why I asked to review it. B&R is famous for their lume and this watch has none – zip, zilch. In fact, you’ll never be able to read this in the dark.
Next, they’re also famous for tiny little date windows. This is one of the tiniest. Viewing the date requires a magnifying glass. If the watch were, say, all white on black with lume then everything would be fine. As it stands the Military isn’t that.
The watch, therefore, is a very acquired taste. If you love the idea of a blacked-out watch with no lume, something more hardcore than the traditional B&R styling, you’re going to love this piece. If you can’t see so good, well, you might want to try another model.
And, luckily, there are plenty to choose from. In my humble opinion this is the best Bell & Ross you can buy right now and if you’re looking to pick up this style of watch and can live without more complications, this is definitely something to consider. It’s a definitive, beautiful, and eminently wearable B&R.
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About the Author / Author Expertise & Authority
John Biggs: I live in Brooklyn, NY and write about technology, security, gadgets, gear, wristwatches, and the Internet. After spending four years as an IT programmer, I switched gears and became a full-time journalist. My work has appeared in the New York Times, Laptop, PC Upgrade, Gizmodo, Men’s Health, InSync, Popular Science, and I’ve written a book called Marie Antoinette’s Watch about the most famous and mysterious watch ever made. I am the former East Coast Editor of TechCrunch.com.