To quote David St. Hubbins, it’s such a fine line between stupid, and clever. Luckily – very luckily – Bell & Ross is far, far away from the stupid side of that line and has produced one of the most memorable and largest watches I’ve seen to date. Panerai, step aside, because you are in danger of being crushed by an aviator watch so big that it can be used as a desk clock.
I assure you Goose and Iceman didn’t have Bell & Ross dials in their jets, but they damn well could have. This beast is a fully lumed “mil spec” watch with sword hands that look like they could cut cans and still cut a tomato in half. While the “Wow” factor is immediately apparent, there is a comfort to gained in that the insides can hold up some scrutity. The BR 01-92 uses an ETA 2892 movement, a pretty standard movement found in just about everything – from Tissot to a low end Swatch. Luckily, the whole thing is encased in PVD coated steel and is as heavy as a mofo.
This is a fashion watch. The beautiful, handmade strap is striking, but it probably shouldn’t hit the ocean’s depths – it can withstand 100 meters, but you don’t want to get this calfskin wet. The fit and finish are perfect and everything about this watch screams “designers staying up late.” The hands are painted pure white at the tips and then the lume abruptly cut off at the center and are almost invisible against the dark background. The entire case is held together with 1.3mm hex screws – folks, I encourage you to try to find a 1.3mm hex key. It’s nigh impossible.
There’s even a screw on the back that says “Do Not Unscrew.” Wow. They put a screw on there that you’re not supposed to unscrew. Seriously. I was about to unscrew it, but I figured some sort of rare gas would shoot out or I would unleash the ghosts of WWII fighter pilots. Other than that, however, this watch is one of the most understated pieces I’ve seen – its purpose is clear, it is eminently legible, and it runs well. There’s even a hacking feature and the screw down crown is very smooth and easy to turn.
I wore this in many social and traveling situations and found that it drew eyes like a road flare. Just whipping it out encouraged a mute wonder at the large size – 45mm – and unique shape – square as Sponge Bob. The Instrument Series, which includes a power reserve model and chronograph, will be an iconic grouping. It will usher in the era of the geek watch. While the staid and ancient Panerai can go all Dolce and Gabanna on us, this thing will bring the techies out of the woodwork as Hamiltons, B&R, and other uber-old school/new-school watches hit the streets. Mark, my friends, my words.
List Price: $3827.00
– John Biggs