Hear the words Bell & Ross and you think ‘pilot’ or maybe, if you’re being really specific, ‘cockpit instruments’. Which isn’t surprising considering this brand was set up by a team of specialists in aeronautical instruments.
After conquering the air, however, Bell & Ross has decided to plumb the depths once more, but this time it’s not rounding off the edges. The BR 03-92 Diver is the brand’s first square diving watch – and it slots in comfortably with the company’s no-nonsense heritage.
Using high-end Swiss components, this rather un-Parisian of Parisian brands was founded in the early nineties by Bruno Belamich and Carlos Rosillo, pulling on the expertise of watchmakers and aeronautical specialists. Its mission has always been to craft robust and functional watches for professionals.
Right from the start, it was clear there would be little messing about.
After all, hurtling along tens of thousands of feet up, one has very little room for error. Which is why aviator watches – Bell & Ross’s biggest sector – are the most straightforward of all: black dials and white markings for optimal readings, chunky pushbuttons for ease of use with flying gloves, and definitely no diamonds.
Fortuitously, the crisp form born out of such functionality lends itself rather well to the wristwatch format. Conceived, assembled, and fine-tuned in La Chaux-de-Fonds, every Bell & Ross timepiece meets four fundamental principles: legibility, functionality, precision and water resistance.
Subsequently, astronauts, military pilots, elite police squads, racing drivers, and bomb-disposal experts all use Bell & Ross watches as tools on their missions. It just so happened that the clean, functional styling inspired by cockpit instrumentation perfectly complemented a charcoal-grey knit or a crisp white shirt, meaning Bell & Ross quickly found themselves beloved of stylish men.
And now it is looking to appeal to another type of clientele – the diver, as well as those who just have a penchant for the diving watch aesthetic. Before there are any grumblings about pilot watch brands dipping their toe into a medium they know nothing about, it’s worth remembering that Bell & Ross has form when it comes to divers. Pretty impressive form in fact.
Back in 1997, it launched the Hydromax. This didn’t have the now-iconic combination of square case and round bezel, but what it did have was a water resistance to 11,000m – that’s just shy of the deepest-known part of the ocean, the Challenger Deep, which is part of the Marianas Trench. It achieved this thanks to a patented fluid Bell & Ross created called Hydroil. It fills the watch case, protecting the quartz mechanism, while still allowing the watch to work. Humans can’t survive unaided at this depth, but this watch can.
A decade later – there’s a pattern emerging here – came the tonneau-shaped frame of the BR02. Being automatic, this one wasn’t appropriate for swimming with the sea cucumbers, but it had a not insubstantial 500m water resistance and with an internal rotating bezel and automatic helium release valve, it still went deeper than most divers dare.
Another 10 years have passed and, in that time, Bell & Ross has been working with seasoned divers as well as master watchmakers to create the brand’s first-ever square diving watch – the BR 03-92 Diver. And it has definitely been worth the wait. This is a masculine looking watch that takes Bell & Ross’s instantly recognisable design language and blends it with those elements that not only make a diving watch look great but actually allow it to function as a piece of equipment.
Technical Specifications To Swiss Standards
For a watch to truly be a diver’s tool it must meet the International standard ISO 6425, though testing to these standards is voluntary, so not all watches that call themselves divers are certified. The BR 03-92 Diver most certainly is.
The minutiae of this particular standard runs to 12 pages, but the main things are legibility of the watch’s indications, even at a distance of 25cm in the dark, with the hour and minute hands being distinct; a 60-minute calibrated uni-directional bezel (so you can’t accidentally knock the bezel and make it look like you have more time left underwater than you actually do) and water resistance to at least 100m.
It is also subjected to pressure tests, immersed in water temperatures that rise to 40 degrees then drop to five degrees only to go back to 40 again. And it’s put in a helium-enriched breathing gas mix for 15 days all to ensure the watch can withstand everything the ocean could possibly throw at it, from impacts and thermal shocks, to salt water and high pressure.
A Professional Square Diving Watch
In keeping with Bell & Ross’s reputation for being a watch brand for professionals, the BR 03-92 is a proper diver. It’s good to 300m, which means it can be taken deep diving, and it has an impressively reinforced steel case, which does add an extra millimetre on the height (2.8mm in comparison to the BR03-92’s 1.8m) but that extra bulk guarantees extreme water resistance, so it’s a fair trade-off.
Also adding some bulk is the sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating that clocks in at 2.85mm thick and through that you can see the Superluminova appliqued indices and the necessary contrast between the orange hour hand and white minute and second hands – essential for visibility and for dive-time calculations while underwater.
A Reliable Instrument
In order to make the bezel easier to manipulate – the square case being a slight hindrance to that because you can’t get purchase on the whole case – Bell & Ross has extended its circumference and ensured that it is high off the case, while the rubberised screw-down crown offers reassurance that this is a watch that really will go deep.
All this would be impressive enough on a timepiece of traditional dimensions, but that Bell & Ross has done it with a square watch, which is notoriously tricky to make water resistant to international standards, is true testament to its watchmaking skills. Makes you wonder what the next decade will bring.
The BR 03-92 Diver is available to buy now, priced £2,800. For more information visit bellross.com.