The French brand takes another step away from its hardcore aviation roots
By Chris Hall
We wrote in 2016 about “the reinvention of Bell & Ross”, looking at the way in which the brand has branched out from its cockpit design doctrine to make the BR-X1 a core pillar of the collection, and how it is busy diversifying into Formula 1 and steampunk-marine pieces with wooden inlays. It’s interesting background reading to this story, because we are once again looking at Bell & Ross watches that aren’t what we’ve come to expect.
Ahead of Baselworld 2017, Bell & Ross has announced the BR 03-92 Horograph and BR 03-92 Horolum, two watches that it describes as “an invitation to travel”. That line isn’t particularly explained, and neither watch makes use of a travel time complication; but what they are is different from what’s gone before, particularly the Horograph*. This is a 42mm BR 03 that ditches the familiar oversized 3-6-9-12 numerals and sword hands for some very utilitarian batons.
(*We may be alone here, but our first impressions are that the names are not particularly appealing to English speakers. Let’s not hold that too strongly against the watches though.)
Bell & Ross is explicitly invoking Bauhaus principles in talking about the Horograph, and while we have to say that if we never heard the phrase “form follows function” again in the watchmaking world it would be too soon, there is undeniably a mid-20th century minimalism about the dial.
The direct inspiration cited is a model of airport clocks, which seems to have given us those blunt hands, wide-spaced minute track and red-tipped seconds hand. The hands and hour markers are coated with Superluminova.
Other elements needed to be added, of course. The minute/second numerals inside the hour markers is a nice touch, as is the split triangle at 12 o’clock. Assuming there has to be a date window – not a given, by any stretch – this is one of the most discreet out there, with no guichet around the opening and a date disc that’s matched to the same colour as the matte black dial. In terms of dial text, a case could be made for a smaller brand logo, and there’s that word “Horograph” again, but the “100m” in red is a necessary second dot of colour.
The Horograph uses the automatic Sellita-based calibre BR-CAL.302, and has a bead-blasted steel case with a black rubber and “ultra-resistant” (it doesn’t say to what) black synthetic fabric strap. It is priced at £2,400 – just £100 over the entry-level BR 03-92.
Released alongside the Horograph is the BR 03-92 Horolum, a slightly more traditional Bell & Ross watch that’s nevertheless not without interest. It does retain the large Arabic numerals and familiar hands, but opts for a ghostly grey-green colour scheme, with a sandwich dial construction that reveals green lume on the hour markers and numerals.
The same grey is rolled out on the hands and matches the bead-blasted steel case almost perfectly, resulting in maximum contrast between the lume and everything else. It’s not likely to be the most readable watch during the day as a consequence, however.
The Horolum is available on a grey-green calfskin strap and will retail at £3,500.