Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver Red Bronze: Channeling The Past With Warmth And Color
The 1970s have a very specific aesthetic depending on who you ask or what your perspective is. If you were in New York or San Francisco, it would have been colored by the music scene, which included bright technicolor and clothing that would make a peacock blush. If you were in Miami it is quite likely that Art Deco, corals, and pastels would have been all the rage.
But across much of America (sorry, Europe, but the U.S. wears the crown of questionable ’70s choices,) the ’70s also brought about a surge in earth tones and massive palettes of browns, reds, muted colors, synthetic fabrics, and what I would deem the aesthetic rebuke of the psychedelic 1960s counterculture.
After half a decade of hippies, paisley, and polka dots combined with an economic downturn, the 1970s seemed like a return to the earth and the return of “moderation and sobriety” (at least in most areas). The cultural shifts were wide-reaching and disparate, but anyone looking back can see that there were long-sustaining trends in color choice and materials infiltrating nearly every industry.
For me, the earth tones trend is fairly well encompassing, but I would say that dark reds and browns stood out more to me because they seemed to generally go away as mainstays after that decade.
Blues and greens are also earth tones but have had persistent popularity, and other colors simply got brighter (reds included). But the dark reds and browns feel intrinsically tied to the ’70s aesthetic. This is why whenever a color scheme goes this route in my mind it instantly is connected to that decade.
Enter the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver Red Bronze, an update to the BR 03-92 Diver that inadvertently has 1975 written all over it – at least in my mind. With its bronze case, deep red dial, and dark brown strap it captures the essence of what the 1970s aesthetic had going for it: dark richness. It’s also why I love it and think it may be my favorite version Bell & Ross has made to date.
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver Red Bronze
There are currently ten BR 03-92 Divers in Bell & Ross’ standing collection, and three others in bronze. Looking at them all lined up it is clear that one sticks out: the Red Bronze. Even though it has almost exactly the same features as most other models, there is something about its aesthetic that makes it feel inherently different than the others.
The dial is fairly straightforward for a Bell & Ross diver with simple and clean markers with plenty of lume for easy readability under water. The date between 4 and 5 o’clock is expertly matched in diameter to the adjacent hour markers and, like every single date disk should be, it perfectly matches the dial color with white printed numerals so that it blends with the dial.
The gold-plated hands match the applied gold-plated markers, all filled with clean, white Super-LumiNova to match the white pad printing across the dial. The depth rating is printed in gold to match the case and hands, keeping it trichromatic. The only black appears as the rubber grip on the crown, but this is overwhelmed by the red and golden bronze.
The bezel is a no-frills unidirectional diving bezel with hashmarks up to 20 minutes and then single hashmarks and numerals for the remainder. At zero (or 60) is a large inset dot of lume inside an arrow, again no surprises here.
The classically square Bell & Ross instrument-style case is the first real deviation from a standard diving watch aesthetic and like all watches from this brand it definitely stands out. The timed screws (which are actually nuts that the case back screws thread into) flank the bezel and remind you just who made this watch.
In addition to the uniquely square Bell & Ross case, the crown features a sliding crown guard that locks the crown from becoming accidentally unscrewed for added protection against water, which is important if you are 300 meters under the ocean surface. That level of water resistance is helped by the solid case back because functional diving watches are less about gazing at a finely decorated movement and more about taking on nature.
Aesthetics in the driving seat
Yet even after saying that, my love for this watch isn’t its functionality (at least not solely); it’s how it looks. The case back is a surprising example. Instead of the more practical name and details engraved into the center of the square, stainless steel case back, those are relegated to the edges while the center has a fun wave pattern behind an embossed engraving of a vintage diving helmet. It is entirely an artistic choice, something strangely found on a variety of diving watches.
It’s almost as if the folks designing diving watches are a bit more playful than the average dress watch designer. Regardless, the case back is a clear example that the aesthetics of the watch are just as important for those making it as the functionality is. That is where I return to the brown, bronze, and burgundy color scheme of the BR 03-92 Diver Red Bronze.
While brand co-founder and designer Bruno Belamich may not have had the 1970s in mind, the combination definitely evokes a time when design sought to elevate earth tones over flashy synthetic colors that had begun appearing in the 1960s.
And what makes it so successful in my eyes is that the tones are highly contrasted to one another while being both warm and analogous. The analogous color scheme of golden bronze, red, and brown (with the extra pop of white) is a subconscious nod to nostalgia, even for those who aren’t familiar with the aesthetic trends I’m alluding to.
This is because when we have good memories they tend to be associated with warmth and colors such as red and gold – as opposed to blues, greys, and blacks, which feel cooler. Of course this is from the Western Eurocentric perspective; other cultures may have different color associations and therefore may not think of past good memories with the same color palette.
Still, based on where I come from, a warm, analogous color scheme like we see on the BR 03-92 Diver Red Bronze calls to the past in a comforting way. This is perfectly in line with what Bell & Ross stands for: the core aesthetic of the brand is built around vintage airplane cockpit instrument dials so calling to the past is baked in.
Looking at all the color and material variations in the collection we find a lot of high-contrast models, plenty of saturated colors, but not a lot of bright colors. It’s clear that Bell & Ross hasn’t been trying to stand out with loud color combinations or oversaturated primary colors but has been going for a bit of understatement considering how bold the case design is.
But the combination found in the BR 03-92 Diver Red Bronze ends up being the boldest of the bunch, shining out with nostalgic fire thanks to the bronze and red. Given that the case will darken and patina over time, it adds another layer to the aesthetic that red gold watches just can’t have.
Considering all of these factors together, the BR 03-92 Diver Red Bronze is more than the sum of its parts by quite a margin.
I’ve been a fan of Bell & Ross for a long time and have been enjoying seeing the direction the brand is going with new pieces over the last few years as it hones its offerings. With the introduction of the BR 05 steel sports watch and the return of divers with the BR 03 to compliment the wider collection, Bell & Ross has carved out a nice market segment and seems poised to take advantage.
So let’s break it down like it’s nineteen-seventy something!
- Wowza Factor * 7.9 The color and material combo clearly was the eye catcher for this piece that made me say wow!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 79» 774.725m/s2 The 1970s definitely kept many the partygoer up until all hours of the night and this watch is no different!
- M.G.R. * 41 A solid movement based on the Sellita SW300 is an awesome value and reliable engine for such a cool watch!
- Added-Functionitis * Mild A date feature is the simplest and probably most useful added function for a watch considering the minimal number of components necessary. It’s not much but its enough to need children’s strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for a little horological swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 8.2 Getting your hand caught between two very heavy objects! Working in a shop environment presents an entire array of hazards, one of which is being caught between heavy things. It sounds mundane but the human body is squishy and not especially durable. So when you get your hand caught in a situation where the hand is the weak link, it can cause some damage. I’d still risk it for a shot at getting one of these awesome BR 03-92 Diver Red Bronze pieces on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * That color combo! I mean it when I say that color combination reminded me of the 1970s in such a strong way that I couldn’t stop staring, and I don’t want to stop!
- Awesome Total * 741 Start with the number of pieces in the limited edition (999) and subtract by the water resistance in meters (300), then add the width of the case in millimeters (42) for a truly standout awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.bellross.com/our-collections/Instruments/br-03-92-diver-watch/br-03-92-diver-c/BR-03-92-DIVER-RED-BRONZE.
Quick Facts Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver Red Bronze
Case: 42 x 42 mm, bronze, anodized aluminum bezel, sapphire crystal, 300 meters water resistance
Movement: automatic Caliber BR-CAL.302 (based on Sellita SW300-1), 40-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Limitation: 999 pieces
Price: €4,200 / $4,600
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I can cope with the date complication (although I strongly feel it would have been better without it) but the strap is so wide as to look silly.
Bring that down to a sensible width and you have a very nice watch.