Why I Bought It: Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Black Matte Ceramic
by Bhanu Chopra
The first time I got to handle a Bell & Ross watch was in the mid-2000s during a visit to Kuala Lumpur. I remember feeling a bit shocked at how passionate the Bell & Ross collectors were and surprised at the camaraderie among them. They casually referred to themselves as “BRos.”
During a get-together with the BRos, I tried on the most popular BR 01 watch: the 46 mm square watch looked massive on my 17-centimeter wrist. I loved its design, but felt I just did not have the wrist size to pull it off.
However, this get-together was the spark that led me to pursue my perfect Bell & Ross instrument watch.
Love at first sight: Bell & Ross BR 03-92
Over the next few years visiting Baselworld, I closely followed the evolution of the smaller 42 mm BR 03 series. And in early 2011, at a time when I was living in Prague, I visited the Bell & Ross headquarters in Paris, where I tried on the BR 03-92 Heritage, which I immediately took a liking to.
I bought the watch and took it to my favorite leather atelier in Prague for a custom strap. But my bond with this watch lasted a year and I ended up selling it in 2012. We are called WIS – Watch Idiot Savants – for a reason: I ended up buying and selling this watch twice over the next two years!
Fast forward to 2016, and I’m now living in Austin, Texas. As one of the sponsors of the Renault F1 team, Bell & Ross hosted a Formula 1 event in Austin. There I borrowed a BR 03-92 Black Matte Ceramic and it dawned on me that it was what I hoped the Heritage would be.
This was the perfect Bell & Ross watch for me, checking all the boxes for the characteristics I expected from an aviation-style instrument watch. I placed my order after the event, and it has been part of my core pilot’s watch collection ever since.
What makes the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Black Matte Ceramic so special?
So what does make the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Black Matte Ceramic so special? In a nutshell, it is the simplicity of the design and appropriate materials. Bell & Ross removed any gimmicks, complications, bells, and whistles – the brand removed “the noise,” as I like to say.
My Heritage had orange numerals and hands (nowadays referred to as “fauxtina” lume), while the contrasting beige strap seemed like too much of a deviation from an aviation instrument watch.
More importantly, the bead-blasted steel case with black carbon powder coating was a scratch magnet and not as comfortable to wear as the ceramic due to its weight. I connected with the design of the Heritage model, but I was yearning for a tool watch.
Bell & Ross must have heard pretty much the same feedback from all the BRos as the brand solved the problem in 2014 by switching to ceramic cases. Ceramic is the perfect material for a tool watch: it is lightweight, does not scratch easily, is hypoallergenic, easy to wear, soft to the touch, and quickly adapts to body temperature.
Using ceramic was also consistent with the watch’s aviation theme. In aeronautics, and especially in aerospace, ceramics are the material of choice for parts that must withstand extremely high temperatures as well as exposure to acids, corrosion, and erosion, so is commonly found in thermal cladding and the nosecones of spacecraft.
My Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Black Matte Ceramic
My Black Matte has a high-contrast dial with bright white markers, numerals, and hands against a matte black background. The combination of black and white offers the best contrast for high legibility over any other color combination, which is necessary for an aviation-style instrument watch. The addition of anti-reflective coating and a generous application of Super-LumiNova makes for excellent legibility.
The 12, 3, 6, 9 dial layout with the smaller minute marker track shows direct influence from modern German flieger watches. Which makes total sense as Bell & Ross founders Bruno Belamich and Carlos Rosillo studied under the mentorship of German pilot watch “godfather” Helmut Sinn before launching their own brand based in Paris.
I like the way Bell & Ross executes the date between 4 and 5 o’clock. I usually dislike a tilted date display at that position, which is why, as much as I like Zenith’s El Primero chronograph, its date ruins it for me.
But Bell & Ross designed the small, round date aperture to fit the dial very naturally. The focus remains on the time unless you are looking for the date.
My BR 03-92 Black Matte is powered by an ETA 2892-2 automatic movement, which has a slightly slimmer profile than the 2824-2 movement. In recent years Bell & Ross has also chosen to use a base Sellita SW300-1 caliber, which is similar to the ETA 2892-2.
With a case height of just 9.8 mm I can easily wear it under my shirt cuff, too.
If I had a magic wand, what would I change about the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Black Matte?
I’ll start with what I wouldn’t change: I would keep the ceramic case, black-and-white dial, date, slim movement, and rubber strap exactly as they are.
However, I would make the case slightly smaller, as Panerai has recently done with its downsizing of models (see Panerai Luminor Due 3 Days Automatic Acciaio: Good Things Do Come In Smaller Packages).
This watch wears flat on the wrist, but a flat watch with no bezel wears large, even at 42 mm. Bell & Ross also offers a 39 mm Black Matte BR-S in a variety of combinations, but it is powered by a quartz movement.
I have been wearing the Black Matte watch for four years very consistently as part of my rotation. I have swapped out the straps a couple of times, but in the heat of Texas’ climate I find it wears best on a rubber strap.
The ceramic case remains nice and cool during the hot days. I know it is rather cliché to refer to the Ross BR 03-92 Black Matte as being reflective of a brand’s DNA, but this watch is unmistakably Bell & Ross. Just the way I like it.
For more information, please visit www.bellross.com/our-collections/Instruments/br-03-42-mm/br-03-92-ceramic/br-03-92-black-matte.
Quick Facts Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Black Matte
Case: 42 x 9.8 mm, matte black ceramic
Movement: automatic ETA 2893-2 or Sellita SW300-1, 28,800 vph/4Hz frequency, 42 hours of power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
* This article was first published on August 22, 2020 at Why I Bought It: Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Black Matte Ceramic.
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Would love it if they could make it in smaller case without losing what we came for in the first place.