The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1. Welcome back bomber!
The secret of a product's success often lies in its simplicity, and in a clear and unmistakable identity. At Bell & Ross, they applied this rule strictly. The case design of a BR and its direct link to aeronautics is the core of the brand, although the French brand has expanded its collections year after year, by adding a long list of timepieces with a round case to its iconic squared case watch offering. The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1, launched a few days ago at Baselworld 2019, celebrates the bomber jacket, so popular in Italy and across Europe in the 80s and 90s, with us not knowing that what we used to wear as a fashion garment, had marked the transition from single-engine planes to jet planes instead.
The source of inspiration to this new edition of the BR 03-92 is the legendary green-colored jacket with an orange interior lining that inspires a modern, yet the umpteenth as somebody might argue, limited edition watch. The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1 is notably a two-tone watch, crafted in khaki and orange, that celebrates the MA-1 jacket launched by Dobbs Industries (Alpha Industries, nowadays) in 1958. Primarily designed to meet the requirements of the US Air Force, this garment became trendy among pop and hip-hop music bands then, as well as on the screen thanks to Steve McQueen first and Kiefer Sutherland, who used to wear an MA-1 jacket in the American cult series "24 Hours", then. A ceramic case is no breaking news in watchmaking as it is not new to Bell & Ross, that boasts an extensive offering of limited edition watches out of the BR 03-92 case design already.
The brand's watchmakers achieved this khaki tone by adding a pigment during the case making process to end up with a hue that mimics an MA-1 jacket but is darker and closer to a camo military suit's. The outcome of the manufacturing process is a fine-grained, low-roughness flat surface. Conversely, the orange adopted both on the sandwich dial, and the reversible strap is brilliant, chosen to glow in the dark and provide a sharp contrast to the matt surface.
In the macro photo above, you may clearly see that the lower orange disk has a coarser grain due to the adoption of lots of luminescent material. We often talk the SuperLuminova® just as a stand-alone piece of info, yet this company has developed an incredible list of different solutions over the course of the years. Orange SuperLuminova® has also been applied to the hour and minute hands.
This two-tone style is in my opinion a winner; I believe that Bell & Ross has crafted an appealing limited edition series (999 specimens will be ever produced) and added yet another cool piece to the brand's core collection. The BR 03-92's 42mm case size is a "one-fits-all" solution to most men's wrists other than being a perfect copy of a dashboard instrument, although I wonder whether any dashboard instrument has ever had a date window. Regarding mechanics, the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1 comes with the industrially sourced BR 302 caliber that guarantees 40 hours of power reserve when fully wound.
The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1 retails for €3,500, with a replacement strap made of ultra-resistant nylon included. It's a fair price given its ceramic case has a style that is unique in the benchmark. Years ago, when the brand was founded, I tended to associate a BR's style to a Panerai's and so did my peers; these two brands have different missions instead, and I can only affirm that is Panerai to have recently joined the (modern) military world with the Submersible, and not the other way round. The build quality is excellent, the let down being it's a sports military-inspired watch and an (excellent) addition to a collection, but not an all-rounder.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting by Peter Tung)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®
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