Re-Invention Of Flight: Bell & Ross Improves Its Core BR 03 Collection With A New Case Size
The Bell & Ross BR 03 has long been a staple for the collection with its midsized case dimensions. This year, the icon gets reinvented with an update in keeping with the times.
The success of a watch collection is its own conundrum. What we mean by that is, if a watch is selling particularly well, do you mess around with the collection to update it for the future, risking changing something that maybe may not sit well with the fans? Or do you leave it be, risking getting left behind by the industry’s progress? Thankfully, for Bell & Ross, this is not a hard question to answer.
Over the course of the last 15-plus years, their Bell & Ross BR 03 has grown to become one of the staples of the brand, even inspiring the design for newer collections within their watch family. However, whether or not to update such an icon is not even a deliberation for the brand because the fundamental value upon which the BR 03 was built, is functionality. Thus, if there is an opportunity to improve on an existing design, they are definitely going to do it. Hence, we introduce the classic, but newly updated BR 03.
When the BR 01 made its debut, it was massive. 46mm wide to be exact and this was predominantly to facilitate its function as a tool watch. For those with a bigger wrist circumference, a 46mm watch sits well on the wrist but for the smaller wrist sizes, it was entirely too large and would sometimes wear quite uncomfortably as well. To fix this, Bell & Ross then launched the much more wearable BR 03 a year after the BR 01 first made its debut. And so, in 2006, the BR 03 and its smaller 42mm case was launched.
42mm was and still remains a sweet spot for sporty watches which is why for more than 15 years, the BR 03 maintained its sizing. It is not too large that it rattles around the wrist when strapped on, and yet it is not too small and still maintains its presence on the wrist. Since its launching in 2006, countless versions of this BR 03 watch have been made. In the early days, most of it revolved around aeronautical themes but then in recent years, the BR 03 has gone from the skies to race on land through their collaboration with Renault, and subsequently the Alpine Formula 1 team, and to the depths of the ocean as the world’s first square dive watch. It has been made with steel, titanium, bronze, carbon and ceramic cases and has seen all manner of complications including the chronograph and GMT functions. Now, as the next step of the BR 03’s evolution, it gets a further update to its design going from 42mm to, drumroll please, 41mm.
On paper, a difference of 1mm in case width may not seem like such a big deal but what the specifications don’t show is the adjustment of the proportions which makes the watch even more visually striking. The case size is shrunk down, by 1mm and the lug width is reduced from 4.5mm to 4mm. Additionally, the bezel has been beefed up slightly as well and when you put all these elements together, the eye can immediately perceive the bolder look of the BR 03.
Another fantastic update to the BR 03 comes from something that can’t even be seen. The BR-Cal.302 movement that has been powering most of the modern BR 03 watches has now been modified so that instead of the classic 42-hour power reserve the watch now gets 12 more hours with a new 54-hour power reserve. What this means in practical terms is that if you take your watch off on a Friday evening for the weekend, on Monday, when you put it back on your wrist for the week, the time will still be accurate.
Following the launch, or rather, relaunch of the collection, we got to sit down with Fabien de Nonancourt, the Managing Director of Bell & Ross to dig a little deeper into the redesigning of this core collection.
DG: With the debut of the Kenissi made movements with the BR X5, was there ever a consideration to put these movements into the BR03?
FN: Just as how in the BR 05 collection you have both the Sellita and the Kenissi made movements, we decided to first go with the latest Sellita movements for the BR 03 because it is a movement that fits the needs of the majority of our users. Maybe in the future we could have a version that comes with the Kenissi movement. Also the Kenissi movement is slightly thicker and with a square watch, the thickness plays a more significant role in terms of aesthetics.
DG: Talk to me about the copper dial version of the BR 03 in steel. It is a very unique look.
FN: Yes, with the copper dial version, we chose the particular finishing to reflect watchmaking traditions. The dial was made with an old technique whereby the numerals are engraved on the dial and after that it was filled with black Super-Luminova. As opposed to the other dials which the numerals are printed on. And also, we have the blued-hands, in this case, done with a PVD coating.
DG: The pricing has increased a little from the previous generation of BR 03 watches. So where did the extra cost come from?
FN: Inflation [laughs]. Unfortunately everything costs a little more to produce these days.
DG: With the shrinking of the BR 03’s case, will we see this happen to the dive watch and the chronograph as well?
FN: Not necessarily because the idea is to provide different sizing for our customers. Like if you notice with most brands, the chronograph is larger than the three hands. Even our BR 05 if you notice that our chronographs are slightly larger as well. So with this BR 03 re-design we are giving more choice to our consumers.
DG: This will effectively replace the old BR 03? when can customers expect to see this in stores?
FN: We have already stopped supplying the 42mm BR 03 to our retailers so it is gradually starting to disappear from the stores. You still can get the 42mm for a few more months but after that stock is gone, it will be 100 percent 41mm BR 03s.
Each of these watches will come with a rubber or calfskin strap depending on the model and is water resistant up to 100m. Prices begin at MYR 15,600 onwards.