Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver White Bronze
One might only associate Bell & Ross with aeronautical watches, but they’ve been making diving watches for some time now. In fact, I think these are some of the coolest-looking diving watches that don’t have a round case. The big and chunky square case lends itself very well to the diving watch theme, which is about thick watches with high levels of pressure resistance. There’s less need to hold back with diving watches, and Bell & Ross’ 2022 models show us that they are aware of this.
The BR 03-92 Diver White and BR 03-92 Diver Brown Bronze have exceptionally clear dials thanks to the high contrast between the dial plates, the hands and the markers. A square Bell & Ross pilot’s watch typically has some large numerals and extensive hands smothered in white lume. On the bronze model, these hands and markers are rose gold plated. It’s nice to see that they went with round markers and more subtle hands for both watches, although there’s still plenty of lume on both. There’s also an unobtrusive date window, but I wonder whether it’s particularly legible in person.
The watches are available in one size only, and that size is 42mm x 42mm x 12.05mm. The white dial option (which is more silvery than white) comes with a stainless steel case, while the brown version comes with a solid bronze case. Bronze is something Bell & Ross has been doing for years, and, like Panerai, they make it work well. I remember trying out a skull watch in bronze several years ago when we covered the opening of their boutique in the Burlington Arcade, London. Both cases are water-resistant to 300m. Both watches come with a couple of straps. You get a black rubber strap and a super-durable synthetic fabric strap for the steel version. For the bronze, you get a brown calfskin leather strap and a black rubber strap too.
Inside these watches is a Sellita SW 300-1, which Bell & Ross modifies to their needs and then calls the BR-CAL.302. The BR-CAL.302 offers a power reserve of 38-hours and an accurate 4Hz beat rate. Our readers were quite harsh on Bell & Ross in the comments section of our recent hands-on review. I wonder what they’ll think of these.
Introduced in 2017, the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver is not the brand’s first dive watch, but it is the first dive watch in their iconic square case. It is, in my opinion, a great success in balancing various design elements and themes as well as boldness and wearability. “Balance” is a word that I kept returning to when considering different aspects of the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver. The result is a solid, refined dive watch with a look and character quite unlike any other I know of, and it is just plain fun to wear.
No matter how good, satisfying, or original a brand’s watches are, a genuinely “iconic” model is something most watch brands will never be able to convincingly claim – by its very nature the term can be accurately applicable to only a limited number of watches. I try to avoid even using the word, but I think many watch enthusiasts will agree that Bell & Ross’ square-cased, aviation-themed watches based on the dashboard instruments of old airplanes will qualify. The design is strongly associated with and rooted in aviation, but Bell & Ross has branched out to plenty of other genres or styles with the square case as the foundation. While the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver could get lost among so many other variations on the theme, taken alone it is successful as a compelling dive watch.
There are several Bell & Ross collections that use essentially the same basic case design but in different sizes (and each with different models). The BR 01 is a wrist-eclipsing (for me, anyway) 47mm, the BR 03 like the one reviewed here is 42mm, and the BR S is 39mm. The BR X watches are Bell & Ross’ “Experimental” collection that also use some variation of the square case but with generally more elaborate constructions, avant-garde designs, and haute complications (hands-on example here with the Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor). There are divers in other collections – and there have been more in the past, such as the BR 02 – but, again, the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver is the first diver in the square case.
You will have to be the final judge as to whether Bell & Ross got it right with the BR 03-92 Diver – and I recommend you try it on first – but my judgement after wearing it almost daily for a couple weeks is that they did. The Bell & Ross case is immediately identifiable as such, but the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver is also just a serious-looking dive watch. It further manages to play the part of a bold-wearing luxury sport watch with an aggressive presence – and at the same time, it looks purposeful and down-to-earth, so the wearer doesn’t look like he’s desperate for attention. Finally, despite that boldness and presence, its size and dimensions somehow keep it surprisingly wearable. At least, these have been my impressions while wearing it.
About those dimensions: Looking at the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver on the wrist, one might not guess that it measures only 42mm wide. It might be a weird or abstract thing to say, but I would describe the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver as wearing more like a 44mm-wide watch. Square cases are going to wear larger than their measurements would suggest – if you are familiar with watch measurements and have a habit of guessing how a watch might fit you based on pictures and specs before seeing it in person. Perhaps a corner-to-corner measurement is a good way of evaluating the size of a square watch because that may better represent how much wrist real estate it occupies. I really made an effort to portray in some of the photographs how well it wears on my 6.5″ (17cm) wrist – though I probably couldn’t pull off even a millimeter larger.