Bell & Ross released this year at Baselworld the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1 watch. The green orange beast is inspired not by the known Robert Louis Stevenson’s story but by the iconic aviation reference – the MA-1 flight jacket. The brand’s determination and dedication to bring the cockpit instrumentation to the general public can be recognized in the BR 03-92 MA-1. A powerful tool that, hopefully, you will never use (the saving part…). This is the hands-on review of the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1. The hints and the references to the original Stevenson’s story are used just to emphasise the existing duality of the watch and its history.
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1
I had the pleasure to check live the Bell & Ross novelties during Baselworld 2019. Between them, the BR 03-92 MA-1 watch has a special signification. Besides its cool origins, more about that later, the watch has a strong presence. Top materials and a reversible strap, makes the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1 an interesting proposal. But before getting into the detail, let’s have a look at this short wrist video.
Military and fashion? The good and the ugly? Jekyll and Hyde?
The top-flight piece windrows inspiration from the US Air Force equipment for pilots. The MA-1 bomber jacket was developed at the end of the ’50s as an American military jacket. The main features of the jacket were the lightweight and the capability to keep the pilot warm at high altitude. In case of distress, the jacket was worn on the orange reversible side as a beacon. This was a life-saving tool for a downed pilot in wait of the search and rescue teams.
Later, the jacket gained public popularity and entered the world of fashion. Now, the jacket is a fashion icon, still being used in the military. More about the MA-1 bomber jacket here.
Maybe is my subconscious, but the watch struck me as a military piece from the first view. Maybe the colouristic theme or the Bell & Ross associations with military aeronautics. Let’s not forget that the brand is a supplier for some of some extraordinaire task forces (the Space lab mission, the French civil security bomb-disposal unit, the French National police intervention Group – RAiD, the French Naval Aviation, the French Air Force, the National Gendarmerie intervention Group – GiGN). So it is no wonder that Bell & Ross comes with this particular timepiece.
The strap will change dramatically the appearance of BR 03-92 MA-1 watch. Even the stitchings respect this khaki/orange duality. Below a short video, courtesy of Bell & Ross, about the topic.
So it is not about the good & the bad or the gentleman & the beast. Is just a duality that can serve to satisfy a fashion need or to make a statement. The watch does not look better with one strap side or another. It is just a question of preferences and/or need. I like both hypostases in an equal manner. Personally, I would not wear the orange side on an official office meeting. But on the summer vacation, the dark khaki side will never see the sunlight…
The watch comes with the above-mentioned strap and with an ultra-resilient synthetic fabric strap and gunmetal PVD pin buckle. I wonder why the brand didn’t use ceramic also for the buckle.
Modern materials, typical Bell & Ross look: well behaved still bold and daring
The brand decided to go in this time instrument with a modern material: a matt khaki ceramic. The look is simply great. I am curious what kind of shock tests was realised on this case before release. Being military inspired and pilot watch type, I have the confidence that the case will react well to scratches and shocks.
The signature 42mm case presents an overall matt finish. Due to the military theme, the look is appropriate.
The steel crown, with a Bell & Ross specific look, is easy to handle. Set and winding are, as on all Bell & Ross watches powered by the BR-CAL.302, effortless.
A dial for the day, a dial for the night
The BR 03-92 MA-1 has a typical Bell & Ross layout. It can be clearly spotted and classified as a Bell & Ross piece.
The dial is manufactured using two main parts: a matt finished khaki disk with cutouts for numerals and indexes and a bright orange Super-LumiNova® coated disk.
The MA-1 dial uses printed indexes for the minutes. The brand’s and the watch’s name are also printed in orange, without being luminescent. The matt finished hands have the same pilot’s type of sword shape met in the entire BR 03-92 Ceramic Collection. The hands’ tips are coated with orange Super-LumiNova® offering a sparkling spectacle in low light.
A useful complication, the date, it is discreetly placed between 4 and 5 o’clock. The date display uses a small circular aperture with chamfered edges.
Regardless of the small date size, the legibility is good. Surprisingly, I was able to read the date even in low light. Discreet but efficient – the date window is a detail I particularly love at this watch.
What makes it move
The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1 is powered, like many other pieces from the BR 03-92 collection, by the calibre BR-CAL.302. This automatic movement is based on the trusty Sellita SW300-1 (designed as a replacement/alternative for the SWATCH’s Group ETA 2892). The 4Hz and 38 power reserve movement is personalised by Bell & Ross. This movement is widely used by several big names in the industry with various and interesting results, proving versatility and robustness.
“Jekyll had more than a father’s interest; Hyde had more than a son’s indifference.”
I have to admit that I was intrigued by the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1. A fan of Bell & Ross in general, this pilot watch has a hidden personality with its “dual” strap. Because reversing the strap you have a completely different watch. Just check the official photos below.
But is more than a personality change. The watch is inspired by a legend, the MA-1 jacket. As a kid, I was fascinated by the two face military jacket seen at first in movies, then on the street. Designed with several purposes in mind, the jacket is now a fashion icon. We might never know how many lives it saved. Or how many lives it changed. Maybe as a pilot, maybe a defiant, rebel adolescent.
The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1 is a very interesting proposal. Modern materials, a cool look and an even cooler story behind. The movement is robust and easily serviceable, in case of need.
Thinking on its duality, I tend to change my original thoughts and comparison with the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Writing the review and considering different aspects, I think that a better character to describe the watch is Bruce Banner / Hulk. Even if the hero was partly inspired by Stevenson’s story, Hulk is, on careful consideration, a protector of Bruce, rather than an enemy.
Leaving stories aside, the MA-1 is a nice watch. I guess, now is my favourite from Bell & Ross. I like it even more than the Skull. It has the strong Bell & Ross signature and a touch of orange. Well done B&R!
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1 Price and Technical Specifications
Ref: BR0392-KAO-CE/SCA is available for pre-order at a price of 3,500 € with delivery starting June 2019.
LIMITED EDITION OF 999 PIECES.
Movement: calibre BR-CAL.302. Automatic mechanical.
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds and date.
Case: 42 mm in diameter. Matte khaki ceramic.
Dial: two overlapping inserts. Matte khaki upper insert, cut away around the numerals and indices, revealing the orange Super-LumiNova® covering the lower insert. Hands covered with orange Super-LumiNova®.
Crystal: sapphire with anti-reflective coating.
Water-resistance: 100 metres.
Straps: reversible khaki/orange calfskin leather and ultra-resilient synthetic fabric.
Buckle: pin. “Gunmetal” PVD* coated steel
Note: this article was originally published on Watch I Love Magazine.