Bell & Ross, established in 1992, is perhaps best-known for their military-inspired watches that take the form of avionics instruments, with a round dial set against a square case shape. While the last few years have seen the company expand into “typical” watch territory with more traditional round case shapes (the recent Racing Bird series is particularly beautiful), its latest offering, the BR 03-92 Bi-Compass, is a clear return to the original avionics-inspired watches that catapulted Bell & Ross to fame in the mid-2000s.
The Bi-Compass (aptly inspired by a compass used in military jet aircraft) features a stark, utilitarian dial made attractive by the two Super LumiNova colors employed, both of which are also drawn from actual U.S. naval avionics instruments. An inner rotating disk with an arrow imprinted on it takes the form of a traditional hour hand, while the minute hand is a military-type sword hand and the seconds hand is a lumed baton hand. A rehaut gives the dial some depth and holds the inner minute and seconds track, while the outer flange of the rehaut displays ten-minute intervals.
A date at 4:30 (which is typically not our favorite thing here at Gear Patrol, but works well on B&R instrument watches) obviates the need to obscure the cool B&R numerals, and is also a fairly unobtrusive date window as far as they go. The dial itself is treated in a matte black, anti-glare finish in keeping with the watch’s military inspiration, and the case size is 42mm by 42mm, done in matte black ceramic, which is scratch-resistant and anti-glare. You also get 100m of water resistance and two strap choices: a black rubber version as well as a black synthetic fabric option.
The movement utilized is the BR-CAL.302 automatic, based on the Sellita SW300-1, and the watch is limited to 999 pieces at a price of $3,900. Though it’s certainly true that in today’s “microbrand” landscape, you can get your hands on a water-resistant tool watch based on a Sellita automatic for well under $4k, Bell & Ross is simply one of those brands that understands cool, utilitarian design. They continue to innovate and design beautiful watches with military, automative and other inspirations, and that, when paired with workhorse movements, is worth a premium.
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