It’s no secret that men like gauges and instruments — a Porsche tachometer or an old Voigtlander light meter, for example. Something about the distillation of information to a legible, minimalist visual cue appeals to some readout-obsessed part of our male brains. The best examples of gauges are those found in airplane cockpits, which are designed for quick reading of unambiguous data. They’re often still analog, proving the merits of numbers and hands in an often over-digitalized world. For those of us stuck in an office instead of a fighter jet cockpit, a watch inspired by aircraft instruments can be the perfect way to scratch the flight instrument itch. While Bell & Ross was arguably the first brand to introduce this genre, their price tags are of the type to bloat the defense budget; we’ve found an alternative that can help you decrease your own personal deficit.
Bell & Ross BR 03
Launched in 1992, Bell & Ross began as a line of Sinn-built watches with design flares from founders Bruno Belamich and Carlos Rosillo. Since B&R ventured off on their own in the early 2000s, they’ve certainly captured a distinctive design. The Bell & Ross BR 03 ($3,400) looks ripped straight out of a cockpit instrument panel. Well, that’s pretty much what it is: the BR 03 is the 42mm version of their instrument watch, whose rugged, square case is unforgettable.
While many consider B&R to be a glorified fashion brand, solid build quality and use of reliable ETA movements competitively positions them amongst a host of watchmakers in the $3,000 to $5,000 range. The BR03 has a love-it-or-hate-it design that’s created a cult-like following; in order to join the cult, though, one must cough up $3,400. Hey, someone has to pay for their marketing campaign.
Christopher Ward C11 Automatic
Oftentimes, it’s difficult to justify spending a few grand on a watch powered by a mass-produced movement. That’s where direct-to-consumer internet boutiques come in handy. In business for nearly a decade, Christopher Ward has managed to garner much attention among “high value” internet watchmakers. Utilizing ETA and Sellita movements, CW mostly produces homage pieces that carry enough unique design cues to stand on their own.
An initial take of the C11 ($685) reveals a dial and case shape reminiscent of the BR03. Upon further inspection, the C11 case impresses with sharp chamfered edges, some polished to compliment the mostly brushed finish. The exposed screws are a nice touch, despite not always lining up (which is nails-on-a-chalkboard for some), and, sized at 42mm, it becomes an even more obvious alternative to the BR03. All of this packaged together with a price tag under $700 makes it nearly a no-brainer. Remember, friends don’t let friends pay bloated watch prices.