Metamorphosis is an often risky process—successful examples within the horological context are finely balanced along the double-edged sword of mass opinion. With the release of the Bell & Ross' latest BR 03 collection, however, the brand demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of this balance by preserving the elements that made the collection a cornerstone of the manufacture’s offerings, while paying heed to modern design sensibilities.
The most visible change within the BR 03 is the watch's reduced dimensions. The cosmetic changes are subtle. The case diameter is reduced from 42mm to 41mm, while the lugs have been downsized from 4.5mm to 4mm, contributing to a marked change in the timepiece's wear and presence on the wrist. In an era where smaller watches are once again gaining traction, these changes reflect the brand’s recognition of contemporary watchmaking trends and preferences.
More significantly, the BR 03 has a new movement under its hood: the BR-CAL.302. Based on the Swiss Sellita SW 300-1, the movement itself is a reflection of the manufacture's delicate balancing act between trends and heritage. While it is (for the most part) still the same reliable, workhorse movement widely used across other Bell & Ross timepieces, it also crucially introduces an extended power reserve of 54 hours—a significant upgrade on the previous 38 hours of power reserve.
The BR 03 may have undergone a subtle metamorphosis in the dimension and movement department, but Bell & Ross has elected to retain the elements that made the BR 03 a success. The 'circle within a square' case shape embellished with screws and highly-legible, flight instrument-inspired font, for example, ensures that the timepiece still possesses much of the tool watch charm that made it a unique design proposition when it first landed in 2006.
Offered in two case materials—black ceramic and brushed steel—Bell & Ross offers a choice between a muted, utilitarian look more synonymous with a tool watch, and a more sophisticated, dressier appearance.
Amongst the ceramic offerings, a new union of the matte black ceramic case with a khaki dial and matching rubber strap functions as the manufacture’s homage to its military-inspired design language. As for the polished steel option, the newest kid on the block takes the form of a retro-styled, brushed, copper/salmon dial offering. Engraved, jet black Arabic numerals and indices are paired with eye-catching blued steel hands, with the contrast between the satin-brushed finishing and smooth chamfered edges of the case a refined touch on a handsome timepiece.
Overall, the new edition of the BR 03 is a great horological example of the tricky act of balancing oft-fickle and transient trends, while staying true to brand philosophy.