Bell & Ross Aviation Review
While there are many prestigious brands producing versatile tool watches, few do it as well as Bell & Ross.
Despite a formidable reputation, Bell & Ross is still a relatively young company. The brand first established in 1992 as a university project by two friends, Bruno Belamich and Carlo A. Rosillo. Bell & Ross is a shortened, anglicized combination of their surnames. From the outset, the two Frenchmen knew the key to success was in collaboration. Knowledgeable, yet relatively inexperienced, they assembled an expert team of designers and technicians, each with useful skill sets to complement the brand’s ethos. They also formed a strategic partnership with the manufacturer Sinn, which helped them make their first foray into luxury watchmaking. Their work with Sinn was ultimately short-lived.
Bell & Ross’s quick growth and success gave them the opportunity to establish their own independent production company. With vertical integration, they were able to streamline their processes and make them even more efficient and cost effective.
In nearly three decades of business, Bell & Ross has released several collections, including the Marine, Vintage, and Aviation. The models in each line follow the brand’s four design principles: legibility, functionality, reliability, and precision. Here, we look more closely at the Aviation collection, its key features, and the evolution of the models over the years.
List of Key Features of the Bell & Ross Aviation
- Square 42mm Case
- Ceramic or Stainless Steel Construction
- Automatic or Quartz Movement
- Anti Reflective Sapphire Crystal
- Water Resistance of 100 meters
- Rubber, Leather, or Canvas Strap
Bell & Ross Aviation through the Years
Bell & Ross first launched the Aviation line in 2005 with the BR01. The collection followed the motto, “from the cockpit to the wrist.” With this in mind, the models combine a balance of technical features, like extreme legibility, with creativity and playfulness. Bell & Ross has a reputation for their unique square case shape, which we see in the Aviation line.
The BR01 features an oversized 46mm case in either carbon-coated stainless steel or ceramic. The color scheme – either black with white accents or white with black accents – adds to the high legibility. This three-hander allows pilots to check their flight duration or speed of ascent with ease. Inside, you’ll find an automatic mechanical movement offering 100 meters of water resistance. Lastly, the BR01 offers the option of a durable rubber, leather, or synthetic canvas strap. Bell & Ross continued to build on the BR01 with additions like a chronograph and titanium variations.
Shortly after, Bell & Ross introduced the BR03. This slightly smaller version of the BR01 features a 42mm build as opposed to 46mm. Bell & Ross has since discontinued the BR01 and relegated it to the pre-owned market. However, the BR03 continues to be part of the catalog. Today, there are over twenty variations of the model. Among them are wide arrays of stylistic and functional options. There’s the choice of a black ceramic or stainless steel construction. In addition, there are options for complications like a chronograph or GMT. There are also both automatic and quartz variations.
In 2008, the brand launched an even smaller iteration within the Aviation line, the BR-S. The BR-S measures a more modest 39mm and incorporates other features lending itself to dressier occasions and women. Bell & Ross offered the option of a precious metal case in 18-karat rose gold as well as an alligator leather strap. In addition, they added the choice of an ivory or pearl dial. Like the BR01, the BR-S only enjoyed a short run.
Deep Dive on Key Features of the Bell & Ross Aviation
With the exception of the short-lived BR-S, a few key features define the Bell & Ross Aviation collection. The first is the iconic Bell & Ross square case, now exclusively in 42mm. Next is the sporty and durable stainless steel or ceramic construction. Most Bell & Ross Aviation watches come equipped with an automatic, mechanical movement. However, they also offer the option of a quartz variation. In addition, models in the Aviation collection feature an antireflective sapphire crystal and 100 meters of water resistance. Lastly, there’s the option for either a robust rubber, canvas, or leather strap with a unique hot stamped finish. No matter which iteration you choose, you can’t go wrong with a Bell & Ross Aviation watch.
The Bell & Ross BR01 Aviation
The first Bell & Ross Aviation model and still the best-recognised was the BR01, released in 2005, with the BR01-92 considered the obvious classic. As attractive as it is functional, it has a distinctive square case that brought it instant attention, but there’s also plenty going on under the surface to prolong the interest. A 46mm diameter case houses an automatic mechanical movement, water resistant to 100m. The dials, either black with large white numerals or the reverse, have three hands, and allow pilots to check their flight duration or speed of ascent with ease. Everything about the BR01-92 suggests this is a watch you can count on, from chunky cases of carbon finished stainless steel or ceramic, to robust straps of rubber, leather or synthetic canvas.
Also set in that iconic square case, the BR01-94 is a chronograph with three subdials for even greater precision, for 60 seconds, 30 minutes and 12 hours. Bell & Ross expanded the options for case materials for the BR01-94 to include titanium and stainless steel cases.
The BR03 Aviation
At the same time, Bell & Ross introduced the BR03-92, a slightly smaller version of the BR01, at 42mm, making it a good fit for men with thinner wrists or those looking for a striking watch for formal occasions. The Bell & Ross BR03-92 continues to balance form with function, keeping legibility and precision at the forefront of the design process.
The BR-S Aviation
In 2008, the Bell & Ross Aviation collection was expanded with a third line, the BR-S. At 39mm it has the smallest case yet, which also features several designs aimed at women. Cases are of 18kt pink gold or ceramic, with ivory, black, or pearl dials and straps made of alligator leather. While these watches are clearly suited to formal occasions, their design remains indelibly linked with aviation and adheres to the Bell & Ross principles of legibility and functionality.
Despite their growing reputation as luxury watchmakers, no-one could ever accuse Bell & Ross of treading water. They’ve recently launched a 610HP concept Formula One car, drawing inspiration not only from automotive history but also aviation, as can be seen from its aerodynamic lines and features such as the glass roof and twin exhausts reminiscent of jet fighters. Could a B&R Automotive line be on the way?
More than simply a stylish watch, a Bell & Ross Aviation serves as an indispensable survival tool. This is tactical timekeeping.