Bell & Ross BR 03-92: The All Rounded Square Dive Watch
One learns never to call anything “the first” in the world of watches because, invariably, someone with a photographic memory will contradict the declaration. I welcome such pedantry because I hate fake news or any other sort of mis- or dis-information, and am therefore pleased to say that Bell & Ross is not claiming that the BR 03-92 is the world’s first square diving watch. It is, however, the first full-on square diving watch in the BR 0 family, and my only surprise is that they waited so long to release it because it’s a natural.
Bell & Ross’ inventiveness, when it comes to exploiting the possibilities of the square-cased BR 0 range, knows no limits, as we learn at every Baselworld. We’ve seen camouflage editions, bronze versions, tourbillons, sapphire panels, one with a roulette wheel, assorted skulls, dials inspired by non-horological cockpit instruments (e.g. altimeters or horizon indicators) and now we have one with the assurance of water-resistance and a mandatory, massive, rotating bezel with error-free legibility.
Mixing round with square has become a Bell & Ross specialty, and it works because the language is now familiar. Not that the original BR 0 model was a shock: there have been round dials in square cases since wristwatches began, from makes as diverse as Omega and Longines, Bulova and Benrus and Jaeger-LeCoultre. For Bell & Ross, it’s a signature model, like elongated tonneaus are for Franck Muller.
Square-cased diving watches, however, are relatively rare because they’re harder to make water-resistant, so Bell & Ross is doing this as much because the maison expected to do it rather than needs to do it. In all honesty, it’s simply much easier to make the whole thing round, because that shape inherently lends itself to an easy-to-screw-in back for assured water-resistance.
Nothing about the BR 03-92 Diver strikes you as forced, however, because it simply looks so natural an evolutionary step in a now-familiar form. This follows earlier diving watches from the brand, including the conventionally round Hydromax of 1997, secure to 11,000ft thanks to a case filled with transparent fluorinated oil, and fitted with external rotating bezel. Then came the BR 02, with its curved tonneau case and decompression valve; this model placed the rotating bezel under the glass, accessed via a second crown at 2 o’clock.
Bell & Ross’ testing meets ISO 6425 standards, achieved in part by an anti-reflective sapphire crystal that is 2.80mm thick, compared to 1.80mm on the non-diving BR 03-92 Steel. The requirements defined by ISP 6425 include a minimum water resistance of 100 meters and “the presence of a time pre-selection device”’ or a 60-minute calibrated uni-directional rotating bezel in plain English, which is protected against accidental rotation or incorrect setting.
Also of interest to real divers rather than landlubbers like me who simply love diving watches are indices that are easily legible at a distance of 25cm in the dark, an hour hand that is distinct from the minute hand – in this case, the hour hand has an orange detail while the minute hand’s is white Superluminova so the minutes are more quickly legible to allow for better time calculation. The “lollipop” seconds hand also features Superluminova illumination.
If you’re starting to notice a pattern, it would appear, then, that Bell & Ross likes to launch its diving watches on a ten-year cycle. Thus 2017 sees the BR 03-92 Diver, and Bell & Ross completely avoided the most obvious technical or functional concern – that the bezel would be awkward to rotate – by extending its circumference just enough to leave ample “teeth” to grip. It won’t be quite as easy to rotate as a round bezel on a round case, where the entire circumference is accessible, but the positions at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock are prominent enough to provide touch-points. Moreover, the bezel is thick and quite high off the dial.
Bell & Ross also subjects the BR 03-92 Diver to a series of tests to ensure resistance to impacts, thermal shocks in salt water and high pressure, among others. Another nice touch to reassure those who will exploit its 300m/1000ft depth capabilities is the rubberised locking crown. Supplied in a Pelican case, the BR 03-92 Diver comes with two straps – one in woven black rubber and one in ultra-resilient black synthetic fabric with Velcro attachment to facilitate use over a wetsuit sleeve.
As for the rest, it’s definitely a member of the BR0 clan, with a 42mm square case in satin-polished steel, powered by the BR-CAL.302 automatic movement. And it completes a triumvirate of BR 0 models for the range’s band of enthusiasts by adding survival at sea to models already at home on land and in the air.