BY NIKHIL KURMALA

Well known for their aeronautical inspired timepieces, Bell & Ross is now synonymous with bringing aviation enthusiasts cockpit instruments aesthetics to their wrists. Priding themselves with being very legible and utilitarian in nature, Bell & Ross have yet again pleased the crowd at Baselworld 2019 with the new BR 03-92 Bi-Compass, which follows their successful formula of highly legible square watches. Rather than paying homage to just one specific cockpit instrument, the 42mm BR 03-92 Bi-Compass incorporates an amalgamation of analogue displays and includes a rotating central hour disc. With this watch, Bell & Ross recreates the graphic style of these navigation tools as close as possible, offering an alternative to the traditional approach of telling the time.

The piece is based on an in-cockpit compass and features a bold, well-lumed minutes hand and a huge hour’s hand on an inside disk. The entire thing is inside a massive PVD-coated case. B&R has also used the Isonorm font, the readable font used by aeroplane manufacturers for important readouts. It runs a BR-CAL.302 automatic mechanical movement. The simplicity of the br03-92 bi-compass’s design encases the complexity of its inner workings. Built on a two-tier basis, the dial divides its main center part with the outer part – where the minute track is featured – through a small “step” equipped with a minute-circle. To enhance legibility, the hour and minute graduations have been separated to promote the minutes on the main dial – as in original instruments – while the hours are displayed in the center. The hour reading is indicated by a green triangle marker which appears in the center through an independent concentric disc which is not graduated.

The technical challenge posed by its design and construction required the best watchmaking expertise is no joke. An ultra-light disc needed to be created to ensure that the power reserve nor the accuracy of the watch was not reduced. Furthermore, the disc needs to be sufficiently resistant so as to not become deformed or risk any friction. This dual challenge has required the development of specific materials and new techniques. As it rotates, an adjustment to the nearest micron ensures that the disc is constantly parallel. the accuracy of the assembly requires all the know-how of master watchmakers.

The use of color is important in aviation for the coding of signals.

Blue-Green: The Munsell green hue indicates the hours and is covered in a photoluminescent coating (Super-Luminova) that contrasts with the black of the dial, ensuring they can be easily read both during the day and at night.

Off-White: The “coquille d’oeuf” hands and numerals on the dial unveil the minutes and seconds and echoes the legibility principles of professional aeronautical instruments. This color scheme was commonly used on instruments, specifically on US Navy aircraft.

The anti-glare, matte-black finish of the ceramic case is inspired by the color of an instrumentation panel, designed to make the dial easier to read by eliminating glare. The new BR03-92 Bi-Compass will make its owner feel as though they own a fragment of an aircraft’s cockpit, delighting both aviation fans and watch collectors. Coming at 42mm, the timepiece will please the majority of wrists. The timepiece is powered by Bell & Ross’s Calibre BR-CAL.302, a movement said to be based on the Sellita SW300. The automatic movement comes equipped with ahand windingg functionality as well as a respectable 38 hours of power reserve.

Gorgeous, simple, and straightforward in its modernist design, this timepiece is suitable for the modern man with an interest in aviation. The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Bi-Compass is limited to 999 pieces and is priced at $3,900. Visit Bell & Ross here.