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Review: Bell and Ross BR03-94 RS17

From the wheel to the wrist.
by Chelsey Chen on May 30, 2017
Positives

Distinct, iconic square case, yet a refreshing variant from past Bell & Ross offerings

High legibility despite the carbon-fiber patterned dial

Durable ceramic case that will show minimal signs of wear and tear

Negatives

Not a piece for purists who will disagree with the colourful dial

Positioned at a considerably high price point for a cam actuated chronograph

Two months ago at Baselworld 2017, we quipped about how it felt like year 1957 instead, with most of the brands tapping onto their popular vintages to offer re-issues. In the case of Bell & Ross, apart from reviving their third generation of the vintage series, the brand took a bold step forward by breaking new grounds on their quintessential BR03-94 chronograph.

 

The Bell & Ross BR 03-94 RS17. Limited edition to 500 pieces.

 

Just last year in February 2016, the brand made their debut into racing by joining the world of Formula 1 and becoming the official watch partner of Renault Sport F1 Team. With the clever use of contrasting primary colours inspired by the steering wheel of the new Renault RS17 F1 car, Bell & Ross introduced the new BR03-94 RS17 as part of a trilogy to celebrate this inaugural sponsorship.

 

The RS17 trilogy.
From left: the BR03-94 RS17 Chronograph that is reviewed in this article, the BRX1 RS17 Skeleton Chronograph (limited to 250 pieces) and the BRX1 Tourbillon RS17 (limited to 20 pieces).

 

The vivid hues on the steering wheel of the Renault F1 single-seater.

 

Bell & Ross BR03-94 RS17

The minimalist Bauhaus-inspired design of the “circle within a square” watch case has always been iconic to Bell & Ross, resembling clocks in aircraft cockpits. These instrumental watches have been helping fighter pilots keep time since the brand’s inception in 1994. The right angles, clean lines and minimal ornamentation translate to immediate legibility in the timepiece. Hence the marrying of aviation and motorsport racing would not have come as a surprise even to the biggest Bell & Ross fans as extreme performance, speed and mechanical accuracy is of greatest importance in both fields.

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We thought that the designers did well by presenting the square design in an adventurous and invigorating way this time for all the three watches in the trilogy. We had the BR03-94 RS17 Chronograph for a week and we put this watch through both the formal weekdays and the casual weekends to bring you this review as well as a pictorial treat on our Instagram page.

 

The sporty carbon-fiber dial mimics the surface of the steering wheel.

The case, dial and hands

The case of the watch is made from a special ceramic composite (Zirconium Oxide ZrO2 and Yttrium Oxide Y2O3) and the advantage is in its durability and toughness. Generally, there will be lesser scratches and minimal signs of wear and tear even from daily use over a long period of time on these ceramic cases.

 

The advantage of the ceramic case is in its durability and toughness.

 

The most interesting feature of the BR03-94 RS17 would be the sporty carbon-fiber dial as it clearly mimics the surface of the steering wheel. Even with a patterned dial, legibility is not compromised, thanks to the brilliantly raised metal indices filled with white Superluminova.

The dial flange on this piece features the “Renault” shade of yellow on the tachymeter from the 12 to 4 o’clock position. The same shade can be seen highlighting the left subdial and on its markers for the chronograph timer. In fact, the colour yellow is not far off from the avant-garde core principles of the brand, as it is also an integral shade in the Bauhaus colour theory.

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The date display at the position between 4 and 5 o’clock is highlighted in red and despite the busy dial, this segmentation of using distinctive colour makes the date easier to read.

On the right side of the case, the start/stop pusher of the chronograph is made from a golden yellow anodized aluminium. The crown has a red ring aluminium embellishment too, and both of these features add to the sprightly appeal of the watch.

 

The movement BR-CAL301

The BR03-94 RS17 uses the BR-CAL301 automatic mechanical calibre which is on the ETA 2894-2 base. The other BR03-94 variants are also on this calibre, so the difference with the RS17 is mainly on its aesthetics. This calibre uses 37 jewels and is functioning at the most common frequency of 4Hz, 28,800 bph. One can expect about 40 hours of power reserve on this 30-min-timer chronograph. As the movement is a cam actuated chronograph, one will find that the pushers are tough to engage.

The start/stop pusher of the chronograph is made from a golden yellow anodized aluminium adding to the sprightly appeal of the watch.

Concluding thoughts

The BR-RS17 trilogy collection stays true to the core of what Bell & Ross represents, but this time using vivid colours to allow the tachymeter and the subdials to be read quickly and accurately. All of the three are considerable pieces for the die-hard fan boys (and girls) of Bell & Ross, yet at the same time suited for those who are into rally-inspired timepieces. Despite the bold, masculine aesthetics, the BR03-94 RS17 is a watch suited for both genders as it works well for ladies’ small wrists, evident from our Instagram photos. To turn up the dress factor for this piece, one can perhaps match it with a rally or contrast-stitch leather strap; and for the weekends a striking yellow isofrane-style rubber strap.

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More info at Bell & Ross.

 

The BR03-94 RS17 pictured here on the Chief Editor’s 8″ wrist.

Technical Specifications and Price

Reference: BR 03-94 RS17

Movement: BR-CAL. 301 Automatic Chronograph 30min

Case: 42mm matt black ceramic/anodized aluminium pusher

Dial: Carbon fiber, metal indices with white Superluminova, metal skeleton Superluminova-filled hour and minute hands

Crystal: Sapphire with anti-reflective coating

Strap: Black “BR” signed rubber strap with ridges on the front, black PVD “BR” signed pin buckle

Lug width: 24mm

WR: 100 metres/325 feet

Limited Edition of 500 pieces, numbered on caseback

RRP including GST: S$9,000

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