Bell & Ross might not have been a part of Watches & Wonders, but who says you always need to go to the party to have fun? Instead, the Parisian brand has been slowly unveiling its 2021 novelties on its own terms – a new watch coming every few weeks, a steady drip of takes on the classic square shapes and unorthodox designs it’s best known for.
Taking a look at what has been unveiled thus far, one model in particular stands out. The BR 03-93 GMT, was unveiled at the start of this month and uses that famed square silhouette. Importantly, this GMT features a bi-directional 24-hour bezel, updating the previous BR 03-93 GMT design unveiled in 2016 which opted for a fixed bezel. It also follows up on the success of the 2018 BR V2-93 GMT, which was the first of the brand’s designs to use an external rotating 24-hour bezel, though with a more traditional rounded case as its outline.
Two features quickly catch your attention. The first is, of course, the familiar square watch design, deriving from an aviation-inspired style which Bell & Ross has come to dominate over its almost 30-year history. The other is its “Coke” bezel, which draws its influence from the ever-renowned Rolex GMT-Master and GMT-Master II collections that’ve famously featured the colorway.
It goes without saying that the watch is not a Rolex, but what’s significant is this is the first square GMT watch from Bell & Ross to use an external rotating bezel. This is particularly noteworthy because the French watchmaker has been producing GMT designs since 2007, when it launched the BR 03 51 GMT Titanium which featured a second time-zone sub-dial directly on its face. So, in the course of a 29-year history of making square watches, and 14-year history of making GMT watches, only now does the brand bring one of the most popular GMT styles— i.e. an external rotating 24-hour bezel—to the square shape. Furthermore, it is doing so in one of the most popular colorways in the industry for its launch, the red and black “Coke” look, which is only secondary to the red and blue “Pepsi” style.
Significance for the brand aside, the BR 03-93 GMT is, at its core, still a solid new novelty from the brand. With a sturdy 42mm case opting for a layered look with four corner screws, beveling along its edge, an uncommon knurled crown on its right side, and a mixed use of satin finishing and polish throughout, the watch from its case alone reads as a highly durable tool watch – a fact further showcased via its 100-meter water resistance and much talked-about bezel.
Heading underneath its curved sapphire crystal, the dial is straight forward and well executed, with the clear focus on legibility. Along its outer edge is a simple curved white ring marked from 5 to 60 in Arabic numerals for the passing minutes, while applied and lume-filled markers sit within for the hours and smaller printed markers for the remaining minutes. The only flourish to this look comes in a subtle rounded date window towards the 4:30 position. At the center of the dial are a large set of lume-filled hands, the two passing over oversized applied Arabic numerals at each quarter hour and altogether making the process of telling time at a glance highly efficient. These hands are accompanied by a simple tapered seconds counter and, of course, the red-tipped and lume-filled arrow pointer for the watch’s second time-zone.
Inside the GMT is Bell & Ross’ modified ETA 2893-2, which they dub the BR-CAL.303. The automatic movement is modular and derives from the highly popular non-GMT ETA 2892-2, and like that movement, features a hacking seconds mechanism, 42-hour power reserve, and frequency of 28,800 vph – all alongside an independently operated GMT hand. Like the GMT it powers, it’s an easily serviceable, no-nonsense caliber able to keep time efficiently without much flourish.