Over the years, Bell & Ross has been but one of the few firms that has successfully conquered the trifecta of watchmaking capabilities. Their diving watches have seen depths far beyond human endurance, while its chronographs are perfectly honed to time races. This year however, the French watch brand will once again go back to its aviation roots and take flight with the BR03-92 MA-1. Here, its popular pilot watch is now not only inspired by the complex cockpits in planes, it’s also elevated by subtly deployed details of the US Air Force’s MA-1 bomber jacket — also an icon in its own right.
Before the MA-1 jacket sealed its reputation for being a staple for the street-style set, it triumphed as an essential piece of gear for military operatives who carried out risky high-altitude duties. The jacket — made of the same nylon that parachutes were made of — proved to be lighter, tougher, and more water resistant than the bulky fleece-lined leather jackets pilots used to don. This was especially so when they were no longer able to withstand the frigid temperatures that came with higher altitudes and more compact cockpits when jet aircrafts became popular in the Fifties.
The lifesaving tool that is the MA-1 inspires Bell & Ross’ pilot watch in more ways than one.
The dark khaki colourway is rendered on ceramic for its lightweight and corrosion-resistant properties, and then paired with a reversible calf leather strap that reveals either a matching shade of khaki, or a bright orange hue — both colours synonymous to the military as camouflage and a symbol of urgency. Till today, the latter is reserved for the most crucial commands in the cockpit.
While the watch retains its angular, utilitarian presence with plenty of flight references, the self-winding aviator piece is now more dynamic with stencilled orange numerals. Bell & Ross deftly execute the sandwich dial construction again here, with two superimposing metal plates that reveal even the most subtle details. Here, the unusual orange lume beneath the stencilled plate comes to life on night flights for extra legibility.
At 42mm, the BR03-92 MA-1 sits comfortably on the wrist with tons of presence, and like the high-performance flight jacket, suits all personalities — aviation enthusiast or not.