Sunday, February 25, 2024

Spending Time With The BR 03-93 GMT BLACK

From Bell & Ross -

The folks at Bell & Ross North America were kind enough to let me borrow a BR 03-93 GMT Black for the past two weeks. And this was the perfect watch to get me in the mood for my upcoming trip to Besançon ; )

Now confession time, I have never worn (for more than a quick BaselWorld photo) one of Bell & Ross's Instrument series watches. And more importantly, up until recently I was more a devotee to the Vintage collection. But lately I have become more and more taken not only with the practical side of the watch - visibility, etc., I have come to not only admire (but again, in all honesty) become rather obsessive about the BR 03-93 format in both the diver, and per this review the GMT.

When I first launched "the blog formerly known as Tempus Fugit" my goal was to share feedback that was pertinent to actual watch buyers who actually might buy an actual watch, and actually? I don't know, maybe, actually wear it. In my world that comes down to a few things -
  • Is the watch actually comfortable to wear?
  • Is the watch reliable?
  • Is the watch well made?
  • Is it likely that someone who makes a reasonable income could save a bit and afford it?
So let's begin at the beginning, shall we?

The BR 03-93 GMT is based on what has become symbolic of Bell & Ross's design grammar, while also evolving beyond it's original iteration as a time only watch. It is not insubstantial, but in fact that is appealing to me.
The case is like an instrument panel, and that is by design. 

The case measures 42 mm in diameter, which is more than big enough, but yet not too big. The visibility is enhanced by the square shape. Don't ask me why, but I suspect it's not unlike utilizing a mat around a painting, or print - it draws in the viewer to a focal point.

The dial's face uses Bell & Ross's favored layout of alternating indices and numbers. In this instance the quarter hours are writ large with 12, 3, 6, and 9. The indices are coated in Superluminova, as are portions of the hands, and the tip of the GMT hand.

The finish of the case, the crown, the strap, and the buckle are all incredibly well finished.

Although the case back has engraving and four screws securing it, you would never know while wearing it. Very often, even in a watch costing far more, this is a tell-tale indicator of where the technical finishing and attention to tolerances is proven to be inconsistent with the vision of the design team. Not so with the BR 03-93. It is extremely comfortable on the wrist.

The crown is very smooth, yet very tactile. It is well balanced, setting and winding are quite pleasant - none of that "scratch, scratch" noise, nor cracked fingernails. And I was very impressed with the alignment of the GMT hand. This sounds silly, perhaps. I mean, it's a GMT watch, right? Well, it might surprise you to know that A LOT of GMT watches ship out to stores, later to be sold to customers, with somewhat misaligned GMT hands. Needless to say, Bell & Ross's quality control remains first rate.

On this review model, the BR 03-93 GMT shipped with a black leather strap. The strap is very well finished, not sloppy slipped stitches, and the leather is comfortable and smooth. The BR 03-93 GMT when purchased ships not only with a leather strap, but also a black synthetic fabric strap -

Courtesy of Bell & Ross

The strap is secured by four hex screws -

And while both straps are quite nice, Bell & Ross offers the opportunity to add to your strap wardrobe. And as I am both a fan, and a wee-bit contrary, if I were buying this time travel machine, I would add two more options to my sartorial kit -
Courtesy of Bell & Ross

Courtesy of Bell & Ross

The point being, is that you have options - actually a WHOLE BUNCH of them!

The buckle is definitely from the Goldilocks school of design, just right!

It is not insubstantial, but the finishing is smooth, the tang piece lays flat, and it refuses to get caught in the sleeve of your sweater ; )

Now the physical comfort is undeniable. It is more than comfortable all-day. But let's talk about reality. Travel is only so glamorous (unless of course you fly on a private jet, in which case you can afford to have someone else tell you the time). My travel tends to break down as Boston to California, Boston to Zurich, and more than once, Boston to Tokyo. Now again, back to reality - when you are traveling long distances you are not (despite the images you see in the brochures) at your best - either physically or psychologically. Your sleep patterns are, to use the Latin - jacked up. Your vision is not solid-state, and therefore it is hard to read the dial of your watch, even with a GMT feature. You need contrast -

Very often, we think of day and night separation of blue and black. And if that is your take on things Bell & Ross has you covered with a more subtle version. Me? I need contrast.

Let me invite you to the 22:55 Logan - Zurich flight with your old pal Henki. Chances are good that I have already put a full day in at my job, raced home, caught the shuttle bus to Logan, checked in, cleared security and paced back and forth waiting to board. This is even if I have plumped the extra $ for a business class seat on Swiss Air. Why? Doesn't Logan have a Swiss or Lufthansa lounge? Well now it's time for travel tips from your old pal Henki - Yes there is a lounge, but it is, to put it politely, underwhelming. So after putting in about 3 miles of airport walking while carrying my coat and my carry-on, I am not exactly "springtime" fresh by the time I am plopped in my seat. Moreover, I am tired, a bit groggy, and my visual acuity is not what it might have been earlier in the day. Now fast-forward as we are maybe about four hours into the flight and I am trying to decide between a night cap and part of a movie, or simply turning in. There is a true sense of reassurance and comfort glancing (not squinting) at your wrist and knowing what time it is where you are heading, and more importantly what time it is where your loved ones are. Your mileage may vary, but this stuff is important to me.

Overall, I fell in love these past two weeks. And as someone who stepped back from writing about watches, or even being that interested as an enthusiast for nearly 2 years, this is saying something. I do, however, have one critique. The date indication is just too small, and I suspect even for a younger guy it is a bit challenging to read. The one alteration I might propose would be a magnifying "window" over the date. BUT - not the typical cyclops window that you might find on others, but rather a magnifier on the inside of the crystal. Otherwise the date window really serves no purposes but decoration (very small and hard to see decoration). But again, that is just my take on it.

The timekeeping has been what you would expect, spot on. The movement is the BR-CAL.303. This is based on the ETA 2893-2. So good news, this is a very serviceable watch that you can get taken care of promptly, and not resign yourself to owning a formerly operational time keeper now consigned to over-priced paper weight.

About price - the BR 03-93 GMT is reasonably priced for what you get. It is (at least for me) not an impulse buy - social work paying what it does and the cost of living in the Northeast being what it is. But with that being said, it is what I consider to be aspirational within reason. It is something that you could reasonably save for. Of course if you are cut from more well-to-do stock, you won't have to wait. The asking amount is $4,200 and can be ordered directly from Bell & Ross or from a retailer in their network.

After two weeks, I regrettably have to return my new best friend to its family at Bell & Ross HQ, but can say unequivocally that this is a fantastic watch. Wonderful as an everyday watch. But if like me, you long for that extra something that will make your travel not only more bearable, but actually pleasurable? If you are looking for that trace of glamour (albeit attainable) in your travel experience, in a day and age where glamour (or even pleasure) is disappearing faster than the chicken entree in the economy class cabin's food trolley? Well this might just be for you too - I know that it is for me.

Here are the pertinents -


    BR-CAL.303. Automatic mechanical.


    Hours, minutes, central seconds, second 24-hour time zone and date. Quick setting of the GMT hand, independently of the hour hand.

  • CASE

    42 mm in width. Satin-finished and polished steel. Bi-directional rotating bezel with 24-hour scale and black and red two-colour anodized aluminum ring.

  • DIAL

    Black. Indices coated in Super-LumiNova®. Metal skeletonised Super-LumiNova®-filled hour and minute hands and 24-hour hand.


    Sapphire with anti-reflective coating.


    100 meters.


    Black coloured calfskin leather and ultra-resilient black synthetic fabric.


    Pin. Satin-finished and polished steel.

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