As the saying goes: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In the case of Bell & Ross, its decision to broaden its horizon to encompass more than just watches inspired by the gauges in the cockpit of aircrafts turned out to be a fantastic decision. From the skies, the brand planted its feet firmly on the ground for inspiration and, more recently, took to the seas, offering its first-ever square dive watch.
I have to reinforce the point of first ‘square’ dive watch because, as it turns out, Bell & Ross is no stranger when it comes to making dive watches. In fact, its very first dive watch predates the square BR 01 case by around eight years. In order to fully drive home the fact that dive watches had long been well within Bell & Ross’ portfolio, we were invited to Langkawi recently to witness the launch of its latest BR03-92 Diver Blue and Bronze watches.
If, like me, you are relatively new to watches, it’s easy to pigeon-hole Bell & Ross firmly in the category of square, aviation-inspired watches; and this is because, for the past 10 years or so, these watches were pretty much the bestsellers of the brand and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future. However, in 1997, Bell & Ross actually produced its firstever dive watch – the Hydromax.
Far from just being just any old dive watch, this one actually broke a world record for water resistance, with the ability to withstand 1,110 bars of pressure. which translates to a depth of 11,100m. More interestingly, it managed to do this by filling the entire case with a patented transparent oil and even built in a patented caseback that could compensate for the expansion and contraction of this oil. Another cool side effect of oil filling the case was, because of the refractive index of oil, the Hydromax could be viewable from any angle underwater. Although a Hydromax in good condition is probably hard to come by these days, a good modern illustration of this unique refraction feature can still be experienced through an independent watch brand called Ressence.
Bell & Ross’ next dive watch was a little more modest, offering a 300m water resistance and a chronograph function. And, of course, it ticked all the boxes that enabled it to be called a dive watch, namely, the unidirectional bezel, a protected crown and screw-down tappets and back. Where the Diver 300 Classic was built to be more of a casual watch, the next dive offering, the BR02-92 Diver, brought the watch firmly back into the realms of professional use.
You can almost start to see the evolution of the watch into the square iteration of today. The case of the BR02-92 was slightly angular, while, on the ‘Pro Dial’, the indicators were designed purely with legibility in mind. And the water resistance? 1,000m.
BR03-92 DIVER BLUE
Fast forward to 2018 and Bell & Ross has launched two new dive watches fit for the modern era. I think we can all appreciate the painstaking effort that the brand has put into making a square case that is water resistance to 300m. For all its efforts, it gets to keep the iconic shape of a round dial within a square and gain new fans that have already been won over by its aviation-inspired watches. As with all the previous watches, this dive watch is also designed to be a utilitarian tool, offering maximum legibility with indices coated in white Super- LumiNova and a yellow hour hand. The reason for a yellow hour hand is that, as the diver descends, colours start to fade and yellow is one of the first to go; hence, at a certain depth, the hour hand disappears, drawing all the attention to the minute hand.