New and reviewed: Bell & Ross BR 03 Gyrocompass

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Double billing for Bell & Ross this week! In addition to yesterday’s Week on the Wrist Review of the BR 05 Chrono A523 Alpine, we feature a full review of the new (released now!) BR 03 Gyrocompass.

New and reviewed: Bell & Ross BR 03 Gyrocompass

The retail price of the Bell & Ross BR 03 Gyrocompass Ref. BR03A-CPS-CE/SRB is SGD 6,200 inclusive of GST. Limited edition of 999 pieces.

The case, dial and hands

The BR 03 Gyrocompass is a complement to the rather huge range of instrument watches that Bell & Ross has released since 2005. The concept was to take the indicators on an aircraft dashboard and reinterpret them for the wrist. We reviewed the RadioCompass of 2022, and the new Gyrocompass is styled from the same base watch.

The case remains the time and tested rounded square that Bell & Ross has successfully used in many other models. The 41mm case size is, however new. The RadioCompass had a case which is 42mm. But the Gyrocompass is slightly thicker at 10.6mm thickness (RadioCompass was 10.4mm). Water resistance remains unchanged at 100m. The case is constructed in ceramic.

The dial is where the Gyrocompass stands out. At the first glance, we see the silhouette of an aeroplane. Compare the dial with the Mid-Continent Instruments & Avionics Analog Directional Gyro 3300 Series, a typical instrument fitted on an aircraft. And we see the inspiration for the Gyrocompass.

Mid-Continent Instruments & Avionics Analog Directional Gyro 3300 Series.

The watch carries an inner bezel, which is fixed and raised above the dial with minute markers. Triangles indicate the 12/3/6/9 o’clock positions.

In the BR 03 Gyrocompass, the tip of the plane’s nose points not to the compass direction as in the plane’s instrument, but acts like a huge hour hand. The Bell and Ross literature describes this as a precise way for the wearer to tell the time. But we find it to be non-intuitive, as the plane silhouette is pivoted in the middle of the fuselage, and the tail end is distracting. We do not normally expect an hour hand to have a counterweight. Also, the minute hand is very slim and long. Though its function is clearer as the hand is the size one would expect it to be, pivoted on one end, and is executed entirely in black, almost disappearing into the black dial background, but the tip features a prominent triangle as a pointer. The seconds hand is also a long one, again pivoted in the center with the business end where it does the seconds indication painted white.

As typical in a Bell & Ross watch, the lume is quite something special, and the BR 03 Gyrocompass does not disappoint. The silhouette is in a yellow lume, which glows bright in the dark, and matches the lime green lume of the compass engravings and the 12/3/6/9 markers. These contrast with the white lume of the triangle at the tip of the minute hand and the tip of the seconds hand, as well as the other minute markers.

We find the design aesthetic to be quite nice, and a good reminder of the instrument. But the design is perhaps at the expense of the function. The compass engraved on the dial is non-functional, and only there for decoration.

The movement

The movement in the BR 03 Gyrocompass is the workhorse BR-CAL-302 which Bell & Ross has used in numerous other models. In the Gyrocompass, the case back is closed, and we are not able to see the movement.

We do know that the movement is based on the Sellita caliber SW300-1 a. It is a self-winding calibre beating at 28,800 bph with a 54 hour power reserve. And should work as advertised on the tin with little issues.

Competitive landscape

The BR 03 Gyrocompass is an interesting watch in the sense that it is principally a graphic treatment of the indicators of essentially a 3 hand watch. The use of a very slim minute hand with a triangle arrow head and a huge silhouette of an aircraft as the minute hand makes full use of the artistic license of making the watch in the image of an aircraft’s instrument. The compass engraved on the dial is non-functional, and there just for the aesthetic. As such, we are not sure if there is another watch which occupies the same space.

On the other hand, if one considers this a square watch in a ceramic case with three hand time indication, then the landscape is too wide to make any sensible comparison.

Concluding thoughts

Though we are obviously big fans of Bell & Ross and their watches, the BR 03 Gyrocompass has us scratching our heads. The watch is a result of a pure aesthetic exercise. Though as aesthetic explorations go, we offer due kudos to Bruno Belamich for the design, which is pleasing, if not a bit non-intuitive to tell the time. But must conclude that the BR 03 Gyrocompass is a whimsical look at the three hand watch.

Given the gyrocompass design brief, we would have preferred a different approach, but we are not watch designers. Might we be bold enough to suggest a more standard hour and minute hand approach with a real compass with the aeroplane silhouette would also fit the brief. And argue that this would be a better functional design than what we see in the BR 03 Gyrocompass.

But in conclusion, the BR 03 Gyrocompass does look good. Especially if one likes the instrument like vibes. It is a cool watch with an attitude (or altitude? pun intended) for that streetwear dude. What do you think?

Bell & Ross BR 03 Gyrocompass specifications

Movement: calibre BR-CAL.302. Automatic mechanical.

Functions: hours, minutes, seconds and date.
Case: 41 mm in width, 10.60 mm thick. Matte black ceramic

Dial: black. Cardinal points and triangle-shaped indices coated with green Super-LumiNova®. Black flange with white coated minute track.

Crystal: sapphire with anti-reflective coating.
Water-resistance: 100 metres.
Strap: black rubber and ultra-resilient black synthetic fabric. Buckle: pin. Steel with black PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) finish.