True story – one of the first luxury watches I remember noticing and becoming infatuated with, when I first became aware of high-end watches was impressive Bell & Ross BR03 GMT replica. For me this is the most important watch collection the brand has. The BR03 and it’s sibling, the slightly more muscular BR01 are inspired by aerospace instrument panels, which is why these watches are Bell & Ross’ instrument range.It was big, bold and overtly masculine. These days the big, square case and military aesthetic are more common, but Bell & Ross was truly a frontrunner in this space – and it is, I would argue a genuinely iconic design, and one very much of its time.
What caught my young eyes about this watch was just how different it was from the rest of the herd on the mid-noughties mainstream horological landscape.
Of course, Bell & Ross has moved on as a brand, developing further models and collections (with strong design ties to aviation), but the high quality fake Bell & Ross BR 03-51 GMT still endures and evolves, and holds a special place in my heart. Which is why I’m pleased to be able to finally get my hands on one. I’ve spent the last week or so with this guy on my wrist, and I think this particular Bell & Ross is a good example of the brand, and the model’s evolution – but do they risk losing site of the simplicity that made them great?
Read on for the full BR 03-51 GMT Titanium review.
As I’ve already mentioned the case is nothing short of a beast; 42mm of squared-off brutal titanium goodness. There is a decidedly industrial feel to this case, the expose screws and deep knurling of the crown make this case feel more like a highly engineered part of a high performance car. And that’s the point.
But, somewhat surprisingly the case is really comfortable to wear. It’s deceptively light thanks to the titanium construction, and even though it’s a big piece of metal the square shape wears well, and the stubby lugs help the watch hug the wrist. Plus it’s an undeniably fun watch to have on your person. However it’s not all beer and skittles, I had a few (albeit minor) gripes about the case. Small things, but the devil is in the details, and on any high-end watch the details matter a lot. The crown lacked a little heft – I feel a watch this size could do with a crown that’s been bulked up by a few fractions of a millimeter, which would add impact without (I believe) creating an uncomfortably overlarge crown. And it bugged me that the four front side case screws were not in alignment. I’m open to the possibility that because this was a demo watch it wasn’t as perfect as a retail piece would be, and I’m open to the fact that I didn’t take my OCD meds on the day, but it still bugged me.
Along with the titanium case, the dial of this watch is the defining stylistic element, and for me the modern, woven carbon fibre dial brings the watch down from the skies and onto the racetrack, especially when combined with the gear train-esque shape of the central black insert. Add to this textured dial the big date, the second time zone (with cool orange hour hand), the broad sword hands and you’ve got a lot going on. Especially when you subtract the usual big Arabic numerals, leaving only the 9 and the 12. It’s not a particularly displeasing dial, but it’s a departure from the minimal Bell & Ross norm.
The ticking heart of this Bell & Ross is a reliable ETA movement with Soprod modular complications – big date and a second time display at six. It’s an interesting complication combo, and I can see the appeal of both, but I think the second time display is better implemented in this particular case. Pull the crown out to the first position to change the date, and at the second position you can adjust the main and the second time displays, depending on which way you turn the crown. When you adjust the time on either display the minute hands on both will remain in sync, and the hour hand on the other display will remain locked, so your minutes will always match, which is handy.
One of the other distinctive features of this watch is the wide strap, which actually sits flush with the outside edge of the lugs rather than stay between the lugs like most straps. Rather paradoxically this design simultaneously manages to make the strap more macho, and more svelte at the same time. With a thinner strap the case would certainly wear larger than it does. The Rubber strap (with prominent BR branding) was comfortable to wear and came on an appropriately utilitarian signed tang buckle (a more fancy butterfly deployant would mess with the down and dirty/sporty vibe this watch conveys).
The basic design of the Swiss Bell&Ross BR03-51 copy is iconic. It’s bold and brutish. And Bell & Ross have come to treat the basic design as something like an empty canvas, regularly adding different features, colours and materials. This is yet another a good example, with the carbon fibre dial, big date and second time zone complication. It’s also an example of how sometimes more is not necessarily ‘more’ in terms of the value and appeal of the watch in total. It could have done with one less complication in my opinion. However this shouldn’t take away from the fact that this lightweight heavy-hitter wears really well, and is a seriously fun timepiece. The titanium case and carbon fibre dial is a great combo. Sure, it’s not going to be pulling suit duty too often, but that’s not what this watch is about.
The Watch Replica in 60 seconds
Who’s it for?
Someone who likes the bold look of the BR03, but who wants a little more going on than the more entry level instrument pieces.
What would we change?
There’s a bit going on here, date, second time zone, carbon dial. It all adds up and honestly I think this watch would be more solid if it lost one of those elements, and for me the weakest link is the big date.
|Reference No.:||BR 03-51|
|Case Material:||Titanium (grade 2)|
|Dial:||Carbon fibre with luminous numerals and indices|
|Strap:||Rubber with titanium buckle|
|Movement:||ETA 2892 movement with Soprod TT651 module|
|Functions:||Big date, second time zone.|