Do you work for the Government? Do you wear a bulletproof vest more often than a Brioni business suit? Also, can you afford something more expensive than a quartz-powered Luminox? Then the 2009 Bell & Ross Instrument BR 01-97 Commando Power Reserve is just the right choice for you.
Sporting B&R’s traditional square-shaped body with the oversized hour and minute hands, as well as four huge Arabic hour markers, the BR 01-97 Commando Power Reserve nevertheless preserves a discreet and unobtrusive appearance.
With its dial inspired by instrument gauges of military planes, the gadget is easy to read and is pleasant to look at. Although some of their other “square” timekeepers do not look particularly impressive (mostly because of not very successful combinations of its military-inspired shape on one hand and “civilian” textures on the other), this one delivers just the right mix of a sand-blasted texture for the body and different shades of grey for the dial. Looking clean and mean and probably inspired by monochromatic chevrons on a military uniform, the combo makes a strong impression.
The reason, of course, is the wide use of different technologies providing the watch with a stealth-style look.
Its dark-grey stainless steel case, for example, is sandblasted and coated with carbon. Its sapphire crystal features antireflective coating on both outer and inner sides. And its hands and indices are coated with a generous amount of grey luminescent substance.
At 43 millimeters wide, the device will probably feel comfortable on any normal wrist, just keep in mind that, due to its boxy design, it will take a lot of wrist real estate and may look as bulky as a lot larger model with the circular-shaped body.
The only minor stylistic mistake is the power reserve indicator that looks like it was ripped off some other, um, normal watch and directly transplanted into the matte gray face of the BR 01-97.
Well, perhaps they just were too eager to draw your attention to the timekeeper’s main selling point. After all, there are not so many automatic tactical timepieces that feature this handy (one of the handiest, to my taste) complication.
The BR 01-97 is powered by a well-known (but modified with a power reserve module and new calendar wheel) ETA 2896 automatic caliber that offers a standard minimum power reserve time of 42 hours and has a special disc-locking mechanism that preserves the movement in case of severe shock.
Although the original ETA 2896 offers an easy to read big date indication, this version is equipped with a simpler calendar that displays current date via a tiny aperture at 3 o’clock.
Of course, military personal and other guys that serve and protect tend to have good eyes, however, even this sort of people may find it difficult to get the indicator’s reading after a long sleepless night.
But if you can live with this minor annoyance, then this watch is certainly for you. If you will manage to get one of only 500 copies destined to be sold all over the civilized world.
Build Quality: 5/5
Overall Legibility: 5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 5/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
See also: Revue Thommen Airspeed Instrument RT1920
Photo: Bell & Ross
Bell&Ross Instrument BR 01-97 Commando Power Reserve specification
Price range: Around $4500
Movement: Caliber ETA 2896, automatic, Swiss Made
Functions & Complications: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, power reserve indicator
Power reserve: 42 hours
Case: Stainless steel
Size: 43.00 mm x 43.00 mm
Case height: 12.00 mm
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Grey leather or a synthetic NATO strap with pin buckle
Crystal: Sapphire, double anti-reflective coating
Back: Solid, engraved