Bell & Ross has finally re-introduced its BR03-94 model. Called BR03-94 Tornado Chronograph, it features the same functionality, but is now dedicated to the legendary Tornado multi-purpose jets that are still in use by Italy’s Air Force.
The watch is still presented in the same massive stainless steel body that features that unique rugged look created courtesy of glass bead blasting for cool texture and black carbon fiber coating. Together, the techniques provide that matte finish that makes a luxury watch look like a miniature fighter jet altimeter or some other instrument, one of those that were so widely used by major aerospace corporations before the advent of HUDs and LCD-based upfront displays.
The watch still features those signature extra-wide luminous hands that, too, replicate indicators of WWII-era gauges. The pair of sub-dials are also there, but now the 30-minute chronograph counter at 9 hours and a small seconds indicator at 3 o’clock is accompanied by a logo that displays a Tornado jet silhouette inside Italy’s Air Force Red-White-Green insignia. The emblem looks almost like a real thing that could be employed by the Squadra Aerea Tornado but is in fact made to order to decorate this particular limited edition model.
Mechanically, this watch is identical to other BR03-94 models and is thus powered by an accurate and relatively reliable ETA 2894-2 caliber. I used the adjective because the blank movement is, in fact, an ETA 2892 tractor movement with a chronograph module sitting atop of it. The problem with such a design is that it takes more work to service this mechanism and there plain more parts to fail at just the wrong time.
Besides this minor annoyance, I don’t notice any other serious problem with this watch. Yes, it is huge and boxy, but not excessively so (just don’t try to wear it with formal attire). Also, the default rubber band that secures this timekeeper on your wrist may be irritating and uncomfortable during winter and summer, but you can always substitute the part with a “heavy-duty” synthetic canvas strap that is available for this sexy timekeeper.
Traditionally for the brand, the timekeeper’s signature square-shaped case features a boxy design that looks industrial but is also a bit too simple to my taste.
Measuring just 42 millimeters in width, the watch still makes an impression of a large object simply because it covers more square inches on your wrist due to its quadrangular footprint (extra wide strap with a robust-looking branded buckle makes this impression even stronger). The pair of short lugs make it a bit more comfortable for persons with more narrow wrists, but you must be aware that the BR03-94 is designed with larger people in mind. Of course, if you are fighter pilot and plan to wear this thing with a blackout suit, it will look perfectly at home even if you personally don’t tip the scale at 200 pounds or more.
What is really good about this timekeeper from the point of view of daily wearing is that it is also thin: according to official numbers, the watch measures just a tad over 12 mm top to bottom, but looks even more slender thanks to well-chosen proportions.
I would personally prefer the device to have its case back covered with a sapphire crystal, but that’s possibly too much to ask from a timepiece, which is pitched as a tool, not a fancy accessory (which it is).
Photos: Bell & Ross
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 3.5/5
Bell & Ross BR03-94 Tornado Chronograph specification
Price: $6000 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, caliber ETA 2894-2, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 37
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 47 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph
Case: Stainless steel, glass bead blasted, black carbon powder finish
Bezel shape: Round
Size: 42.00 mm
Case height: 12.10 mm
Hour markers: Luminous
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Black rubber band or heavy-duty synthetic canvas strap
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective