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Review: Bell & Ross BR03 Aviation PVD

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Bell & Ross. A watch company synonymous with aviation style watches. A style that presents such a magic homage to the large instrument clusters found in airplanes. Started in 1992, this american based company headed by Swiss designers Bruno Belamich and Carlos A. Rosillo. They started life being made by German watchmaking company Sinn. That partnership ended in 2002 and they started their own independent production in their facilities La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Their aesthetic appeal is based on four basic principals: optimal water resistance, highly accurate Swiss mechanical movements, clear visual indicators and special functions intended for specific uses.

This brings us to the BR03 Aviation. Clearly they met those basic principals in leaps and bounds with this watch. Similar to the Breitling Aerospace, Bell & Ross used the quite brilliant ETA 988.333 quartz movement with analog style hands and a two line, multifunction reverse LCD display. Each of the functions are activated and used through the crown, just like with the Breitling Aerospace. Pushing the crown in allows you to scroll through the functions such as chronograph, alarm, timer, and different different time zones. It might seem awkward if you haven't used a watch like this before, but it is rather simple to be honest. The outlined (skeleton) hands on the watch are attractive, and serve nicely to not hinder the view of the LCD windows too much.

Now this is all fine and good, but you are all wondering: "how is the rep"???

In a word: fantastic!

Obviously since it uses the exact movement that Bell & Ross and Breitling both use, there is really nothing to discuss here. All of the functions are exactly the same and quite a bit of fun. I will say this.... this is the first watch that I have ever needed to consult the manual just to figure out how to set the time!!! It is not very obvious at all.

But, that being said, the box set is quite brilliant. It comes with the manual (thankfully) as well as an extra canvas strap. Included with this is a superb pair of bell & ross strap changing tools. They are very well made and fit the allen head screws on the strap bars perfectly. The rubber strap is quite nice and smells quite good too. The canvas strap, on the other hand, is a total piece of crap. Its almost an inch (that's 25.4mm for you metric folk) smaller than the genuine strap that I bought when I ordered the watch. (Note: for those of you who didn't see my earlier post a few weeks back, you can actually buy genuine straps directly from Bell & Ross.)

Anyways, back to the replica. The case is quite nice. Materials and workmanship are excellent. As usual, the PVD finish is a little too shiny, and since the genuine is actually coated using a DLC process, the PVD finish is completely wrong. Comparing the finish of the case to the finish of the buckle on the genuine canvas strap, it becomes painfully obvious how off the PVD finish really is. I may have to send this for a little beadblasting and DLC treatment sometime down the road.

The crystal appears to be sapphire and the AR coating is not too bad. I have noticed that the crystal seems a little more sensitive to oils and debris and, like the finish of the case, could stand to be redone by our resident AR expert. But for now, it will do just nicely.

The Negative LCD Display is nice, but I do not think it is a bright as the genuine. Now you are asking me: "I thought this was the genuine movement??" Yes, it is the genuine ETA 988.333 quartz movement, however, the little screens that go over the movement that create that Negative LCD effect are a part of the dial, which is, of course, a replica. I suspect there is a big difference in the quality of the polarizing material used and that is contributing to making the display that much harder to see.

One comment about the dual functions. In the manual, it states that there are different rotation speeds when turning the crown to change settings and functions. It states: "slow or quick depending on display to be changed (for example: in <<time-set>> position, quick rotation is used to change hours. Slow rotation is used to change minutes). N.B. The difference between the 2 rotation speeds is not easy to manage. For the "sharp" or "short" movment, several attempts will be required before getting used to the movement required."

They are not kidding here. The "sharp" movement is almost like trying to snap your finger while holding the crown. The speed needed to change the hour setting is ridiculous! And from what I have read, not uncommon with this movement. But...once you figure it out, it's really not that bad.

There are several functions made available with this watch. In fact, there are 8 different display modes: Off (no LCD display at all), Alarm, Chronograph, 2nd Time Zone, Timer, Perpetual Date, Seconds & Date, and finally, Digital Time (shows same time as analog hands).

The bezel is nicely finished and feels decent. Similar to other replicas, the click stop doesn't quite line up so when it is at its standard 12 o'clock position, you have to turn it a smidgen to get it to line up correctly. From the pictures I have seen, it looks as though the font used is correct, but a little thicker on the rep than on the genuine. Not a huge deal breaker for me at all, but I thought I should point it out.

Now then..... on to some pictures:

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Here is the genuine DLC buckle and strap:

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Box Set & Contents:

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And the wrist shot:

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All in all I am very, very pleased with this rep. This is my all time favorite Bell & Ross watch, and this replica fits my urgent need to own one quite nicely :thumbsupsmileyanim:

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Was waiting for this one and you didn't disappoint Red. Fantastic watch and what appears to be a very good replication.

Some DLC and this puppy is thumbsupsmileyanim.gif

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You are going to make me a poor, poor man Red :)

Love it, PM incoming with some questions :)

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The Negative LCD Display is nice, but I do not think it is a bright as the genuine. Now you are asking me: "I thought this was the genuine movement??" Yes, it is the genuine ETA 988.333 quartz movement, however, the little screens that go over the movement that create that Negative LCD effect are a part of the dial, which is, of course, a replica. I suspect there is a big difference in the quality of the polarizing material used and that is contributing to making the display that much harder to see.

The LCD is part of the movement and not a replication. Thats why the BR has the same font as many other watches with standard ETA display...

There have been reports of owners who owned older and newer Breitling Aerospace models, that the display was brighter on the older models. So probably a change made by ETA.

ETA_988.333.jpg

Also regarding the DLC comments:

How are you going to beadblast and DLC the bezel and get the white painted numbers on there again? And if you know how to, then buying a SS models will save you the beadblasting.

Edited by Tom Hawkes

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pullin' at my heartstrings too red!

great review and photos as usual.

@redwatch is the link to purchase straps right on the web-site?

Is there a SS version?

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Thanks folks! This is a real winner here.

@Tom - thanks for the info on the ETA movement. I wasn't aware of that, but it explains a lot. As for the DLC coating, it's not that hard to repaint the white bezel markings. It's a pretty easy process actually. I kind of gambled on the PVD case hoping that it would be a better finish than the standard rep PVD finish, but unfortunately it wasn't.

If anyone is considering this one, and wants a true to gen look, buy the SS version and have it DLC coated. :D

pullin' at my heartstrings too red!

great review and photos as usual.

@redwatch is the link to purchase straps right on the web-site?

Is there a SS version?

B - if you go to the B&R website, click on E-Boutique on the top menu, then select accessories. They have a stainless and carbon finish buckle option. You can also get an olive colored nylon strap with carbon finish buckle or a white nylon strap with SS buckle (if that suits your fancy)

Bell & Ross even offers up a nice little wrist measuring tape for free if you need one :D

You can find that here

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Does the bezel on the rep have an insert? (Can't quite tell from your pictures.)

Hard to tell to be honest. I'll check on that and get back to you.

Interesting that the gen negative LCD in your pic also looks quite dim. I guess that is how it is supposed to be.

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There is no bezel insert on gen or rep.

The Lume on the gen isnt THAT great. There is a BR Forum with a million complaints about how the lume sucks on model xy and so on and on with people even getting their gens relumed by watchmakers...

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How is the lume?

The gen has wonderful blue lume on hands and dial..

Lume is pretty bad actually. The "pearl" is quite bright but the hands and the 12, 6 & 9 are pretty dim at best.

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There is no bezel insert on gen or rep.

That's too bad. It means that it will be next to impossible to PVD or DLC coat this watch, and make it look like the gen (which has a different color and texture in the area of the bezel markers, simulating an insert). It also means that it will be more difficult to align the pointer at 12.

Here's another picture of a gen (from eBay):

CT25279c.jpg

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That's too bad. It means that it will be next to impossible to PVD or DLC coat this watch, and make it look like the gen (which has a different color and texture in the area of the bezel markers, simulating an insert).

You could try to dissolve the paint on the bezel on the SS model, then DLC it as is with the correct brushed/polished areas intact, then try to fill the former painted engravings with paint again. Although i think the numbers on the bezel arent deep enough engraved or almost not at all.. Not sure though. But at least you wont have to deal with differently finished areas after bead blasting the PVD off..

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You could try to dissolve the paint on the bezel on the SS model, then DLC it as is with the correct brushed/polished areas intact, then try to fill the former painted engravings with paint again. Although i think the numbers on the bezel arent deep enough engraved or almost not at all.. Not sure though. But at least you wont have to deal with differently finished areas after bead blasting the PVD off..

The engraving is surprisingly decent on the bezel actually. I am very confident that it wouldn't be difficult to re paint the numbers after treatment.

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You could try to dissolve the paint on the bezel on the SS model, then DLC it as is with the correct brushed/polished areas intact, then try to fill the former painted engravings with paint again. Although i think the numbers on the bezel arent deep enough engraved or almost not at all.. Not sure though. But at least you wont have to deal with differently finished areas after bead blasting the PVD off..

Good idea, but I don't think that the gen is brushed. All of the gen pictures that I've seen, including those I've shown above, show a glossier area around the numbers, with a matte finish everywhere else. (The insert area of the PVD and SS reps appears to be brushed.)

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The engraving is surprisingly decent on the bezel actually. I am very confident that it wouldn't be difficult to re paint the numbers after treatment.

Oh, ok. I thought the engraving wasn't very deep on the gen either, because I think that some people complained about the paint rubbing off, but I must have confused it with another watch then.

Good idea, but I don't think that the gen is brushed. All of the gen pictures that I've seen, including those I've shown above, show a glossier area around the numbers, with a matte finish everywhere else. (The insert area of the PVD and SS reps appears to be brushed.)

Mate, I wasn't talking about the bezel but the whole watch. If you beadblast it, you will have to redo the brushing and polishing. The SS rep is 100% as gen regarding looks. So just DLC the SS rep and putting paint on the bezel and wiping the excess off should leave you with a good result.

That is of course, if the SS and DLC gen models have the same finishing. Pics are pics, you would need to see it in the flesh I guess.

However the gen is pretty rare, so I doubt that anyone will notice the PVD/DLC difference even if you do manage to find someone who knows B&R.

Edited by Tom Hawkes

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