Bell & Ross BR 03-94 RS17

The new Bell & Ross BR 03-94 RS17 references the brand’s partnership with the RENAULT SPORT FORMULA ONE TEAM. Angus Davies recently attended the launch of the car which inspired this new watch and comments on this new, attractive chronograph.

This detailed review of the Bell & Ross BR 03-94 RS17 includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Image of Bell & Ross BR 03-94 RS17 Chronograph

Last week, I attended the unveiling of the new R.S.17 racing car, courtesy of the RENAULT SPORT FORMULA ONE TEAM and their watch partner, Bell & Ross. This is an interesting year in the field of Formula One as the regulations governing the sport have changed radically. The 2017 cars are wider, longer and lower. Moreover, specific wing measurements have changed and the tyres are also wider.

Image of Renault F1 RS17

In order to compete with the best, each team will endeavour to optimise the aerodynamics, paying much attention to downforce and grip. Hours will be spent in wind tunnels, honing the ideal shape and maximising the performance in pursuit of podium glory. The primary objective of honing aerodynamics is to make the car travel faster and allow the driver to place the car on the track with absolute precision, clipping apexes with aplomb.

At the event last week, the 2017 race car was unveiled, sporting a striking yellow and black colour scheme and a plethora of high-tech materials, including carbon fibre, all brought together with millimetric precision.

Not to miss out on this amazing public relations opportunity, Bell & Ross also unveiled its new chronograph, the new BR 03-94 RS17, a timepiece which doffs its hat to the new Renault Formula One car, courtesy of a host of design features.

Image of Nico Hulkenberg at launch of Renault F1 RS17

Clearly, Bell & Ross, with its iconic cockpit instrument aesthetics, will be forever associated with aviation. A Formula One car has often been described as a plane flying upside down, using aerodynamics to push the car into the ground rather than to generate ‘lift’. The associations between Formula One team, aviation and the watchmaker became clear once this was pointed out to me.

The new BR 03-94 RS17 is the first of a series of new ‘high-performance watches’ to be unveiled this year, with the latter models to be shown at Baselworld 2017.

The dial

The dial is a sea of carbon fibre, underscoring the links to Formula One. Bell & Ross pointed out that the idea for using carbon fibre came from the material being used on the steering wheel of the R.S.17 racing car.

Image of Bell & Ross BR 03-94 RS17 Chronograph

The dial features two-tone, anodised aluminium on the inner flange and the 30-minute chronograph register. The use of yellow detail is another reminder of the association with the RENAULT SPORT FORMULA ONE TEAM. The inner flange is adorned with a tachymeter scale and a date aperture resides at 4:30.

A small seconds display, featuring green detail, is positioned adjacent the crown. The faceted hour and minute hands are lined with luminescent fill. The hours are marked with Arabic numerals, presented in bold white and outlined in silver.

Legibility is absolute when reading the time in the pressure cooker environment of a race car and, thankfully, the Bell & Ross delivers excellent ease of read off with this new timepiece.

The case

The new BR 03-94 RS17 is housed in a matt ceramic case, measuring 42mm in diameter, and continues to retain the brand’s iconic cockpit instrument appearance.

Image of Bell & Ross BR 03-94 RS17 Chronograph

The crown features neat knurling and a tad of red brightwork adjacent the case. Two rectangular shaped pushpieces straddle the crown. The stop/start pushpiece at 2 o’clock is delivered in eye-catching yellow, while the reset pushpiece at 4 o’clock is delivered in stealthy black.

A ‘woven black rubber and ultra-resilient black synthetic fabric’ strap, partnered with a black PVD coated steel pin buckle, complete the ensemble.

The movement

The BR 03-94 RS17 is equipped with the calibre BR-CAL301 automatic movement. The details of the movement have not been specified by Bell & Ross, but it would appear to be a modular chronograph.

Unfortunately, no exposed movement was available to critique the quality of movement finishing.

Closing remarks

There is a problem with many watches, namely, many look similar. The Bell & Ross BR 03-94 RS17 could never be accused of looking like other watches. Its appearance draws on styling cues from the R.S.17 racing car and, in my opinion, looks both individual and handsome as a result.

Image of Nico Hulkenberg at launch of Renault F1 RS17

The lucidity of the dial is superb. A danger when creating a stylish timepiece is that functionality can sometimes be sacrificed on the altar of aesthetics. Thankfully, no such allegations could ever be directed towards this Bell & Ross timepiece. The carbon fibre dial provides a high-tech tapestry of grey and black hues which are widely found on Formula One cars, including the R.S.17 race car. It looks attractive, blends wonderfully with other dial constituents and doesn’t inhibit legibility.

There are many other dial details which delight, including the prudent use of other colours. Green, yellow, red and white all live together in harmonious union. Nothing detracts from reading the time or distracts the wearer when focussing on the road ahead.

The ceramic case has a magnificent muted air, courtesy of its matt treatment. However, this is tastefully enlivened with the judiciously applied colours, resulting in a delightful ensemble.

Image of Bell & Ross BR 03-94 RS17 Chronograph

Lastly, there is one further highlight of the Bell & Ross BR 03-94 RS17, namely its price. The recommended retail price of £4800 (RRP as at 25.2.2017) represents excellent value and, most pertinently, proves more affordable than the R.S.17 race car.

Further information

Technical specification

  • Model: Bell & Ross BR 03-94 R.S.17
  • Case: Matt black ceramic; diameter 42mm; sapphire crystal to front.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small sweep seconds; date; chronograph; tachymeter scale
  • Movement: Calibre BR-CAL.301 
  • Strap: Woven black rubber and ultra-resilient black synthetic fabric. Presented on a on a black PVD steel coated pin buckle.
  • Price: £4,800 (RRP as at 25.2.2017)
  • Limited Edition: 500 pieces
  • Model available at the Bell & Ross Boutique,
    48-49, Burlington Arcade, Mayfair, London W1J 0QJ
    Phone: 020 7629 6464

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