The latest watch from Bell & Ross is another in a long series of aviation themed timepieces built specifically to highlight a relationship with a particular aviation unit. Throughout Bell & Ross’s history, they’ve made watches with ties to French military units with special seals on the dial and functionality appropriate for the complex work of piloting a fighter jet. Their latest creation along these lines is a watch for pilots associated with the patrouille de France, the French Air and Space Force’s official aerobatic display team. The patrouille de France has been around since 1953, and serves primarily to represent the French Air and Space Force to an international audience at air shows. For the new watch, Bell & Ross worked with the patrouille de France to design a timepiece with functionality that is meant to meet their specific needs as aerobatic pilots, and serves as a poetic link to their unique role in the French military. Let’s take a closer look at this latest Bell & Ross limited edition.
While the patrouille de France is not a combat unit, they are still a part of the French armed forces, and thus the tools they use, including watches, must meet certain standards for durability and functionality. In that sense, the new BR 03-94 Patrouille de France is like any other Bell & Ross has made for a military unit in that’s it’s been designed to be highly legible, easy and reliable to operate, and with the robust square case that has become a Bell & Ross hallmark. The two register chronograph features a blue dial with stark white contrasting hour markers and hands for easy reading in any lighting situation. The chronograph seconds hand and minute totalizer (at the 9:00 position) are set off in a bright red to easily distinguish themselves as part of the watch’s chief complication. A date window is out of the way and unobtrusive at 4:30 in typical Bell & Ross fashion, and a rotating bezel allows for additional elapsed time calculations to be made on the fly (pardon the pun).
The case of the BR 03-94 Patrouille de France is made from black ceramic, a material that Bell & Ross is quick to point out is used frequently in the aerospace sector for its ability to withstand heat and corrosion. It makes a lot of sense as a material in a tool watch of any kind for its toughness and resistance to scratching, as well its light weight compared to stainless steel. In terms of pure aesthetics, it also gives the watch a sleek, modern look, particularly with the pairing here of a deep blue dial.
While the version of the BR 03-94 seen here is mechanical and available to the public, the watch made for use by the pilots of the patrouille de France is actually powered by a quartz caliber. This version is limited to 100 pieces and available only to the patrouille de France unit. The mechanical version (powered by the BR-CAL.301 automatic movement) is limited to 500 pieces. It measures in at 42mm in width and is rated to 100 meters of water resistance, which is not bad at all for a mechanical chronograph that isn’t expressly designed for diving. Of course, the patrouille de France seal can be found on the dial at 6:00, driving the connection to the elite aerobatic flight team home, and making this watch a meaningful memento for anyone with an appreciation for what they do or a personal connection to the squad.
The retail price for the BR 03-94 Patrouille de France is $6,400. More information can be found here.