Hands-On: the Bell & Ross BR 03-93 GMT Blue

A GMT watch is more of a function than a style, yet I expect your mind goes straight to a red and blue ‘Pepsi’ bezel, or perhaps a red and black ‘Coke’. It’s now 10 years since Rolex first launched the 116710BLNR, so maybe the ‘Batman’ is more your style. Whichever is your favourite, a bi-color bezel is a common sight on a GMT watch. A couple of months back, Bell & Ross added another iteration to their GMT lineup. This one uses the BR 03 outline as its base, and combines it with a sharp blue and gray colorway. The blue isn’t restricted to one half of the bezel only though, which results in a vibrant looking watch. On paper, there’s a lot to like about the BR 03-93 GMT Blue, but how good is it on the wrist?


With Bell & Ross’s more typical square cased watches, the dial is relatively simple. Often a black dial, large indices, bold sword hands and plenty of lume. A real utilitarian look. There are some BR 03 models which are altogether more lavish. This is one. The blue dial is bright, with a sunburst finish, and is as vibrant in real life as you’d expect. What’s especially nice to see is that although Bell & Ross’s familiar design language is present in the large numerals at the cardinal points, they are applied indices rising above the dial with superb vertical brushing on the top surfaces. The other indices are also applied, with a generous amount of lume in each. Bell & Ross have taken the familiar, and elevated it into something more elegant. The hands follow the same template. The large sword hands are brushed steel with a crisp central crease. The additional GMT hand gets a splash of red to help it stand out but the thermally blued part of the hand, often camouflaged against the blue dial, is equally pleasing when the light catches it just right.


Hands-On: the Bell & Ross BR 03-93 GMT Blue

Stainless steel
BR Cal. 303
Sunburst Blue
Sapphire with internal AR coating
Blue calf leather, plus black synthetic nylon
Water Resistance
100 meters
42 x 51mm
Lug Width
2 years

The GMT’s bi-color bezel is anodized aluminium, giving a vibrant blue for 6pm to 6am, and a faded gray for the other half. I don’t know if the intention is to make the gray half look ghosted, but that’s the impression it left me with. The chapter ring, complete with 5 minute markers, is also blue. So is the date window floating in the lower right hand side of the dial. The red GMT hand is close to being the only thing that really contrasts against the sea of blue. It’s probably enough…but only just.

If you’ve handled any of Bell & Ross’s BR 03 or BR 01 watches before, either in ceramic or PVD coated steel, you will likely have noted that they are solid, well-constructed and very toolish. The first two adjectives still apply here, but instead of being played down, the case construction is highlighted through a combination of brushed flat surfaces (of which there are plenty) and polished chamfers. This really shows off the quality which has long been present in Bell & Ross’s square watches, but has not often been a real focal point. At 42mm and square the case is still large, and tying that together with some more glamourous finishing is always going to leave the wearer having to square the circle on that one. It’s a large and brash, yet sophisticated and muted watch.

GMT functionality is provided by the Cal 303 movement, which in turn uses the ETA 2893 as its base. That’s where the ‘93’ comes from in the BR 03-93 reference. This automatic caliber beats at 28,800bph and gives 42 hours of power reserve. The normal time setting functions—hours and minutes, with hacking seconds—are set from the second crown position, with date and independent GMT hand controlled from the first position of the push/pull crown. The bezel is bidirectional, with 24 precise clicks. I know it’s a common gripe that the ‘local time’ hour hand should really be the one that can be independently quick set, but this Bell & Ross is far from alone in this operation.

When talking, or writing, about any of Bell & Ross’s square watches I always encourage people to just try them on for size. Not just for a minute, but enough time for your wrist to get used to it. A 42mm square watch is significantly larger than a round watch of the same diameter, but that doesn’t mean it necessarily feels larger on the wrist. Much of the feeling of largeness comes from the strap rather than the watch. The lug width of 24mm only tells part of the story, as the standard style of Bell & Ross strap measures almost 10mm more than that at its widest and tapers down to…well, 24mm again at the buckle. The deep blue calf leather strap on the watch I’ve been enjoying is already supple and comfortable, but I don’t know how much wrist time it has seen before me. A black synthetic fabric strap is also supplied, which is one of the most comfortable straps I’ve used on any watch. The velcro fastening also means it should be easy to find your perfect fit.

Two years ago I took loan of the red and black “Coke” version of this same watch. To be completely honest that’s probably the colorway I would choose if I was to buy this watch. That colour combination is bolder and brighter, and more in keeping with my own interpretation of a classic GMT look. Although the sunburst blue dial catches the eye, the bezel colors give rise to a more conspicuous watch – even though it’s a 42mm square with polished chamfers. The watch is still an attention grabber, but perhaps a little more grown up. I’m not likely to buy either, as my own BR 03-92 AVIA covers my GMT needs, and many more besides. The BR 03-93 GMT Blue treads the fine line of staying true to the instrument inspired aesthetic Bell & Ross is famous for, while adding function and sophistication. I anticipate many will see this as too far a departure from the no-nonsense toolishness of the BR 03 line, and others will feel that this is perhaps the wrong housing for an elegant GMT watch. My own conclusion is that it manages to combine those two opposing styles successfully. Bell & Ross

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Brad stumbled into the watch world in 2011 and has been falling down the rabbit hole ever since. Based in London, Brad's interests lie in anything that ticks, sweeps or hums and is slightly off the beaten track.