Introducing the Bell & Ross 03-92 Patrouille De France 70th Anniversary
The third annual edition in partnership with the French Air and Space Force.
An assembly of the finest fighter pilots flying under the French flag, the Patrouille de France is already well-known in watchmaking circles. Fans of aviation-focused horology might remember the brand’s previous partnership with Breitling, which gave us some of the most collectible limited editions produced in recent memory. We saw special releases in the Chronomat, Navitimer, and — perhaps most fondly remembered — Aerospace collections. Now, for the third time since the partnership began in 2021, Bell & Ross is adding to its legacy of flight with the new BR 03-92 Patrouille De France 70th Anniversary watch.
Pleasingly, Bell & Ross has chosen a very simple tack this time. The design from the first iterations (a compur style chronograph from ‘21 and a brilliant multi-function quartz watch, very much in the vein of the Breitling Aerospace that long preceded it, launching in ‘22), has been pared back, focusing instead on a highly legible and unabashedly commemorative time and date edition.
Although typically square, the case (water resistant to 100 meters) is, rather less typically, made from black ceramic. And while Bell & Ross opted to keep the case back closed, the brand has decorated the reverse with a visually appealing catalog of jets. To me, this is a good example of how interesting case back imagery can transform a closed case from an apparent afterthought (something of which brands are far too often guilty) to the star of the show.
B&R describes the shade of blue, inspired by the color of the fleet’s famous Alpha jet, as “particularly luminous.” While it does not glow when the lights are low, it certainly makes a statement.
Amazingly, when the Alpha first took to the skies, the Patrouille de France was just 28 years old. Now, 42 years later, France’s most famous aerial unit is well-established as one of the Western world’s most accomplished aviation teams. It is clear, from the words of Carlos Rosillo, president and co-founder of Bell & Ross, that the brand is keen to closely align itself with “aeronautical excellence” in the hope this partnership, among other associated marketing activations, is able to draw a strong line between the “House of Bell & Ross” and the history of military aviation that has been such an inspiration for the brand.
Surrounding the bright blue dial is a four-part circle inspired by the tricolor flag of France. Split into four sections, the line shifts from white (running between the 55 and 05 minutes markers on the slanting minuterie that sits between it and the crystal’s edge), to red (between the 05 and 25 minute markers), back to white for the ten minutes between 25 and 35, and finally to blue (from 35 to 55 minutes).
Upon first glance, I wondered why the line hadn’t simply been split into three even blocks of 20 minutes each, but quickly realized that the format has the dual effect of allowing the French flag to “appear” twice on the dial (once at the top and once at the bottom), while also providing excellent balance along the vertical axis. The watch remains clear and legible and the eye isn’t distracted as it might have been, had the decorative line been split into three instead of four parts.
The tricolor appears twice more in this undeniably patriotic piece, once in the official Patrouille de France logo placed around nine o’clock and again in the special 70th-anniversary insignia at three. The official Patrouille de France logo is wonderful to see because it is identical to the one used in previous special edition watches created for the unit. This element connects this piece to the history of the team and makes it especially collectible for fans of the Paris-based Bell & Ross, the Patrouille de France itself, or more generally of aviation alike.
Personally, I love it when partnerships make sense. The aforementioned Breitling Aerospace was nothing short of a classic, and while not the rarest of the venerated Swiss brand’s output, a popular piece that struck a true note it was indeed. And as satisfyingly congruous as the collaboration between a highly-regarded aviation brand and a crack team of aerial hotshots was, there is something perhaps even more natural about this nationally-aligned pairing.
Although it’s fair to say that implicit Frenchness is not what one thinks of first whenever looking at or wearing a Bell & Ross, the brand’s Parisian roots are important to its character. This collaboration is a win for both the brand and the Patrouille de France. The subtle (and not-so-subtle) details utilized increase its chances of meeting with success, as does the 42mm diameter, which although makes for a sizable square watch, works well with the lightweight and visually demure black ceramic.
My favorite element? The case back. In addition to the technical style of the illustrated aircraft history being 100% on-brand, it is also very well executed. Arranged in chronological order of their service, we have the Thunderjet (1953), the Ouragan (1954), the Mystère IV (1957) the Magister (1964), and finally the Alpha Jet(1981), which is still being flown today. The official logo and the commemorative anniversary patch add the finishing touches to the simplest and perhaps most authentic addition to the Patrouille de France line by Bell & Ross yet.
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Patrouille De France 70th Anniversary
Movement: Swiss-made automatic
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and date
Case: 42mm black ceramic, water resistant 100m
Dial: A “luminous” shade of blue, inspired by the color of the Alpha Jet
Strap: Blue leather with tricolor shoulder stitching
Availability: Limited to 999 pieces
Price: USD 4,100
MORE STORIES ABOUT BELL & ROSS
|Movement||Self-winding caliber A-500; 60 hours power reserve|
|Functions||Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph and date|
|Case||42.5mm; titanium; water resistant to 30m|
|Dial||Salmon (6N gold plated) with gené or frosted area; Super-LumiNova filled Arabic numerals|
|Strap||Ballistic gray rubber; titanium folding clasp|