There are few more powerful promotional tools for a country’s military than the aerobatic display team. Organizations like the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the RAF Red Arrows, the Italian Frecce Tricolori, and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force Blue Impulse have amazed crowds the world over with their flying prowess, all while serving as exciting reminders of national pride. Few of these groups have had longer or more illustrious records than the French Air and Space Force’s Patrouille de France, which celebrates 70 years of dazzling crowds with Gallic precision and flair in 2023. To commemorate the occasion, proudly French marque Bell & Ross has partnered with the Patrouille de France, creating a limited edition variant of its famous square-cased pilot design that delivers a patriotic tribute to the team and its history. The new limited edition Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Patrouille de France 70th Anniversary gives the familiar BR 03-92 a bright, boldly Gallic new look, complete with nods to every era of the aerobatic team’s history.
Fans of the brand should be familiar with the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Patrouille de France 70th Anniversary 42mm-wide matte black ceramic case. This is functionally identical to the standard BR 03-92 in images, with the brand’s familiar cockpit instrument-inspired rounded-square case body still intact. This squared-off design should carry a prominent presence on the wrist, but short squared-off lugs and a relatively trim 10.4mm-thick overall height should keep it from feeling overwhelming. Bell & Ross begins to differentiate this model from its stablemates through its solid caseback. In one of the most complex and verbose caseback engravings in recent memory, the BR 03-92 Patrouille de France 70th Anniversary includes a silhouette and adoption date for each aircraft used by the team throughout its history. In addition to the Republic F-84G Thunderjet, the Dassault Ouragan, the Dassault Mystère IV, the Fouga Magister, and the Dassault Alphajet, the caseback also includes the group’s emblem and the commemorative design created for the Patrouille de France’s 70th anniversary. Like the standard production model, this watch is rated for a solid 100 meters of water resistance.
As one might expect, Bell & Ross decks the dial of the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Patrouille de France 70th Anniversary out in bright, saturated matte French racing blue. This vibrant base tone should make the watch stand out vividly on the wrist, but the brand also gives the rest of the dial a handful of equally eye-catching touches in initial images. The BR 03-92 has been the canvas for a broad range of styles over the years, but this model largely keeps the look close to the core pilot watch design, albeit with a few notable tweaks. As a start, the standard model’s oversized, swoopy Arabic numerals at the cardinal hours are gone, replaced by a set of sporty white printed Arabic numerals at each hour that call to mind a racing tachometer more than a pilot’s watch. The handset is a set of simple painted flieger hands, however, with a design that reinforces the aircraft instrument-inflected feel of the design in photos. Naturally, the Patrouille de France and the anniversary logos at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock pay the most obvious homage to the aerobatic group, but as a subtler touch the brand also separates the inner edge of the chapter ring into a French tricolor. It’s a striking touch, and one that gives this design an extra splash of color without coming off as overwhelming.
Bell & Ross powers the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Patrouille de France 70th Anniversary with the Sellita-based BR-CAL.302 automatic movement. Although this is a reliable and easily serviced platform, the BR-CAL.302 does suffer somewhat when compared with the in-house movements used by many competitors at this price point, particularly thanks to its middling 38 hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. Bell & Ross maintains the colorway of this striking design through its strap pairing, and fits the watch with a bright blue tapering leather strap embossed with the Patrouille de France emblem and adorned with handsome tricolor accent stitching. A heavy-duty black fabric strap is also provided.
For the past 70 years, the Patrouille de France has stood as one of the world’s most talented and prestigious aerobatic display teams, and Bell & Ross’s latest offering captures the spirit of this team and its heritage in a bright and enticing package. Only 999 examples of the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Patrouille de France 70th Anniversary will be made, and the watch is available now through authorized dealers.