Since 2005, Bell & Ross has bolstered its reputation for high-altitude performance by crafting its Instruments collection in keeping with cockpit read-outs: square, utilitarian, rugged.
There is more equipment sitting inside a cockpit than just instruments. The pilot’s flight jacket, for instance – an essential piece of gear that, with the emergence of the military’s Jet Age in the 1950s, experienced a step change over in America: the introduction of the MA-1. Originally a lifesaving tool, a fashion icon ever since, and in 2019 the latest inspiration to Bell & Ross’ quest for pioneering design.
This year, meet the BR 03-92 MA-1, a streamlined take on Bell & Ross’ purest pilot watch, with subtly deployed details paying tribute to the US Air Force’s now-legendary MA-1 flight or ‘bomber’ jacket of 1958. Encased in dark-khaki ceramic, with a sandwich dial stenciled to reveal the orange luminescent beneath, plus reversible khaki/orange calfskin strap, this is a watch that – like the jacket – rewards the wearer with military know-how.
Like Bell & Ross’ professional watches, the MA-1 flight jacket answered a critical brief in a highly functional way – its sharp aesthetic was a form that simply followed.
The widespread adoption of jet aircraft in the Fifties meant that altitudes went higher and therefore much colder. Streamlining and an explosion in avionics also meant that cockpits were more compact. Military pilots’ bulky fleece-lined leather jackets of old, liable to freezing uncomfortably in-flight needed to be upgraded fast. Nylon was the alternative which is appropriate as up until then, nearly all production of the polyamide fiber had been devoted to parachutes and parachute cords during WWII.
The MA-1 was reversible too, so its orange lining could serve as a wearable beacon while a downed pilot was waiting for Search and Rescue. The jacket then had a resurgence in the 1970s, becoming a style icon.
The synergies of Bell & Ross’ 999-piece BR 03-92 MA-1 start with its jacket – not nylon, but similarly lightweight and scratch-proof ceramic, continuing across the dial. The khaki coloration serves as a stealthy foil to the stenciled-out orange numerals – luminescent for night flights.
The ceramic reaches this color when it is still at the oxide powder stage adding a pigment before the crystalline structure is made, creating this shade of dark khaki the at the earliest stage of development.
The dial is formed by two superimposing metal plates with a sandwich construction. The upper section is cut away around the numerals and indices, revealing the photoluminescent coating covering the lower plate.
The orange khaki color combination has always been synonymous with the military. Dark green shades keep the wearer camouflage in the most extreme conditions whilst orange has deep roots in aviation. Still used today it highlights the most crucial and urgent commands within the cockpit of the plane, from where Bell & Ross originally took its inspiration for the Instrument watches.
Like the jacket, the khaki calfskin leather strap of the BR 03-92 MA-1 is not only lined in orange but is also instantly reversible. Even the stitching is in dark khaki to be completely camouflaged, in contrast with the orange detail that is kept hidden underneath – this ensures the function of the underside of the strap is a secret to everyone but the wearer.
From vintage aviation enthusiast to style enthusiast, the BR 03-92 MA-1 packs a lot into its 42mm frame and suits all personalities – just like a high-performance flight jacket.