Bell & Ross DIVER FULL LUM Review

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BR 03-92 DIVER FULL LUM lume

The Mondaine Swiss Railways watch is no longer the world’s most legible watch. That honor belongs to the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 DIVER FULL LUM (shown here in complete darkness). The Bell & Ross DFL is fully, completely, totally, inescapably lumed and it provides just as much daytime legibility as the Railways watch. Bell & Ross accomplished this feat by. . .

Swiss_Super-LumiNova_Chart

fully coating a minimalist dial with green Swiss Super-LumiNova C5, and filling the skeletonized indices and bezel’s numerals with green Super-LumiNova C3.

As the chart indicates, C3 is Super-LuminNova’s brightest pigment. C5 is the chemist’s third most luminous formulation (second if you exclude white). The DIVER FULL LUME is as good as it gets without resorting to tritium gas tubes. Actually, even then.

Bell & Ross glow-in-the-day watch

Whereas tubes give you individual points of reference to divine the time, the DFL’s glow-in-the-dark dial forms a complete image. With Bell & Ross’ perfectly-sized logo orienting your eyes, you instantly recognize the entire watch face, perceive the hands’ positioning and grok the exact time. In pitch dark.

How luminescent is the DIVER FULL LUME? If you were a kid secretly reading a book under the covers, you could use this watch instead of a flashlight. Hold the DFL’s dial right up to your face in the dark, close your eyes and enjoy the after-image. It’s brighter than a math nerd on adderall.

Thanks to XI grade Super-LumiNova, the DFL remains luminescent for a good eight hours. This is the watch that sleep-interrupted old folks need for a quick middle of the night time check. Or so they tell me.

Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Full Lume at full lume

B&R’s mean green lume machine follows hot on the heels of the French-owned watchmaker’s BR 03-92 FULL LUME. While that timepiece boasts a funky luminescent strap, its face is flat and the 12, 3, 6 and 9 indices are painted on. It looks more like a night light than a watch.

Don’t get me wrong: the DFL’s predecessor is a wonderfully exuberant and enigmatic watch. It’s no surprise that the 250-piece production run sold out as soon as it went on sale – for $1200 more than the $4500 DIVER FULL LUME. Yes, there is that.

The more appropriate comparison: ye olde TAG Heuer Professional Night Dive watch, briefly glimpsed in 1987’s Bond flick The Living Daylights.

It’s a close call between the two luminaries. The DFL wins the nighttime legibility sweepstakes by virtue of its 3D dial, infilled black-framed indices and hands, and fully luminescent bezel.

Bell & Ross FULL LUME DIVER closeup

In living daylight, there’s no comparison to the previous B&R model, the TAG or any other watch.

The DFL’s dial offers almost cartoonish clarity, aided by its sheer size (41mm), the dished rehaut’s descending indices and the sapphire crystal’s anti-reflective coating. If you can’t tell the time at a glance with this watch, you can’t tell the time.

B&R DFL close close up

Even the tiny quick-set date lingering between the 4 and 5 is easily seen (and, thankfully, ignored).

Mind you, the date “MUST NOT” be changed when the hands are between 9 and 3 “UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES” or something may happen, you never know what. Whatever it is, it won’t be covered by the two-year warranty . . .

Bell & Ross DIVER FULL LUME with diver

As you’d expect, the DIVER FULL LUME is a proper dive watch.

Yes, I know: an airplane cockpit instrument-inspired dive watch is like a sports car-inspired pickup truck. And yet the world is a better place for the Ford Raptor and the Bell & Ross DIVER FULL LUME.

B&R DIVER FULL LUME case

Housed in a matte black ceramic case that doubles as a diving weight – tipping the scales at 5.6-ounces – the DFL is water resistant to 300m.

Not even the misaligned rear case screws and the warning not to place the DFL near a smartphone (lest it magnetize the watch) ding the impression of bulletproof reliability.

The DFL’s fully-luminous 120-click uni-directional bezel moves with all the ratchety precision underwater adventurers and gourmet chefs require. And if the massive rubber strap doesn’t say dive watch, then a dive tank can’t double as a great white shark’s cigar. (If you know what I mean.)

Bell & Ross DIVER FULL LUME timer

B&R’s horological meisterstück’s powered by their third gen BR-CAL.302 movement (Sellita SW300-1 base). The dead nuts accurate engine’s 28,800 bph beat rate yields a smooth second hand sweep and a 38-hour power reserve.

That’s hardly Panerai territory, but who cares? Bitching about liberating the DFL’s screw down crown to set the time (via hacking seconds) and wind the watch revokes your membership in The Tool Watch Wearer’s Club.

Bell & Ross DIVER FULL LUME rubber strap

The DLF comes with the aforementioned rubber strap, an “ultra-resilient” black synthetic fabric strap and two tools to swap them.

Although Eberhard accused me of using the Scafograf’s rubber strap as a tourniquet, I’m here to say the B&R’s strap holes are too far apart for a precise fit. And the small horizontal grooves trap an awful lot of schmutz.

B&R DIVER FULL LUME underwater

The Bell & Ross DIVER FULL LUME kills two birds with one stone. It’s both a gimmicky, highly collectible limited edition watch and a hugely legible dive watch that’s practically perfect in every way.

Watch that glows

With the exception of those misaligned case screws. What you can’t see won’t hurt you, I suppose. And what you can see is this watch, from way across the room, in the dark, for hours and hours. How great is that?

Model: Bell & Ross BR 03-92  DIVER FULL LUME (limited to 999 pieces)
Price: $4500

SPECIFICATIONS:

Case size: 41mm
Case Height:
9.8mm
Case material:
Ceramic
Caseback: Fully-sealed
Crystal:
Anti-reflective sapphire
Crown: Screw-in
Movement:
BR-CAL.302 (Sellita SW300-1 base)
Weight:
5.6 ounces
Water Resistance:
300m/1000ft.

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Design * * * * * 
A round peg in a square hole that works perfectly thanks to its Tron-like dial and single-minded tool watch focus.

Legibility * * * * * 
The world’s most legible wristwatch.

Accuracy: * * * * * 
Less than one second-per-day variation from a time-tested movement.

Overall *  * * * *
Misaligned case screws on the back of a $4500 watch are ridiculous, but the DIVER FULL LUME’s luminous legibility and solid construction make it a five-star watch for the ages.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I dunno. If legibility is the yardstick of success, then yeah…5 stars. But this watch feels, to me, overdone. Not nuanced. Too obvious in every way. “You want lume? Oh I’ll give you lume!” “You want chunk factor? Set your dial to 11, baby!” Just a little too extra to be as satisfying one year later.

    • You raise a good point. As I said in the review, the dial is cartoonish. But some cartoons are better than others. I reckon it’s … Dexter’s Lab. Both sarcastic and authentic. Not to coin a phrase (and make a bad pun), time will tell. Meanwhile, I would not bet against it. At least not until you commune with it in the dark.

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