Visibility has been a big thing with watches ever since Marie and Pierre Curie first identified the luminescent qualities of radium as it decays. For most of the 20th century, and long long after it was known that direct exposure to the highly radioactive element was potentially lethal, radium continued to light up the dials of aircraft and military watches, making quick and easy legibility in night ops—ironically—a potential lifesaver.
Watchmaker Bell & Ross was founded in 1992, just in time to profit from the arrival the next year of a new—and finally safe—light-emitting dial material: the Japanese-developed SuperLuminova. Its debut offered new possibilities for watch designers to dazzle by using large quantities of lume, as it is known colloquially in the watch trade. The trade-off in the new technology was that unlike radium, which zapped all and sundry with ionizing radiation 24/7, the new lume required exposure to a strong light source to even show up in the day.
Not so with one of Bell & Ross's newest releases. The brand was inspired from its beginnings by the high-visibility cockpit displays of military aircraft, but its most iconic design—with a round dial set inside a robust square case to mimic cockpit instruments—did not appear until the BR 01 launched in 2005. The BR series has since propagated a string of memorable editions.
The latest, which is available for preorder now and ships in June, is the limited-edition BR 03-92 HUD, inspired by the Head Up Display used in fighter jets to convey all the vital information a pilot needs to fly his plane, so he doesn’t have to look away from his target during a mission. This new release, not content with waiting for darkness—or a flashlight—to show off its talents, uses a green-tinted sapphire crystal to maximize the visibility of the readout for an impressive light show that goes on all day.