There are two deadlines which actually matter, the bagdrop deadline (typically 40min to 1h before departure) and gate closing. The former is specified by airline policy, potentially on a per-airport basis. The latter is specified on your boarding pass.
For the bagdrop deadline, you need to take into account queing time. At a small airport, a counter might be serving essentially only one flight at a time. In this case, arriving only a few minutes before deadline is probably still going to work out. At a larger airport, you might end up in the same queue as people for later flights, and arriving at the last moment is going to be problematic. Objective here is to actually drop off your bag before the bag drop deadline has passed.
The actual gate closing time is typically after the printed one, but you don't know how much later (if at all), and if you miss this one, you're definitely not on the plane. Important thing is to be at the gate at the important time. You don't need to account for wait time at the gate, but you do need to account for security control as well as just the time it takes to walk (or take shuttles) to get to the gate.
Recommendations like "be at the airport 2-3h prior to departure" only matter if you miss any of the deadlines above and thereby your flight, and then try to shift the blame. If you followed the recommendation and encountered a freak 2h long queue at security, you can expect the airline to be way more cooperative then if you thought you could make it from the entrance to the gate in Heathrow in 20min and failed...
Another aspect to consider is that the system wouldn't work if anyone arrives at the last minute. So arriving at the last minute occassionally is fine, and shouldn't lead to missed flights (at the last minute, not after!!), but making a habit out of it is probably antisocial.
For your concrete setting (6am flight, Bristol), I personally would feel comfortable arriving at the airport 90min prior to departure. I'd probably bit a slightly earlier planned arrival time and leave some safety margin in case there is a delay on the way to the airport, I'd still be there about 75min prior to the departure.