Most commonly known for their square watches, Bell & Ross has been making their classic round “vintage” collection of watches like the BR-126 and BR Sport Watch for years now. It’s been a while since aBlogtoWatch took a look at this collection and fortunately for us, 2017 sees the release of three new Bell & Ross vintage watches: the BR V1-92 Black Steel three hand and date watch; the slightly larger and more aggressive BR V2-92 Black Steel; and the chronograph BR V2-94. Let’s see what the three new Bell & Ross Vintage pilot’s watches have to offer, though I have to say I think all three knock it out of the park.
All images by Ariel Adams
The BR V1-92 is the smallest and least expensive of the bunch, but it’s likely to get the most attention. It’s got classic vintage pilot’s watch style and as you can see in the image above, the BR V1-92 (furthest watch to the right) has a simple steel bezel surrounding the “ultra-curved” anti-reflective sapphire. The dial keeps it simple and sticks to the basics. It’s highly legible and the use of only black and white on the dial along with the minimal text (other than the B&R insignia, the word “automatic” above 6 o’clock is it for text) leads to a refreshingly restrained and unfussy dial.
The large, long hands on the matte black dial are done in skeletonized metal filled with Super-LumiNova. The small circular date window between 4 and 5 o’clock is one of the most attractive and least distracting I’ve seen in some time and is bound to be least offensive to even the most ardent hater of the admittedly useful complication. Powering the BR V1-92 is the automatic BR-Cal. 302, their modified Sellita SW300-1. Operating at 28,800 vph, the movement gets a 38 hour power reserve. The watch, along with all the pieces in this collection, is water resistant to 100m.
In addition to the demure steel bezel and design, watch enthusiasts who tend to lean towards smaller pieces will be happy with the 38.5mm wide case, slim profile, and simple black calfskin strap. I am not the biggest fan of watches smaller than 40mm (even less so when they’re on a strap) but even I see the appeal of this unpretentious and self-confident classic pilot’s watch, especially when you consider that the price is under $2,000.
One notch above the BR V1-92 is the V2-92, which is a bigger, sportier, and more aggressive looking three-hander in the new vintage collection. Still running on the BR-Cal. 302 movement, this watch comes in a larger 41mm wide case with a screw-down crown (and also comes in a steel bracelet as well as a calfskin option). The most significant difference, though, is the rotating bezel that is present in this model. A rotating steel bezel with an anodized black aluminum ring and 60-minute scale, this bezel adds a diver’s touch to the watch. This likely will agitate pilot watch purists, but thankfully, Bell & Ross has already given them a piece to rally around in the aforementioned V1-92.
Personally, I quite like the V2-92 but I have to say the addition of the text lines reading “Water Resistant” and “100m” take away from the elegant simplicity of the dial. I probably wouldn’t have noticed or commented on it if this was a standalone watch, but next to the V1-92, I have to say I much prefer the dial with less text on it.
Finally, the BR V2-92 is the chronograph model, which I personally am very fond of. It’s 41mm wide with the curved lugs and “ultra-curved” sapphire crystal seen throughout this collection. There are two sub-dials, with a seconds counter at 3 o’clock and 30 minute totalizer at 9 o’clock. The anodized aluminum bezel has a tachymeter scale which is so often an eyesore in my opinion, but the font and color blends right in with the rest of the watch and actually looks very nice here.
The movement used in the V2-94 is the automatic BR-Cal. 301, which is their modified ETA-2894-2. It operates at 28,800 vph and gets a 42 hour power reserve, so it just squeaks in at weekend length. This model is available with a steel bracelet or calfskin strap, but I honestly would almost always go with the steel bracelet here. I think it just matches the attitude and style of the watch much better.
Overall, it’s a very attractive and thoughtfully made chronograph in a world of countless options. I think it says a lot about the personality and taste of the person who chooses to wear this piece. Not only is it an outlier (as are all these round watches) in terms of what the brand is known for, it’s a not-cheap chronograph in a world full of iconic and varied chronographs like Omega Speedmasters, Zenith El Primeros, and Breitling Navitimers. Granted, the Bell & Ross is priced less than most of these – we live in a world of plenty when it comes to the second-hand market with these pieces. I think the self-confidence (a phrase I’m intentionally using again in this article) of this watch is something that comes off in spades and would likely describe the wearer, as well.
Using its micro-rotor and ampersand-adorned flying tourbillon, the BR X2 was a step nearer to this newest invention not least because it had been something of a sapphire sandwich. The newest Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire is like a practical hybrid of both — but with a twist, since it employs the BR-X1 case constructed out of five, quite carefully carved sapphire blocks.The Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire is a whole hell of a long way to get a new whose humble beginnings began with instrument watches (remember B&R’s watches was fabricated by German instrument watch master Sinn), but a journey that’s gotten much more impressive as the Experimental line continues to find fascinating ways to visually and technologically push the envelope. Sapphire crystal is more or less scratch-proof, but its hardness is now particularly difficult to utilize in anything other than very simple shapes. Technology and techniques have improved in recent years, however, with more completely sapphire-cased watches, and even prices for them starting to come down like with the Hublot Big Bang UNICO Sapphire (hands-on) – however they tend to stay more infrequent and expensive even than precious metal case watches.
The Bell & Ross vintage collection got a welcome set of new additions this year, and they all run the gamut in price range for sub-$5,000 watches. The 38.5mm BR V1-92 Black Steel three hand and date watch on a leather strap is priced at $1,900. The bigger 41mm wide three hand and date BR V2-92 Black Steel is priced at $2,900 on a calfskin strap and $3,200 on a steel bracelet. Finally, the BR V2-94 chronograph is priced at $4,300 on a leather strap and $4,600 on a steel bracelet. bellross.com