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Bell and Ross BR 126

This is the Bell & Ross 126 Sport and it is one of the most important watches currently sold by the sometimes polarizing French brand. Bell & Ross is a recognizable luxury brand thanks to their line of instrument-style watches like the BR 01 and its many iterations. These square-cased watches offer owners a chance of effectively wearing an aeronautical gauge on their wrist as their design has been derived from the legible military styling of an airplane instrument cluster. Both airplane gauges and watches find value in a similar sort of styling, mainly one based in contrast and simplicity with the primary goal being accuracy and legibility of the displayed values.
While Bell & Ross may be best known for their instrument lines, the brand has recently been on something of a tear, expanding the scope of their aesthetic with a range of vintage-inspired watches which are meant to echo the military and war-time roots of pilot’s watches. While we have shown you both the BR 123, BR 126 Original, and a highlight of the 126 Sport, we felt the need to try a 126 Sport on for a couple of weeks to offer a more complete view of this small but important variation of the BR 126 lineup (tough job, but you can thank me later).
The Bell & Ross 126 Sport is a 41mm sport chronograph featuring a bi-compax (two sub dial) layout. The main difference between the BR 126 and the BR 126 Sport is the addition of a thin fixed bezel which does give the 126 Sport a more… sporty look. While technically part of Bell & Ross’ “Vintage” line, the 126 Sport doesn’t exhibit any of the usual vintageshorthand we have seen in other watches like faux aged luminous paint, special markings or logos, or the use of retro-style hands/markers. The 126 Sport is a more simplified and modern example of a watch meant to suggest a certain respect for its lineage, if such a thing exists. With styling that is essentially a more military and pilot inspired take on the Omega Speedmaster, I think the BR 126 looks outstanding.
The bezel is 43mm wide so this 41mm watch wears a bit bigger than its listed size would suggest. Factoring for the size of the bezel and proportionally large dial, the BR 126 Sport wears like a perfectly modern sport watch and has a lot of wrist presence for a completely monochromatic watch.
The BR 126 Sport is powered by an ETA 2894 automatic chronograph movement, which can be seen via the sapphire display back. The ETA 2894 is essentially an ETA 2892A2 (top tier ETA three hand and date) which has been modified to offer a two dial chronograph. The chronograph displays its reading via the left sub dial (30 minute measure) and the full-size seconds hand. Running seconds for standard time are shown on the right sub dial. The dial design is simple, balanced and very legible with crisp markers and long thin hands. The BR 123/126 signature over sized 6 and 12 markers are still here and add a bit of casual military appeal to the 126 Sport dial design.

The chronograph controls are quite conventional with the start/pause assigned to the top pump-style pusher and reset assigned to the lower pusher. The action for the pushers is heavy and leaves no doubt that the pusher has been actuated (see video for example). The crown offers control of time and date setting. The BR 126 Sport is water resistant to 100m as the crown does not screw down. The sapphire crystal is treated with an anti-reflective coating and does a good job of managing reflections given its domed nature. The sapphire crystal sits on top of the bezel with the edge of the crystal exposed rather than being flush-mounted with the edge of case. This crystal application gives the 126 Sport a vintage feel, but may cause the crystal, especially its edge, to be more susceptible to damage from daily wear (see video for a better view of this). On the wrist, the polished steel case is bright and nicely compliments the flat black dial and polished hands and markers. The 126 Sport wears large enough but is actually only 51mm lug to lug and 13mm tall, including the domed sapphire crystal. Weight comes in at a completely reasonable 104g on the pictured black leather strap and deployment clasp.

As we previously reported, the Bell & Ross 126 Sport carries a retail price of $4500 USD which is pricey but not surprising given both average Bell & Ross prices and the varied competition in this range. So what makes the Bell & Ross 126 Sport so important? It expands their brand into a more traditional space. While there is nothing wrong with the BR 01, the iconic Bell & Ross instrument watches are a love or hate affair, much like the Omega Ploprof. I think the 123/126/126 Sport lineup offers a more accessible and versatile response to a buyer who appreciates Bell & Ross but isn’t all that enamored by their instrument style watches. The 126 Sport is certainly not Bell & Ross re-inventing the wheel but it is a very attractive point in their evolution of expanding their main lineup to include models with more mass-market appeal. I have to agree with Ariel’s assessment that the BR 126 Sport is an excellent option for someone looking for a well rounded, nicely made, and versatile daily wearer.

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Bell and Ross BR X1 Tourbillon

For 2022, Bell & Ross has updated the BR 01 collection with the BR-X1 (hands-on here) which takes the classic square-shaped cockpit instrument-inspired Bell & Ross watch design and renders it in its most modern look ever. aBlogtoWatch staff members were surprisingly satisfied with the Bell & Ross BR-X1 despite the watches being on the pricier side of what we’ve come to expect from the brand. So, in the spirit of very high-end Bell & Ross watches, here is the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillons – which comes in four limited editions all costing well .
Bell & Ross is no stranger to the tourbillon, having created a few such models over the years, starting with some interesting movements developed for them by movement specialists in Switzerland. You’ll see the base movement in the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon sitting in other watches produced in the luxury watch industry – and to be honest, among them, the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon is not wildly priced (comparatively speaking, that is). Bell & Ross hasn’t quite had the thunder it did a few years ago, but we still believe they make some very compelling products. So why a new tourbillon, and why now?
When meeting with Bell & Ross, you get the idea that things are changing. People might be moving internally, and overall, there is the sense that top-level management has decided to shake things up… so maybe some people are nervous (I don’t really know). What I can, however, predict is that the customer is going to win. Either there will be better marketing and a more concentrated product collection, or a total business revamping of the brand with new people and new ideas. So maybe these Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillons are the last hurrah of the “old” way at Bell & Ross. Maybe these are the pinnacle of what the BR 01 collection has come to. They even come – for what I believe is the first time… with diamonds. Yes, folks, that is right. The cockpit instrument panels of the future will ALL be lined with diamonds. So many bright things to look forward to.
It really does feel like a farewell party for the BR 01 on its 10th anniversary. I suppose, there are so many out there that Bell & Ross could take a break from making them for a while, wait for demand to catch up, and then bring them back by “popular demand.” Thanks, Corum Bubble! It is true what people say. Everyone does love a good comeback, and if anyone knows that better than the watch industry, I would like to meet them. Brands today are looking at what happens in the vintage market to, perhaps, end product collections, only to plan on bringing them back in the future. The vintage appeal of tomorrow might be much more calculated that the appeal of many vintage watches today.
Again, take all of this with a grain of salt. I have no idea what Bell & Ross is planning on doing. I’m just having a conversation with myself over what they might do to combat what some have said is a bit of brand stagnation. I mean, these are smart people running a major business; if things aren’t going right, they move the direction of the ship a bit.
Going back to the Bell & Ross BR-X1 case, it is the same 45mm-wide size of the BR 01 but with a wildly different design which looks like a watch version of a Transformer. This is like Hublot DNA got into Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillons and had fun. And that isn’t a bad thing. This is a great look for Bell & Ross, and helps show that it can be done with a square watch case design. That really isn’t easy. Of course, the case is a bit thicker, but that isn’t too big of a deal, given how tall some people like their watches to be. You have to understand that a decade ago when Bell & Ross first released the BR 01, people freaked out about the size. No, I never did, but some people were offended by the idea. What Bell & Ross didn’t realize was that it was ushering in a market for the much higher-end nice luxury sport watch industry that goes up to Richard Mille.
The coolest “functional” elements of the case design are the switch-style chronograph pushers. They work very well, but you can get them with the BR-X1 non-tourbillon models. For the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillons, Bell & Ross is only making the cases in either titanium or 18k rose gold.

On the wrist, I think they look really cool. They aren’t for everyone, but they have a great presence and are going to be very good for those who want a modern military style with a bit more grace than some of the competition that goes a bit overboard on the small details. Straps are rubber with a layer of alligator in them. It sounds weird, but wears really well.

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Bell and Ross BR X1 Chronograph

Bell & Ross BR-X1 chronograph are not entirely unlike a rock band, in that where many set out to achieve greatness and immortality, only a very select few actually manage to break through to the mainstream and become a successful act with its own distinctive sound. Such a link might seem tenuous, but in the case of most enduring bands and artists their music is immediately identifiable, and if Bell & Ross have a trademark ‘sound’, it would surely have to be their square-cased, round-faced BR 01 (& 03) Instrument series.
Originally designed in the image of flight deck instrumentation, the BR 01 series was a watch like no other. It was not particularly glamorous nor dressy in any sense, but what it lacked in beauty, it made up for as a robust, durable, highly legible and multi-practical piece of kit – which ultimately would find favour with special forces and professionals to whom time was a critical factor, and where reliability and functionality took precedent over classic good looks.
Now, in 2014, approaching its tenth year of production, and with over one hundred variations of the Instrument watch now available, from the weird and wonderful to the purely functional, the iconic square design welcomes a new addition to the family. Bell & Ross claim that every one of their collections have been inspired by the most significant eras in military history and for the new Instrument, the company have taken the futuristic experimental Bell X1 rocket plane from 1947 as its inspiration, and at the same time have carried off another ‘hit’ in the making: the Bell & Ross BR-X1 chronograph. It was launched in Paris this week.
Based around its skeletonised automatic self winding movement, revealed beneath a smoked sapphire dial, the Bell & Ross BR-X1 chronograph breathes new life into the tried and tested formula. Whereas in previous guises the Instrument (tourbillon or skulls excluded) was just that, an instrument, the use of brighter brushed titanium for the rehaut and outer dial, subdial ring and hands, combined with a soupçon of red, adds a new exciting technical-looking element to the mix.
SuperLumiNova applications to the hands and elongated appliqué hour indices, which protrude over the mechanism, ensure excellent readability in day or low light environments. Small seconds feature at the 3 o’clock position on a printed counter, and further on around at the 6, the date is displayed through an aperture in the smoked dial. The 30-minute chronograph counter uses a black four-bladed aluminium disc resembling a turbine with a red highlight for reference, which works really well here.

Constructed from lightweight but supremely durable materials such as its 45mm brushed titanium case, protective rubber corner fenders, ceramic lug mounts, red ceramic pushers, that red rubber grip at the 9, and of course the rubber strap, the combination of textures and colour means the BR-X1 jumps out instantly, catching the attention and making almost the same impact as its original did almost ten years before. The fusion of high-tech materials and manufacturing processes with the influences of the experimental space-age flight results in a timepiece that is not only a smart sports watch, but also one which would not look out of place in the cockpit instrument panel of any boy’s imagined space ship, and that is pretty hard to pull off successfully.

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Bell and Ross BR0192-HERITAGE

The BR 01 (BR01) watch collection is probably the most iconic timepiece of the Bell & Ross brand, and one of the most influential timepieces of last decade. Exactly where did it come from and why is it so popular? Bell & Ross as a brand is highly inspired by the German brand Sinn. In fact, one of the founders of Bell & Ross worked at Sinn, and early Bell & Ross watches were actually Sinn watches that were dual branded.

Sinn is sort of the anti-Swiss watch in theme. The brand offers high-quality tool and professional-use watches that are reasonably priced and have zero lifestyle marketing behind them. I believe at the time, the new Bell and Ross BR0192-HERITAGE brand saw an opportunity to market the Sinn concept to a more lifestyle and fashion oriented demographic, while retaining the core look and functionality that made Sinn what they were.
Soon after having success with offering Sinn watches in a new way Bell & Ross quickly started to develop its own personality and was among the first high-end watch brands that I recall ever noticing and lusting for. Born from historic military watches and functional instruments, the brand then (about 10 years ago), and now is still easy to love. A major part of that reason is that the majority of Bell & Ross watches feature very refined designs and dials that are often extremely easy to read. The mission of the brand was to offer a good-looking watch that said the people wearing them had good, but conservative taste, and weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty when necessary.

Using Swiss movements, Bell and Ross BR0192-HERITAGE is a contemporary French company. Even their “vintage” models have a fresh feel, while the brand’s entire collection is modern through and through. How did Bell & Ross manage to retain this look while featuring a collection that is mostly aimed at the past for inspiration? I think it has to do with restraint. Design restraint. Most Bell & Ross watch designs are simple at first glance. There are a few key design features that make each piece what it is – without going overboard. I can only guess that this type of design process is difficult because rather than adding features designers often need to strip them away.
I mention all this because in my opinion it is particularly salient to the BR 01 models. The BR 01 is a watch based on the look of an airplane cockpit dashboard clock. Im fact, you could probably use it as one. The square case is modeled after the modular design of cockpit instruments complete with retention screws. Go in any number of airplane cockpits and you’ll see where the design came from. The design includes large hands, easy to see hour numerals, and perfect contrast.
The purest BR 01 design when it comes to honoring these plane clocks is the BR 01-92 Carbon. Black coated metal is preferred in cockpits because it does not reflect light that may hinder visibility. Also a black and white dial offers the best contrast for legibility. This model also removes the date window which was offered on other BR 01-92 models. Just the time with seconds – a pure dashboard instrument.
Bell & Ross has always in my opinion expertly shrunken down the plane clock for use on the wrist. Some of the little details are the best, such as the well-rendered hands and four dial mounted screws that match the four bezel mounted screws. The dial is clean and crisp with indicators that are slightly raised due to the healthy amount of SuperLumiNova used for lume.

“Shrunken down” is of course a relative term as the Bell and Ross BR0192-HERITAGE is still a 46mm by 46mm wide square cased watch. When it first came out there was a lot of skepticism as to who might wear such a watch. The “big watch” craze wasn’t quite mainstream yet, and it look a lot of wrist time for people to be convinced that Bell & Ross was on to something. Nevertheless, Bell & Ross still released the slightly smaller BR 03 model a few years later to satisfy more wrist size preferences. Interestingly enough, as wide as the watch is, it feels very thin at 10.5mm thick. This low wrist profile is a major benefit of the design.
Personally I love the size and would choose the BR 01 over a BR 03 any day of the week. Other equally educated people might say just the opposite. The steel case is PVD coated black and water resistant to 100 meters. The sapphire crystal is AR coated for viewing ease. More little touches like the grating texture on the screw-down crown with engraved Bell & Ross logo are welcome bits. The large flat watch sits very comfortably on the wrist, which also means that while it is large, it won’t slide around.

One of the most clever design elements of the watch is how the straps integrate the lugs for a single, seamless look. The straps gently taper and are faceted (on the rubber versions) to help visually reduce the size of the watch. It is a quite refined and visually elegant strap design, while also being very simple. Also offered in leather, nylon Velcro, and other straps, the best strap for the BR 01 is still probably the rubber strap. Beautiful in it design, the strap is matched to a sexy buckle and is effortlessly easy to wear and comfortable.Personally I love the size and would choose the BR 01 over a BR 03 any day of the week. Other equally educated people might say just the opposite. The steel case is PVD coated black and water resistant to 100 meters. The sapphire crystal is AR coated for viewing ease. More little touches like the grating texture on the screw-down crown with engraved Bell & Ross logo are welcome bits. The large flat watch sits very comfortably on the wrist, which also means that while it is large, it won’t slide around.

One of the most clever design elements of the watch is how the straps integrate the lugs for a single, seamless look. The straps gently taper and are faceted (on the rubber versions) to help visually reduce the size of the watch. It is a quite refined and visually elegant strap design, while also being very simple. Also offered in leather, nylon Velcro, and other straps, the best strap for the BR 01 is still probably the rubber strap. Beautiful in it design, the strap is matched to a sexy buckle and is effortlessly easy to wear and comfortable.
Inside the BR 01-92 is a Swiss ETA 2892-2 automatic movement. Most BR 01 watches make it very clear which movement is inside of them. The BR 01-94 for example has a 2894 automatic chronograph movement while the BR 01-97 has a 2897 automatic with power reserve movement, and so forth. A number of brands out there use basic ETA movements and try to disguise the caliber names with their own lexicon. Bell & Ross seems to have little interest in this practice and I applaud them for focusing on what counts. They are not a watch movement maker but a watch maker. They use reliable industry tested movements inside watches of their own design, and don’t mean to confuse anyone in the process.

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Bell and Ross BR V2-94 RACING BIRD

Created in tribute to Bell & Ross’ new BR-Bird racing plane design (shown below), the new BR V2-94 Racing Bird Chronograph translates the plane’s concept and livery into a handsome and distinctive pilot’s chronograph. Following Bell & Ross’s in-house designs of race cars and motorcycles, the brand has designed a racing plane meant to compete in the Reno Air Races. It’s a sleek design with a rearward cockpit sitting well behind a broad set of wings. While only a conceptual design study, the BR-Bird has inspired a pair of handsome watches from Bell & Ross, this V2-94 chronograph, and the BR V1-92 three-hander.
Like its three-handed sibling, the BR V2-94 Racing Bird Chronograph is a distinct departure from the more vintage-inspired aesthetic of other models in this range from Bell & Ross. While the Racing Bird retains its 41mm steel case and two-register, 30-minute chronograph layout, this limited edition model opts for a more modern use of Arabic numerals set on a legible white dial with blue, grey, and orange accents. The typical date at 4:30 has been replaced by a “three-day” date display sunk into the base of the running seconds sub dial. The effect is sporty, fun, and undeniably connected to Bell & Ross’s aviation designs.

To get to the point, the more I look at the images, the more I like the BR V2-94 Racing Bird. I like the white dial, I like the blue and orange accents on the subdial at nine, I like that they have replicated the silhouette of the BR-Bird in the counter balance of the bright orange chronograph seconds hand. Oddly enough, I think I might like the date display too, which is a first for me. I like how it conforms to the shape of the register and that the date wheel is color matched to the dial. I’ll reserve final judgement until I get to see it in person at Baselworld, but BR-Bird or not, I think the Racing Bird chronograph looks really good. Limited to 999 units, the BR V2-94 Racing Bird is powered the ETA 2894-2 (which B&R calls the BR-CAL.301) and is available on a blue leather strap or a steel bracelet.

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Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT White

A watch that is sophisticated and stylish serves many purposes. The new Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT White is already wowing timepiece enthusiasts with its eye-catching opaline white dial and practical GMT function. The GMT function is ideal for air travelers who benefit from knowing the time at their current location and their destination. The BR 05 GMT White’s second time zone hand completes one revolution of the dial in 24 hours. It displays the time via a 24-hour scale, painted on the flange ring.
The company’s artistic director explained they tested numerous shades before finding the perfect white for this watch. It is a metallic white with silver, pearl-like reflections. The metallic effect is subtle yet appealing and pairs well with the stain-finished, polished steel case, strap, and buckle. The 41mm BR 05 GMT White is precise and easy to read, like the aeronautical instruments from which it draws inspiration. Super-Luminova fills the hour, minute, and GMT hands, ensuring the time is visible day or night. The Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT White is now available for preorder with an expected delivery date in October.
Derived from aeronautical onboard instruments, Bell & Ross watches have precision and readability in their DNA. The BR 05, created in 2019, is a watch designed to walk the avenues of large cities and their museums. The Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT White is a variant, suitable for travelling. This watch has two strong characteristics: a GMT complication and an opaline white dial. This timepiece is not only practical, with its indication of a dual time zone, it is also attractive, with its great distinction. Pilots, businessmen or globetrotters – all regulars at airport terminals -, are among the brand’s clients. Ideal for international travellers, these pieces find their natural habitat on a flight whether you are travelling to Rio, Nassau or Bamako.’
“The GMT is a common complication in watchmaking. It is one of the most useful functions that provide real practical information. It allows the display of the time of two time zones. In this sense, it fulfils the needs of air travellers”, recalls Bruno Belamich, Artistic Director of Bell & Ross. It gives them the advantage of having the time of their places of departure and arrival simultaneously.

“The GMT is a great success with our clients”, says Bruno Belamich. “We are launching this new BR 05 GMT White version, in order to respond to this strong interest.”

On this variant, the second time zone hand completes one revolution of the dial in 24 hours. It displays the time via a 24-hour scale, painted on the flange ring. This element is painted in two different tones: one for the day (between 6am and 6 pm) and the other for the night (between 6 pm and 6 am).

Usually, the traveller chooses the GMT hand to display the time of the departure time zone. Users generally prefer the central hour and minute hand to read the time in the time zone where we are.

The GMT White is powered by the self-winding BR-CAL 325 calibre.
The GMT complication has been fitted to the BR 05 range since 2021. The new family transports the aviation-inspired pieces of the brand into a new urban scenario, in the heart of the city. Its design embraces the brand’s iconic ‘circle within a square’ shape but in a refined, softened version. The angles are rounded, and the bracelet fits into the case. The two elements form an elegant whole.
White is a common colour in watchmaking. It is however quite rare within the Bell & Ross range. This shortcoming has been remedied with this BR 05 GMT White which follows on from the first BR 05 GMT with a black dial.

“After testing quite a few different shades, we chose the most precious white”, explains the artistic director of Bell & Ross,” the choice fell on a metallic white, galvanised with a particular texture”. This metallic effect goes perfectly with the metal case. “This type of white is more valuable than painted whites. The tint has silver reflections, very slightly pearly. Its matt finish is both subtle and sophisticated”, adds the Director. Called opaline, this shade gives it a dressy style.

The BR 05 GMT White also features red tones. In general, this colour is used to convey important information. In watchmaking, it often adorns the GMT hands, as is the case here. This red hand indicates a second timezone, displayed on a 24-hour scale with day/night indication. Red is the perfect partner for opaline white.
The 41 mm case of the BR 05 GMT White is entirely made of steel. Its finishes alternate between polished
and satin-brushed.

The hour and minute hands, numerals and indexes are covered with photo-luminescent superluminova. Legibility, a concept dear to Bell & Ross, is therefore guaranteed day and night.

The open caseback with sapphire crystal, characteristic of the BR 05 family, allows the original oscillating weight to be admired at 360°. Its design is inspired by a sports car rim.

“Clients appreciate the date function”, says Bruno Belamich. “On this new model, this indication takes place in a large aperture at 3 o’clock”.

Designed in steel, the integrated bracelet adopts a satin finish. Only the centre attachment links are polished.

A second rubber strap is available, for a more sporty style and a more attractive price.

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One of the most fashionable new watches at Baselworld 2019 was, not surprisingly, released by Paris-based Bell & Ross. Using the BR V2-94 watch collection as a base, the new-for-2019 limited-edition reference BRV294-BC-BR/SCA BR V2-94 Bellytanker Bronze combines a “rich look” with affordability in a non-tarnishing bronze case. On the wrist, you’d be hard-pressed not to think this watch was solid gold when viewing it from a few feet away. Enthusiasts, however, know that its wearer is more practical than flamboyant, opting for great design and aesthetics over sheer showing-off.

That isn’t to say the Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Bellytanker Bronze is a budget watch, at just under $5,000 — but it sure costs less than if the case were in gold. Bell & Ross’s BR V2-94 case is 41mm-wide and paired with actual screw-down chronograph pushers and a matching crown. The rear of the watch has a bellytanker automobile motif printed on the exhibition caseback window, as this is part of the Bell & Ross Bellytanker watch collection that debuted not too long ago. Inside the BR V2-94 Bellytanker Bronze watch is a Swiss ETA 2894 automatic chronograph movement (that they call the BR-CAL. 301) with a lightly decorated movement visible through the rear of the case. The chronograph on the dial is laid out with only one subdial (the other subdial is for the running seconds) making it a 30-minute chronograph. A small circular window between 4 and 5 o’clock has the date using a discreet black-colored disc.

Black and gold with some hints of red mark the attractively designed Bellytanker Bronze dial. The gold-toned subdials are a nice touch and remind me of the color palettes of certain Everose gold Rolex Daytona watch models. As I said above, Bell & Ross didn’t choose oxidizing bronze but rather a stable bronze alloy. This is an important distinction because the bronze alloys that helped popularize bronze as a modern watch material do, in fact, “patina” over time. This Bell & Ross with a bronze case (and some other watches out there) opted for a metal alloy that does not oxidize and subsequently patina. The watch will, of course, scratch, but it won’t start to get green or black over time. I prefer stable bronze, more often than not, and given that the BR V2-94 Bellytanker Bronze is going for a more chic (versus antique) look, I agree with Bell & Ross’ decision use stable bronze for the case.
Bell & Ross complemented this attractive watch color combination with a black calf leather strap and Bell & Ross’ still-pretty new deployant clasp. For the money, I can’t think of too many other modern watches out there that have as classy a look for a vintage-style sport watch design. As a limited edition of 999 pieces, the Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Bellytanker Bronze will easily be a sleeper hit from Bell & Ross for 2022

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Bell & Ross BR V2-92 Aeronavale

The Aeronavale is the aviation branch of the French Navy. Breguet famously equipped the Aeronavale with the battle-ready Type-20 pilot chronographs, which have been, and still are, ceaselessly coveted, collected, and copied. However, with the new Aeronavale 41-millimeter, Bell & Ross has created a watch suited not to battle garb but to the French Navy’s beautiful gold and blue full dress uniforms.The Aeronavale is not a “real” military watch. In fact, the French Navy had nothing to do with it. Rather, Bell & Ross BR V2-92 simply dreamed it up. Bell & Ross can get pretty conceptual this way, with recent examples including their copper-dialed Bellytanker (designed for an imaginary vintage land-speed-record scenario) and their sporty Racing Bird (meant to accompany a computer-generated high-speed plane).On the surface Bell & Ross’ concepts can seem lofty, but I’ve found that the concepts help bring these watches down-to-earth by eliminating the pretense that a mechanical watch is, today, a real tool. When you consider that a life-long American civilian like me regularly wears a watch that Bell & Ross dreamed up to complement the French Navy Air Division’s full dress uniform, the whole enterprise takes on an air of delightfully absurd costuming. But, somehow, overtly acknowledging that we’re all playing dress-up seems to temper the absurdity.But why would I—or anyone for that matter—fall for a watch like the Aeronavale? Typically there’s some personal connection that sets the heart aflame, and I’m sure others who enjoy the Aeronavale will have their own story. For me, it goes back to childhood.
One summer when I was around 12, the US Navy’s sailing team borrowed my Dad’s sailboat for a tet-a-tet against a crew of scrappy yahoos from the Buffalo Yacht Club. Predictably, the Navy’s clean-cut sailors breezily command victory. Later that night the Navy Band played the most badass funk—all of them in full dress uniforms like some strange spin-off of The Village People; the horn section lock-stepping to “Ladies’ Night” by Kool & The Gang; the dangerously handsome lead singer flirting with everyone’s wives and daughters. Utterly gobsmacked, Navy-cool has enchanted ever since.
Funny, though, that I didn’t fall in love with the Bell & Ross BR V2-92 Aeronavale’s predecessor, the 42-millimeter BR123 in the same colorway that Bell & Ross released in 2016. That watch has a significantly larger dial, and I felt like a poseur sporting such a huge blue and gold billboard. Thankfully, Bell & Ross has been following the trend toward smaller watches, and this new 41-millimeter 92-V2 Aeronavale is one of the best fitting, most elegant, and properly proportioned watches I own. It delivers just enough Navy-cool.

All of the Bell & Ross BR V2-92 watches run on the BR-CAL.302, an adaptation of the increasingly ubiquitous Sellita SW300-1, which itself is a near-clone of ETA’s 2892. The “-1” indicates that this movement has beefed-up teeth on the gear train, which Sellita claims reduces inaccuracies introduced by shock. Bell & Ross doesn’t disclose whether they’ve made any mechanical upgrades, and the only visible modification is the engraved logo and other subtle touches on the rotor. As with all SW330s, its a-magnetic Nivaflex hairspring oscillates 28,800 times an hour, it includes an Incabloc anti-shock system, and it can store up to 42 hours of power. The movement is visible through a sapphire crystal mounted in the handsome screwed-in case back.
Though I’ve made a strong case for its dressiness, I was delighted to find that the Areonavale dresses down just fine on a mil-strap. During the past couple of sweltering months I’ve had the Aeronavale on navy blue nylon and paired it with everything from shabby old work shirts and tattered khakis for Saturday schluffing to swim trunks and a rash-guard while paddle boarding. The Aeronavale’s versatility keeps this watch on my wrist far more than I had anticipated, and despite owning it for only a couple months, it is already my most worn watch this year.

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Bell and Ross BR V2-92 AUTO

The United States Army Air Corps standardized paint colors to be used on military assets in 1939. The Joint Aircraft Committee’s Subcommittee on Standardization elected to implement the the ANA (Army Navy Aircraft) color standard. This color standard created ANA 616, otherwise known as “Desert Sand.” Much like Olive Drab, this color has come to define military equipment, and to the general public it’s instantly recognizable as something purely tactical, as well as functional.
So it’s no surprise that Bell and Ross BR V2-92 chose the color scheme for the dial of the new Bell and Ross BR V2-92 sports watch. The company has made a name – and defined an identity – with large square-cased watches designed after cockpit instrumentation. But the V2-92 is nothing like those – instead it thoughtfully straddles a number of traditional watch categories. The V2-92 has the face of a field watch, the bezel of a dive watch, and the personality of something straight from Operation Desert Shield.
There’s a certain balance to this watch that’s hard to come by; the models typically associated with Bell & Ross don’t quite exemplify the same sort of utilitarian design that the Bell and Ross BR V2-92 gets right. It’s a total military mash-up, with design elements borrowed from field watches and dive watches packaged in a thin case. The domed crystal adds some additional thickness, for a total of 12mm thickness overall, but thanks to the thin case and high domed crystal you still get a very wearable watch.
The late ’80s saw the arrival of the Desert Battle Dress Uniform as the US military presence in desert regions increased. It was nicknamed “cookie dough camouflage” for its hues of tan and brown. The Bell and Ross BR V2-92 feels like it could have been issued right alongside this battle dress uniform, but could it stand up to the same rigors?
One hundred meters of water resistance puts it closer to field watch territory than in the dive watch camp, and the bi-directional bezel doesn’t offer the same sort of safety as a unidirectional bezel, but I don’t think this is the watch to take diving anyway. It’s a sort of do-it-all watch; a jack of all trades that sacrifices doing one thing really well in order to do a good job at the mix of situations an everyday watch is used for. I don’t think the target demographic will take any points off for the one-in-a-million chance that a bezel gets knocked off by a few clicks underwater. From a purely practical standpoint, a bi-directional bezel makes more sense anyway; when you have gloves on, you want to turn the bezel the least amount of distance possible. What this also means is that typical “bezel slop” isn’t present, instead you get an affirmative click in either direction. A display caseback may also contribute to the level of water resistance, but it frames the lightly finished BR-CAL.302 nicely.
While the enthusiast world might have trouble with date wheels, the Swiss industry as a whole just doesn’t seem to want to let them go. Naturally, there is a date wheel on this model, but it’s integrated so thoughtfully that it shouldn’t bother even the most cranky no-date purist (I’m one of them). The date wheel is color matched, and this isn’t a standard black or white-dialed watch, either. It’s a very specific hue of military beige, and the window is rather small. Again, this watch strikes an admirable balance between typically competing camps.
The Bell and Ross BR V2-92 wears the same typography as other Bell & Ross watches, but it appears softer, and the domed crystal distorts and diffuses it in a way that tones down the boldness found of some of the better-known models in the line. The bracelet also features polished center links. It balances out the hardcore tool watch aesthetic, but it’s also something you would never find on a watch that was actually engineered for the military in the modern era, anyway. You will, however, find an elastic canvas strap made famous by the Marine Nationale, included with the V2-92. Originally, the legend goes, paratroopers fashioned straps for their issued watches from the stretchy parachute webbing. The Bell & Ross strap features color-matched desert tan-accented black paracord.
The “vintage-inspired” branding is perhaps manifested in the domed crystal, but this watch certainly channels an earlier era of Bell & Ross, an era when the nascent company released watches like the Type Démineur, a watch designed for bomb disposal units, or the Space 3, a chrono that just screams “shuttle era.” Bell & Ross watches were initially produced by tool watch maker Sinn; the V2-92 shares a lot of the same design language as the Sinn-era Bell & Ross models, and that’s a wonderful thing.
Collectors are now considering watches from the ’80s and ’90s as “vintage,” and the V2-92 is branded as a vintage-inspired timepiece. The design of the watch, much like that of the A-10 Warthog that shined during the Desert Shield conflict in 1990, works just as well in 2022.

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Bell and Ross BR V2-93 GMT

The search for a good GMT watch never ends – and one of Bell & Ross’ latest entrants to this crowded two-time zone arena is the BR V2-93 GMT. Continuing on with Bell & Ross vintage and military history-inspired modern day luxury timepiece tradition, the BR V2-93 GMT blends a series of design elements into one rather cohesive product. One of the most popular types of watches for enthusiasts, GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) watches are useful because they show two time zones on the same dial allowing them to serve as ideal travel companions. Given that people who enjoy high-end timepieces also happen to travel quite a bit – the popularity of GMT watches for the enthusiast should be easy to understand.
Bell & Ross is no stranger to GMT watches and the BR V2-93 GMT is the newest design flavor more so than adding something radically new from a technological or material perspective. Detailing on the BR V2-93 GMT watch is very good and it is interesting to investigate the various classic wristwatch designs that Bell & Ross pulled from as inspiration for this product. In my opinion, this BR V2-93 GMT is a design amalgamation mixing elements of classic Rolex timepieces and the cockpit instrument design favored by major Bell & Ross military and aviation-themed watches.
It’s the curation of design elements, as well as the elegance of the design which is novel here, and I think Bell & Ross did a good job. If only because even though there are a lot of recognizable parts on the BR V2-93 GMT – it doesn’t immediately look like any other GMT watch currently on the market. That is always a challenge because a brand like Bell & Ross thrives by finding the sweet spot between “familiar” and “novel.” That means they are at their best when a customer associates a new watch product with the right type of aesthetic theme but does not confuse the new watch for something which already exists.
The orange arrow GMT hand is probably the most recognizable element borrowed from the world of Rolex – being similar to those used on various Rolex Explorer II models. The rest of the dial very much fits the cockpit instrument clock aesthetic which has been tied to Bell & Ross since the 2004 release of the BR01 Instrument collection. Since then Bell & Ross has rendered this dial design in a vast number of ways and in a range of case designs. The flat, slightly glossy black dial used high contrast thick-printed hour markers and attractive lume-painted hands. Note that the faceted hands are satin-finished on one half and polished on the other. I love this look and tend to gravitate toward this type of hand design. This mixture of elements offers a bit of a dressy look combined with the functional heritage that such a Bell & Ross dial is best known for. The dial is elegant, legible, and very distinctly a Bell & Ross while at the same time it evokes classic design elements beloved by generations of watch enthusiasts.
Over the dial is a “box-style” domed sapphire crystal design to mimic the shape of some traditional acrylic crystals. An effective application of AR (anti-reflective) coating ensures a glare-free viewing experience when you look at straight-on. Around the dial is a bi-directional rotating bezel with 24 positions. The bezel turns assuredly with solid notched for each of the 24 positions. This is the only scale for the GMT hand, but turning it can help you reference an additional third timezone if you know how to use this feature correctly. Bell & Ross gave the GMT bezel and attractive two-tone design mixing black with gray. I think it was a nice way to offer the “AM/PM” look of a bezel without making it too colorful. The color on this watch is sparse (on purpose) and limited to a bit of dial text and the matching orange GMT hand). My only gripe about the bezel is that it is in traditional anodized aluminum. That makes for a nice vintage look, but today’s watch buyers are increasingly interested in modern bezel materials such as ceramic which boast far better scratch resistance. The good news is aluminum bezel inserts are inexpensive and easy to replace – if you scratch up your bezel on the BR V2-93 GMT watch badly.