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Bell and Ross BR V3-94

Several years ago when I first began to really indulge my interest in watches, Bell & Ross was one of the first brands outside the household names that I became aware of. I can distinctly remember walking into a Tourneau and seeing the Bell & Ross display prominently featured to my right immediately as I entered. Under the glass I saw a bunch of square watches that looked like some combination of a children’s toy, an aircraft instrument, and avant-garde design objects. I was so new to watches at the time that I even remember having an intrinsic understanding, from the watches and marketing materials alone, that Bell & Ross was surely some manner of historic watch brand that must be an insider’s secret.

Hey, I was new. I definitely hadn’t discovered Worn & Wound or any other watch related websites by this point, and was probably taking my cues mostly from StyleForum and advertisements in glossy magazines. Bell and Ross BR V3-94, of course, is not a historical watch brand. They were founded in 1992 by Bruno Belamich and Carlos A. Rosillo, and eventually gained traction with their BR series of square cased watches with circular dials, made to look like gauges on the instrument clusters you’d find in an airplane. Bell & Ross sought out opportunities to bolster their reputation as an aviator’s brand, and became the official supplier of watches to the French space program and the French Air Force.
Bell & Ross is the product of a somewhat simpler time in watch enthusiasm, right before the blogs hit, and Instagram became essential. They predate a lot of snobbery that is now associated with the luxury watch world, and I’ve been around just long enough to look back on peak Bell & Ross with some nostalgia. This has always been a design forward brand with an emphasis on storytelling, and jabs at some perceived lack of authenticity are misdirected, in my opinion. Bell & Ross never set out to fake anything, but they’ve always cultivated a very specific identity.

I like authenticity, but I also read fiction, and I don’t demand that every watch have an origin story that’s centuries old. I do, however, insist that watches be well thought out, made with integrity, wearable, and aesthetically pleasing, so that’s how I came to the Bell and Ross BR V3-94 Black Steel, an imposing chronograph that’s definitely not square – but also kind of is. Let’s get into it.
The Black Steel is part of the Bell & Ross “Vintage” collection, which forgoes the instrument style square cases for traditional shapes that register as “normal” watches. These aren’t the kinds of watches that necessarily jump right out at you when you walk into Tourneau for the first time, but they are perhaps the type of watches that possess a certain refined elegance that will stand the test of time, and could never be considered a fad.

While other watches in the Vintage collection have proportions that you could reasonably associate with actual vintage watches, the Black Steel, unfortunately, does not. The BR V1 (a simple time and date range) and the BR V2 (a midsize platform hosting a range of complications) come in with cases measuring 38.5mm and 41mm respectively, which are modern enough sizes but take a vintage inspired case and dial design well enough. At 43mm, the BR V3-94 is decidedly oversized, and the case looks blown up from every angle.
The shape is interesting, and wearing it over the last week or so, it gradually dawned on me that it shares a certain boxiness with modern Rolex “Super Case” sports watches, with wide, squared off lugs that give the watch an almost cushion case-like impact. I’m not someone who derides the 114060 Submariner – I’ve owned that watch and it wears much more comfortably than its somewhat severe appearance would have you believe. But the Black Steel is a full three millimeters larger in diameter. That makes a real difference in how it feels on the wrist, and in its visual impression.

The Black Steel measures about 13mm tall and 49mm lug to lug. It’s long and flat, and Bell & Ross has done a nice job making a big case feel svelte with a few clever tricks. First, the endlinks of the bracelet do not extend beyond the tips of the lugs, meaning the Black Steel wears a true 49mm lug to lug. In fact, these end links are integrated into the case (B&R sells a leather strap that mounts directly to it, Pelagos style). Secondly, the caseback is nestled closely into the midcase and doesn’t protrude from the bottom, so the watch wears close to the wrist. While the Bell and Ross BR V3-94 Black Steel is big, it’s not bulky in the way a dive watch of this size would be if it were rated to some extreme level of water resistance. The Black Steel gets by with only going 100 meters deep.
Finishing is nice but not extraordinary. The case sides are polished and the tops of the lugs have been given a brushed satin finish. This further links the watch to Rolex in my mind, even though this is a fairly standard application of finishing techniques for a watch like this. The bezel has a 60 minute counter and rotates crisply in both directions, 120 clicks for a full trip around the dial. Again, nothing extraordinary here, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s functional and felt reliable in my testing, but it’s not a notably outstanding bezel action.

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HYT Supernova Blue Moon Runner

Recently, I published a story (it happens). The comments, at least some of them, expressed frustration over a couple of things (it happens). The two things in question were the spate of very expensive watches recently on the site, and the other was at the frequency with which prices were reported as “available on request.” This tends to happen in the context of limited edition high complications and I am not entirely sure why the brands insist on the piece of theater that is price on request, except that perhaps it keeps them from committing to a market-specific price for a piece whose actual cost might vary by thousands of dollars, depending on whether or not there has been a FOREX hiccup.
Now, within that domain are watches that I like to call “hyperwatches” which have some analogies to so-called hypercars. They’re not just expensive – they are also, often, willfully complex, far beyond any demands of the practical and they are there to show what can be done with persistence, imagination, and often, a willingness to deploy technology previously unheard of in watchmaking (the entire Harry Winston Opus series was,more or less, hyperwatches).
HYT got a lot of early adopters amongst those who both love high complications but also don’t want to see another gal at the ball in the same dress. But it ran into technical issues as its watches went out into the world, and the company went bankrupt in 2021. However, unlike many high-concept hyperwatch companies whose demise proved final, HYT rose from its ashes under new management, with a new CEO: Davide Cerrato, formerly head of watch design at Tudor and Montblanc. HYT’s first watch under Cerrato was the Hastroid, and the company’s latest watch continues the themes of spacecraft and space exploration, and science fiction, with the recently introduced HYT Supernova Blue Moon Runner.
The HYT Supernova Blue Moon Runner uses the same basic technology found in every HYT watch. The capillary tube contains two fluids, one colored and one clear. The two fluids are immiscible – that is to say, they are composed of substances that naturally repel each other and don’t mix, like oil and water. The two fluids are propelled by a bellows system, in which one bellows expands while the other contracts to draw the fluid around the tube. The walls of the tube are extremely thin – less than a quarter of the diameter of a human hair, according to HYT. The expansion and contraction of the bellows are controlled by a cam and lever system.
The whole system won’t work unless the entire bellows and capillary system is perfectly hermetically sealed, and HYT says that the airtightness of the system is 10,000 times greater than that of a diver’s watch (whose seals do allow the ingress and egress of atmospheric gasses, albeit extremely slowly). The “fluidic modules” as HYT calls them, are permanently sealed.
Fluids also expand and contract with temperature changes and since a watch has to be expected to tolerate a wide range of ambient temperatures on and off the wrist, you need some sort of system for protecting the fluidic modules from malfunctioning if the fluid expands and contracts. To cope with this, one of the bellows has an internal thermal compensation system, which expands or contracts as the temperature changes in order to maintain the correct fluid pressure and position of the boundary between the two fluids. The cam and lever system must operate with extreme precision – an elapsed time of one minute equals an advance of the fluid by precisely 1.5 microns, so there is very little margin for error. It takes 12 hours for the fluid to advance once around the dial, and at the end of each 12-hour period the two bellows are instantly reset to their original positions and the cycle begins again. Minutes are read off an outer track on the inner flange of the dial. Two rotating disks, placed concentrically around the moonphase display at the center, let you read off the date and month from their position adjacent to an indicator at six o’clock.
The most dramatic feature of the watch, however, is the central hemispheric moonphase display, which actually manages to upstage the fluidic retrograde hour display (not an easy trick to pull off). I don’t know how many moonphase displays I’ve looked at over the last few decades, but it’s a lot – the moonphase is a lovely thing when done in the traditional fashion but there are a lot of ways to skin a cat, and playing around with moonphase display variations is something watchmakers enjoy, given the chance.
The moonphase display consists of the central hemisphere for the Moon and the aperture which shows how much of the Moon is illuminated. It’s straightforward to read and, in principle, no different from any other aperture-based moonphase display, but the execution’s unlike anything else I’ve ever seen and it gives the watch a visual impact that almost makes you forget the microfluidics, which for the first time at HYT are in the nature of a supporting cast rather than a featured player. HYT has also made excellent use of Super-LumiNova – including on the Moon hemisphere itself (which, like the moonphase aperture and its curved supporting bridge, is made of titanium).
This is partly a hyperwatch in terms of price (which is not on request, at CHF 100,000) and in terms of number made (a limited edition of 27 pieces). But mostly it’s an example of the hyperwatch as an act of imaginative mechanical design, and it’s in the same general category as watches by, say, MB&F. The price is not particularly of interest in most cases with this sort of thing, except maybe anthropologically, any more than price is relevant in evaluating a work of art as art, albeit it’s very difficult beyond a certain point to avoid conflating price with overall perceived value. HODINKEE’s former managing editor, Dakota Gardner, once wrote a story for us entitled “I Can’t Afford Any Of These Watches, And That’s Just Fine,” in which he made the perennially valid point that possession, or the potential for possession, is not the same thing as appreciation and is, in fact, irrelevant to connoisseurship. He wrote, “In my case, a watch could cost $10,000 or $100,000, and I will buy neither. So at that point, the watch becomes something beyond a commodity to be purchased. It becomes that which can be appreciated.”
In the several decades I’ve written about watches I’ve seen more watches that I can’t afford than not, and I’ve had a few bonfire of the vanities moments but those have largely been confined to dramatic disconnects in price and actual horological content as prices have gone up, often in what are essentially commodity watches. Hyperwatches, on the other hand, are a ton of fun to read about and look at, and occasionally even see in person, and what we get out of them, for the most part, is not what a dragon gets out of sitting on its gold (and I have never forgotten that Thorin, the dwarf in The Hobbit, says that despite their wealth dragons usually can’t tell a good piece of work from a bad one). What we get out of them, instead, is a horological world that’s more fun.

The HYT Supernova Blue Moon Runner: case sandblasted grey and blue titanium with titanium crown, domed sapphire crystal with AR coating. 48.00mm x 52.30mm x 21.80mm including the crystal; water-resistance, 50 meters. Movement, HYT caliber 601-MO, running at 28,800 vph in 43 jewels with a 72-hour power reserve. Microfluidic double bellows system for the retrograde hour indication; date and month on two rotating disks; minutes on the inner dial flange; hemispherical moonphase with titanium aperture. Black rubber strap with titanium buckle; price, CHF 120,000. Limited edition of 27 pieces, worldwide.

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Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600-0002 Replica

For decades, the Rolex Sea-Dweller maintained a 40mm diameter. However, that all changed in 2017 when the brand introduced the reference 126600. As the latest edition of its famed deep saturation diver, the Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600 is complete with a 43mm case, integration to the cal. 3235 Perpetual movement, a Cyclops magnification lens on the dial, and the return of the bright red ‘Sea-Dweller’ logo on the dial.

The Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600 represents the latest in Rolex innovation and it is perfectly on-trend with current watch tastes. Known as the bigger and more capable sibling to the iconic Submariner dive watch, it’s no wonder why so many loyal Rolex customers have their eye on this absolute stunner. Read on to learn more about the latest example of the stainless steel Rolex Sea-Dweller and find out how to get one on your wrist.

In the weeks leading up to Baselworld 2017, the speculation as to what Rolex would be releasing was rife. With astute watch collectors quickly pointing out that 2017 marked 50 years of the Rolex Sea-Dweller, the community braced for an anniversary edition.

We all know — and love — that Rolex celebrates iconic anniversaries, and more often than not it’s a sophisticated touch here and there. Think back to the Rolex Submariner (ref 16610LV), where we saw a green bezel, or the more recent Rolex Day-Date 40 (60th anniversary Edition), with a stunning green dial. For all that, they’re instantly recognisable: Rolex are subtle — one of their core strengths is to design and manufacture timeless wristwatches. A Submariner from 1970 looks just as good as a current production Submariner, and that’s because Rolex doesn’t do rapid change. They move to the beat of their own drum. So, when the doors to the fair opened, attendees (myself included) swarmed to the Rolex booth, fighting to get the first glimpse of exactly what this would be. Glistening in the window sat the brand new 50th Anniversary Sea-Dweller. Since that initial exciting glimpse, I’ve managed to spend a bit more time with the new Rolex Sea-Dweller reference 126600, which replaces the short-lived reference 116600, known to many as the ‘SD4K’.

Logic says this is a tool watch, built with deep sea divers in mind. Emotion says this is equally for the die-hard desk divers (which includes yours truly). It’s the perfect watch for someone who’s picked up a Submariner, or SD4K, and craved a little more wrist presence, both in size and weight. The same wearer who loves the sound the Cerachrom bezel makes, as they turn it around, all 120 clicks. The wearer who lives for the sound the oyster class makes, as you shut the Fliplock.

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Chopard Mille Miglia 2022 Race Edition

There are plenty of watches tied to auto racing, with big brands acting as sponsors to big racing teams and making splashes with special editions. Chopard has taken a drastically different tack from some of its high-profile counterparts in the racing watch space. For some time now, the brand has focused its racing partnerships on two historic races: the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique and the Mille Miglia, the latter of which acts as the name for the brand’s line of sports watches. The Mille Miglia is a legendary 1,000-mile Italian road race (fine, it’s technically 1,005 miles), originally run from 1927 to 1957 as a true road race, and since 1977 as a celebration of classic cars taken at a slightly more leisurely pace. The race runs a round trip from Brescia to Rome and back, and is limited to models that actually entered one of the original races held from 1927 to 1957 — meaning it’s chock full of beautiful vintage automobiles. For 2022, in celebration of the 40th running of the modern Mille Miglia, the brand has released a pair of limited-edition Chopard Mille Miglia 2022 Race Edition watches, offered in stainless steel or two-tone stainless steel and ethical 18k rose gold.
Like prior years’ editions, the Chopard Mille Miglia 2022 Race Edition watches feature a 44mm case with a well-proportioned 13.79mm thickness. While it won’t wear small, it’s a thinner profile than most automatic chronographs, which means it might be a surprise on the wrist. The case’s design is straightforward, which allows the dial to do the talking. On both the stainless steel and the two-tone model, the case is brushed throughout, save for the crown, pushers, and bezel (which are all rendered in ethical 18k rose gold on the two-tone model). The screw-down crown, nestled neatly in the guards, features a steering wheel motif, while the piston pushers have a crisscross knurling. The crown looks designed to be easily gripped and helps to ensure 100m of water resistance. The bezel features a single groove around its side and a decidedly slim ceramic insert in blue with white demarcations inspired by midcentury Italian road signs. The slender bezel is sure to make known the 44mm diameter, though the short, wide lugs may offer some relief. On the reverse, the screw-down caseback features a polished Mille Miglia motif on a frosted background, surrounded by text including the course’s route, “Brescia > Roma > Brescia,” and limited-edition numbering.
Beneath the domed sapphire crystal, Chopard has updated the dial from last year’s Race Edition. The dial is driven by legibility, evidenced by the large hands and indices, along with the contrasting finishes. Surrounding the circular-brushed, silver-gray dial is a sloped chapter ring with five-minute numbering and hashes at each minute plus quarter-minute markings, sure to aid in to-the-second timing. The applied hour markers feature blue CVD-treated markers filled with Super-LumiNova; their design and color are mirrored by the large minute and hour hands. The dial features three subdials as dictated by the 7750 movement: a 30-minute counter at 12, a 12-hour counter at 6, and a running seconds at 9. The two chronograph counters feature partial radial grooving with a red-tipped hand matching the central chronograph hand in a nod to Mille Miglia Red (which, by the way, is a color used by General Motors on the Corvette). The running seconds contrasts those with a solid blued hand and a fully grooved surface. The dial is rounded out by a magnified 3 o’clock date (with the cyclops on the sapphire’s underside) and the Mille Miglia logo.
The Chopard Mille Miglia 2022 Race Edition is powered by a Swiss automatic chronograph movement. It’s not specified by the brand which automatic chronograph caliber this is but given the specs and dial layout, along with the brand’s use of ETA calibers in other models, the good money is on it being an ETA 7750. As specified by Chopard, the movement provides a power reserve of 48 hours and runs at 28,800 bph for a smooth sweep. Chopard has gone the extra step to have the movement chronometer-certified by COSC. While a chronograph is the obvious choice for any racing watch, the modern Mille Miglia is run as a regularity race, where the object is to complete each segment in a specific time at a specific average speed. Although the race officials use GPS, pressure pads, and timekeeping staff to track progress, it won’t hurt teams to have a chronometer-certified chronograph along for the ride to keep their own time. Completing the package, this year’s Race Edition is fitted with a racing strap with a brown leather topside and blue rubber backing with a tread pattern taken from 1960s Dunlop racing tires.
While Chopard may be receiving more acclaim these days for its beautiful Alpine Eagle collection, sleeping on the Mille Miglia is a rookie mistake. Chopard’s interest in motorsports is as deep as it is sincere: as in years past, Chopard Co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele will take part in the race in his family’s 1955 Mercedes Benz 300 SL, this year with his daughter Caroline-Marie at his side. The Chopard Mille Miglia 2022 Race Edition is a racing watch from a brand that loves racing, as well as a classic chronograph with an approachable design that commemorates an epic Italian tradition. While 1,000 pieces of the stainless steel Race Edition will be produced, just 250 of the two-tone steel and ethical 18K rose gold model will be made.

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Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Air Command

The Blancpain Air Command was originally produced by Blancpain in the 1950s, and was supposedly intended for use by the US Air Force, the US Navy having already adopted the 50 Fathoms diver’s watch. The Air Command was a flyback chronograph, constructed somewhat along the lines of the Type 20 spec, and supposedly 12 watches were made and offered to USAF pilots through Blancpain’s US distributor, Allen Tornek. It’s now an extremely rare grail watch for vintage Blancpain collectors – they’ve appeared at auction very rarely. One is coming up at Phillips Hong Kong later this month, with an estimate of $50-100,000; and prior to that, another one (not the same watch) hammered in 2016, also at Phillips (in the 88 Epic Stainless Steel Chronograph auction) for CHF 100,000. 
The lot notes for both watches are pretty much the same in the essentials. The catalogue essay for the 2016 auction reads, ” … scholars have asserted that it was never serially manufactured or commercialized,” and then continues, “Like many other Swiss manufacturers, Blancpain was hit by the quartz crisis and … had to sell many of its assets, including some unfinished watches. With only a handful of specimens of this mythical model known to have survived, it is hard to determine what the exact specifications of the Air Command are.”
It then goes on to say, “However, as some of the Air commands have Blancpain-signed movements, it is possible that examples like the one presented here have only been assembled and fitted with a Valjoux 222 after the sell-off of the cases, dials, bezels and pushers and hands.” While the origins of the original Air Command seem to be destined to remain a mystery (albeit if we had records from the era, many passionate collectors would doubtless be deprived of the pleasure of arguing with each other) it was a handsome flyback chronograph, with classic mid-century instrument-timepiece good looks, and Blancpain has in terms of cosmetics, stayed very close to the original.  Indeed, from the dial side, at first glance it would be difficult to distinguish one from the other. The new-for-2019 model is very slightly larger than the original (42mm, vs. 42.50 for the new model). The Arabics are larger in the new model (as is the crown), the word “Flyback” is present in a very subdued fashion on the new guy, and of course, the difference in chronograph pusher positioning gives away the newer movement. The new model has no running seconds, with a 12 hour counter where there was a running seconds on the original; but taken as a whole, it’s a pretty faithful reproduction, right down to the elongated 3-minute markers in the 30 minute register. The new watch, however, has a very different movement from the flyback Valjoux caliber 222 in the vintage model. It uses the Blancpain caliber F388B – this is a column-wheel controlled, flyback automatic chronograph with vertical clutch, and which runs at 5 hertz, or 36,000 vph, giving the chronograph a 1/10 of a second resolution. 
If you’re going to do an homage to a vintage model this is a great way to do it. What a lot of us love about vintage watches is, yes, the nostalgia they can evoke, but of course functionally vintage watches are generally inferior to their modern counterparts, especially with the advances in materials technology, lubricants, gaskets and seals, and movement design which the last ten or fifteen years have brought us. The overwhelming tendency from a design standpoint, from modern brands, seems to be to use ecru Super-LumiNova (somewhat ironically, it turns out that “ecru” actually means “raw” or “unbleached”) in an effort to reproduce the look of yellowed radium or tritium paint, but as Jason Heaton mentioned in one of his stories for us, you don’t necessarily have to see this as an attempt to drape oneself in borrowed glory – at this point, and despite the fact that “fauxtina” is a term that seems to be here to stay, you can as easily look at it as just another color choice if you want. 

While the new  Blancpain Air Command really succeeds in general of capturing the charm of the original vintage model, the one other niggle I can see folks having with it is the propeller-shaped rotor. This is the sort of thing that tends to come across as either an annoying bit of kitsch, or a harmless bit of fun, depending on who you are (and maybe on which side of the bed you got out of this morning). Propeller-shaped winding rotors on aviation-themed watches are, like ecru lume, present in large enough numbers that I personally don’t object to them as much as I did even a few years ago (perhaps this is just a sign of age-related resignation, but I can’t manage to rouse much outrage about it). The rotor in the Air Command is reasonably well done, anyhow, and the rather sober brushed finish the red gold has been given, is pleasantly harmonious with the style in which the rest of the movement has been finished. A propeller on a watch whose design originated in the 1950s is a bit of an anachronism, as by the early 1950s most air forces were falling over themselves trying to switch as fast as possible to jet aircraft, but it’s still a handsome looking rotor.

All praise, incidentally, to Blancpain for omitting a date window – normally I don’t mind them but a date guichet would have been jarringly out of place on this watch (ditto for sticking to a two-register design). Overall, this is a very respectful as well as faithful homage to one of the most interesting, to say nothing of mysterious, vintage Blancpain watches, and the use of modern materials and a modern movement adds significantly to the appeal. These will be produced in slightly larger numbers than the very few surviving vintage  Blancpain Air Command watches – Blancpain is offering this watch as a 500 piece limited edition.

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Blancpain Bathyscaphe Quantième Complet Phases de Lune

Expanding on a dive watch collection — especially one with such a rich history as the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms — is a challenge at the best of times. Do you stick to classic tool watch roots? Do you step outside the box with a complication or design with more commercial appeal? Do you start toying with unorthodox case materials? There are a lot of ways to go here, and as we’ve seen year after year, the results can be fantastic, just as easily as they can be questionable. We’ve seen Blancpain take some interesting approaches with the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe collection recently, including the blue ceramic-cased flyback chronograph Ocean Commitment II, but for 2018 we were presented with a couple of very unexpected dive watches from the longstanding brand. The most curious is the complete calendar moonphase (Quantième Complet Phase de Lune, per the brand), taking the classic 43mm satin-brushed Bathyscaphe case, and fitting it with a very vintage-y dressy-feeling triple calendar moonphase complication. It’s weird, it’s confusing, it’s the first and only diver with this complication, but it also makes the mind roam to the much-loved phrase: “That’s so crazy, it just might work!” Will it? Let’s find out.
Of the many details about this latest release, its case design is the least altered when compared to prior Bathyscaphe watches. Entirely brushed in finish, as would be expected of a proper tool watch, the only noteworthy change to the 43mm steel case of the Complete Calendar Moonphase is the addition of a pair of corrector pushers located on the case barrel around the 2 and 4 o’clock position. On one hand, the idea of adding pushers to a 300m dive watch sounds a little sketchy, but in practice we don’t suspect they will cause any issues with water resistance. For one, these will not (we can say will not, and not just might not) engage in serious diving, and flyback chronograph variants of the Bathyscaphe already use non screw-down pushers, at this depth rating, so there’s really nothing to be concerned about here.
Here’s where we get to the good stuff, as there’s a lot going on on the Complete Calendar Moonphase dial. Compared to a conventional 3-hand Bathyscaphe diver, the slate grey sun-brushed dial is definitely a little busy, though it kind of works. Blancpain stuck with the traditional triple calendar moonphase configuration, with the day and week near 12, a pointer date indication, and a large moonphase indication at 6 o’clock. This is a configuration the brand has been using for some time now in the Villeret, though to make it work in the Bathyscaphe is a relocation of its pointer date track. Rather than having this indication at the outer perimeter of the dial, it has been moved inbound of its hour indices. This helps ensure that its minute track is free of clutter when its timing bezel is in use.
As we’ve mentioned, this is a complication the brand has been using for quite some time, and the caliber 6654.P is by no means a new addition to the brand’s repertoire. That said, it’s a well-executed caliber, good for a power reserve of 72 hours, and fitted with a blackened 18k gold decorated rotor. A minor tweak was required to relocate its corrector pushers to the side of its case (rather than between the lugs, as we see in the Villeret line), but otherwise this is a case of grab a caliber from the shelf and find it a new home.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe is one of those watches that quickly reminds its wearer that case diameter spec is not a good benchmark of how a watch will be on the wrist. At 43mm across, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as chunky on the wrist; however (thankfully), it still wasn’t overpowering. The piece was launched on bracelet, NATO, and a sailcloth canvas, the latter of which has consistently proven very comfortable. Its bezel action is as expected from one of the most well-respected dive watch manufacturers out there, and the same can be said for its brightly glowing Super-LumiNova indices.
Spending some time with the Complete Calendar Moonphase, to be frank it took some time for me to warm up to it. Aesthetically, it’s a mighty sharp looking piece, and I’m a fan of how well executed the calendar complication was integrated into a dive watch. At its root, the hangup is entirely the melding of a dress watch complication and a tool watch case. That said, I soon realised how foolish the hangup was. Crossing design codes is something I’ve often encouraged in other categories, and once again acknowledging that this new Replica Blancpain is not meant as a pure tool watch per se … where’s the real harm, right? It’s a sharp-looking watch, it has practical complications, and it’s built to Blancpain’s exacting standards. This is certainly worth a second look if you’re in the market for an out-of-the-ordinary diver from a legacy brand.

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Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Radio Compass

Sometimes we wonder if Bell & Ross is ever going to run out of flight instrument panel displays to transpose. Since its debut in 2010, Bell & Ross’ ‘Flight Instruments’ series has co-opted everything from radar screens to altimeters on the watches’ dials. In fact, if you had lined the watches up in an aircraft’s cockpit, we’d imagine that even trained pilots would have had second takes, as the timepieces really look like they belong among the legit aviation gauges.
But back to our initial thought. The answer to that, we suppose, is not yet. Now, we don’t claim to be experts on aeronautical equipment, but if the new BR 03-92 Radio Compass is anything to go by, we believe that Bell & Ross’ cache of in-flight design inspirations is far from exhausted.

Similar to earlier ‘Flight Instruments’ models like the BR 01 Climb that depicts the variometer (an instrument that shows the rate of an aircraft’s climb and descent) and the BR 01 Heading Indicator that recalls an aircraft’s gyrocompass that shows where the plane is, well, heading, the BR 03-92 Radio Compass depicts yet another essential flight instrument display that aviation-illiterate watch lovers like us are unaware of.
As the name suggests, the BR 03-92 Radio Compass portrays a plane’s onboard radio receiver on its dial. A vital navigation tool, the radio compass employs radio waves to pinpoint the position and direction of an aircraft via beacons on the ground, guiding pilots on their course. The radio compass is particularly useful in situations where there is low visibility, such as during night flights or flights in heavy fog and rain.

On the BR 03-92 Radio Compass, the instrument is portrayed with a stylised bright orange hour hand and a yellow minute hand (with the letters ‘H’ and ‘M’ included for good measure), accompanied by a green seconds hand. To complete the look, the neon-coloured hands are framed by Arabic numerals in tool watch-style ‘isonorm’ font and five-minute interval markers.
Clad in a 42mm by 42mm matte black ceramic case with black dial and black rubber strap, the watch’s raven-sheathed getup definitely appears like a full-fledged member of the popular ‘Flight Instruments’ family. Though it is essentially a time-and-date-only automatic watch, the BR 03-92 Radio Compass, like the rest of its ‘Flight Instruments’ brethren, injects a bit of fun and context into what would have been a regular ticker. Admittedly, the concept is rather kitschy, but there isn’t an aviation-inspired collection that is quite as novel, intentional and expansive as the ‘Flight Instruments’ collection.

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Greubel Forsey Balancier S² Limited Edition

The rarity of the new Greubel Forsey Balancier S² is such that you’re far more likely to encounter a Siberian Tiger in the remotest regions of Eastern Russia than you are another Balancier S² wearer in a packed city boardroom. While there are perhaps 500 Siberian tigers left roaming the planet just 88 of the new Balancier S² models will be issued with as few as 16 per year being released over the next four years into the wild.

Refined, streamlined, powerful, (the watch, not the tiger,) the new Greubel Forsey Balancier S² comes sheathed in lightweight sporty Titanium, chosen for its ease of wear and robustness.

The Greubel Forsey Balancier S² isolates the strongest elements of the original Balancier S and accentuates and modernises them. This latest iteration is all about contrast and power. While it shares the same movement as the first Balancier S, the design codes, the finishing and the casing are all new.

Legibility is stronger with an intense black or grey backdrop that transects the balance bridge between 5 and 9 o’clock. The matt hand grained finish allows the indices to appear more prominent.
Despite its distinct haute horology pedigree, the Balancier S² is designed to be a high-end everyday beater, worn as a comfortable, functional watch day after day. The energy poured into the new model is all about simplification and purification. For this reason, for the first time the central double-arched titanium bridge which holds the gear train is open-worked. The titanium bracelet is sleek and refined, perfectly complementing the titanium case.

With a new slightly enlarged 46.5mm dial, the Greubel Forsey Balancier S² features a brushed titanium bezel with polished flanks. The unmissable hour and minute hands appear to hover above the dial in luminescent white, while the optical illusion of the 30 degree inclined Greubel Forsey balance wheel system adds extra fascination to the workings of the dial. It also has a purpose, in that it works to counteract the minute errors caused by the pull of gravity in a stable position.

The 42-jewels movement operates at a frequency of 3Hz (21600vph) and offers up to 72 hours of power reserve when fully hand wound. That’s right, with this watch, you need to get into the habit of good old fashioned daily hand winding.

But at its haute horology heart, the Balancier S², like its forerunner, is a highly capable three hander sports watch.
Perhaps the best thing about the new iteration of the Greubel Forsey Balancier S² is not what has been added but what has been taken away. The words which surrounded the bezel in the original such as “Perfection” “Architecture” and “Savoir-faire” were superfluous and pretentious. If you have to use descriptors along the bezel to make people understand how clever your watch is, you have rather lost the battle. However, the clean and sporty power-reserve indicator has been retained and it does help to balance the overall visual weight.

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Franck Muller Crazy Hours 30th Anniversary

This year, the Swiss luxury watch brand Franck Muller celebrates its Franck Muller Crazy Hours 30th Anniversary. And to mark the special occasion, the company has released a new limited-edition collection of its iconic Crazy Hours watch line. Perhaps that’s why people are expressing a renewed interest in the topsy turvy timepieces that look like they could have come straight out of Alice in Wonderland. In fact, a video of one of the luxury watches in action was recently shared on Reddit, and the clip has received quite a bit of attention.

The short clip highlights the mind-boggling nature of the watch, showing how the numbers on its face are all mixed up; yet, somehow, the hour hand still manages to tell the time correctly. And since it was first posted, the video has garnered more than 1,300 comments discussing the unique watch. Its seeming magical time-telling abilities are all thanks to the watch’s complicated inner mechanics. The numbers are all out of order, but the hour hand compensates for the discrepancy by means of the complex way the watch tourbillon is designed to move.
The company has even released a limited-edition Snoopy-inspired version of the Crazy Hours watches before. Instead of traditional hands, the iconic Peanuts character’s arms tell the time. And he’s even joined by his faithful sidekick, Woodstock. With his arms moving around in the unique Crazy Hours fashion, Snoopy kind of looks as if he’s dancing just like a scene from the famous cartoon. But behind the playfulness of the watch’s design, there’s also a deeper meaning.

Franck Muller Crazy Hours 30th Anniversary describes the luxury Crazy Hours watches as “the realization of a totally innovative approach to the very concept of time…[that] establishes a new philosophy by demonstrating your independence from the order of time.” Or in other words, the watches are designed “to express the concept of time as an abstract construct—that time is ultimately what one makes of it.”

Such a philosophy is befitting a timepiece straight out of Wonderland. And if the White Rabbit was wearing anything like it, that may shed a little more light on why he was so late for his very important date. Scroll down to see the fascinating Franck Muller Luxury Crazy Hours Watches in action.

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MB&F Legacy Machine Sequential EVO

MB&F Replica Watch has over the years created a mind-boggling array of mechanical fantasies that are, in essence, incidental objects for telling time. Assuming the most bewildering forms, they have institutionalized a new vocabulary of watchmaking in which mechanics put themselves at the service of hardline aesthetics that lasso in everything from pop culture to science fiction. While the Horological Machines were a no-holds-barred exercise in pushing past the limits, the Legacy Machines, with their round cases and classic complications, were an avenue for creativity to thrive under those limits.

Having addressed traditional complications such as the tourbillon and the perpetual calendar in imposingly innovative ways, the brand has now unveiled its first chronograph – the Legacy Machine Sequential EVO. Like the Replica Watch Legacy Machine Perpetual, the movement was conceived by the talented Northern Irish watchmaker Stephen McDonnell. It’s rarely ever that the following can be said about chronographs, but this is unlike anything we’ve seen before in chronographs in every way — construction, function and aesthetics. It houses two vertically coupled, column-wheel chronographs and features a groundbreaking ‘Twinverter’ binary switch, allowing multiple timing options including split-seconds and lap timer modes. Impressively, they all run on a single escapement and balance, rather than two independent trains, which speaks volumes of its complexity and holistic design. Moreover, the construction is consistent with the Legacy Machine range, where the mechanics are exposed on the dial and a balance wheel is suspended high above it by an elegantly arched balance bridge.
Available in either atomic orange or coal black, the dial features two symmetrical, openworked chronograph displays with a pair of chronograph seconds counters located at nine and three o’clock, and a pair of 30-minute totalizers positioned at 11 and one o’clock respectively. Each chronograph can be started, stopped and reset completely independently from each other via the usual two-pusher configuration on either side of the case — start/stop pusher at the top and reset at the bottom. But where it differs dramatically from any other chronograph in function is the presence of a fifth pusher, located at nine o’clock, that acts as a binary switch dubbed the ‘Twinverter’ that inverts the current start/stop status of each chronograph. If both chronographs displays have been stopped, pressing the switch causes both of them to resume or start simultaneously, while if both of them are running, pressing the switch starts both chronographs; and lastly, if one chronograph is running and the other has been stopped, the Twinverter stops the one that is running and starts the one that is stopped.
This single function opens up a magnitude of possibilities for measuring elapsed times. On top of being able to time two independent events with different start and end times, which is carried out individually via the first four pushers, it can be used to measure the two events that start simultaneously, but have different end points, essentially functioning like a split-seconds chronograph. It can also be used to measure the individual cumulative durations of two discontinuous events, which will come in handy as you switch between two different tasks and wish to track the time you have spent on each one. This can be done by starting one chronograph as you begin the first task, then pressing the Twinverter when you switch over to the second task, and pressing it again as you return to the first task.

Lastly, it can be used to time the sub-durations of a single continuous event, akin to a lap timer. Actuating one chronograph at the start of an event and using the Twinverter upon the completion of a lap stops the chronograph and instantly launches the second chronograph to time the next lap, allowing ample time for the first timing result to be recorded.
The Replica Watch movement is housed in an EVO case which is essentially a fortified and enhanced variation that first made its debut in the Legacy Machine Perpetual EVO in 2020. It is made of zirconium, a hypoallergenic metal that is lighter than steel and more durable than titanium. Measuring 44mm by 18.2mm, the case is notably complex with a recessed caseband and angular lugs that accommodate an integrated rubber strap.

Its bezel-free design sets the stage for the perfectly symmetrical movement. Instead of the usual domed crystal with a highly pronounced arch, which will only add height to the already thick movement, the crystal incorporates two subtle angles to form a smooth arch and keep its height at the minimum.

Most notably, the EVO Replica Watch case incorporates an annular shock-absorbing system, dubbed ‘FlexRing’, fitted between case and movement. Machined from a single block of stainless steel, it encircles the movement and fortifies it from the rigors of an active lifestyle. Lastly, the case also features a screw-down crown to provide a water resistance of 80 meters.