Bell & Ross’s saga started in an aircraft cockpit and was driven by the ambition of designing watches directly inspired by aeronautical instrumentation, the ultimate point of reference regarding precision, legibility and reliability.
In 2009, Bell & Ross decided to launch the watch collection « Heritage », highlighting the key eras in aviation history, unifiying its models, of varied forms and functions, around a common concept. Square, round, three-hand or chronograph, they all share the characteristic of expressing the passage of time through colors and a patina that give them a vintage look.
High performance with a retro spirit
Through the Heritage Collection, Bell & Ross has paid tribute to pocket watches from the Great War and to flight instruments from the 1940s. Today, the Vintage collection is entering its third generation, and the two new models BR V2-92 and BR V2-94 Steel Heritage have seen their design evolve.
BR V2-92 and BR V2-94 Steel Heritage on rubber straps © Bell & Ross
The new versions feature the iconic black dial with its traditional sand-coloured 12, 3, 6 and 9 numerals, as if aged by the patina of time. They evoke the past, and at the same time belong to the modern era. The details include a polished/satin-finished steel case with a slightly smaller diameter of 41 mm, push-buttons and a screw-down crown to reinforce the water-resistance of the case, rounded lugs that match the new metal bracelet with fine links to ensure it sits comfortably on any wrist, and the sapphire crystal with an ultra-curved finish to evoke the style of vintage watches.
The BR V2-92 houses the BR-CAL.302 automatic movement powering the hours, minutes seconds and date, while the BR V2-94 Steel Heritage chronograph uses the BR-CAL.301 automatic caliber.
BR V2-94 Steel Heritage on steel bracelet © Bell & Ross
This past November I had the rare chance to take a seat on the prosecution of this Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. For a single day, myself and 22 other far-more-qualified watch lovers closely analyzed 71 watches in 14 categories, spanning the full world of watchmaking from the $3,100 non-complication Tudor Black Bay to some woman’s tourbillion produced by Bovet that retails for over $200,000. Of all of the watches that I watched, one which really stood out to me was that the Bell & Ross BR126 Sport Heritage Chronograph. An entry in the Sport Watch category, The Sport Heritage Chronograph did not take home an award at the ceremony, but it left a lasting impression on me for carrying its own against the rest of the watches at the running.Here’s one thing I’ve discovered in my years as both an artist and a watch collector: great design costs the same to produce as bad design. It simply requires some heart and soul to make it truly mean something. Better stuff cost more, sure, but a pad printer will lay whatever style letter on a dial you let it. As soon as an economical (though reliable) Swiss ETA movement is involved, as is true with this BR126, many watch businesses begin from a point of resignation and do not even try to do something genuinely rewarding. Bell & Ross looked past the price point on the Sport Heritage and really broke the fantastic design barrier on watches at this level. We’ve seen brands like Omega and Panerai experiment with an artificial patina effect, but the BR126 nails the “outdated luminous” look on its hour hands and markers. If you’ve ever spent time staring at a vintage Sea-Dweller or Submariner, you’ll appreciate how convincing this seems. And along with incorporating some historic realism, in addition, it sets the tone for the remainder of the watch concerning its color palate: subdued, classic, and cool.
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