Bell & Ross – Vintage BR V2 Aéronavale

Vintage BR V2 Aéronavale

Launched in 2016, the first Vintage BR Aéronavale models presented a blue/gold combination (the blue evoking the sea, the gold coming from the wings, trim and buttons of the naval officers’ uniform). The chronograph and three-hand small second watches featured a 43mm polished steel case and a blue sunray dial.

In 2017, the collection is enriched with four new versions, measuring 41mm in diameter, but taking back the codes of its predecessors, like the ultra-curved sapphire crystal and the screwed crown. These three-hand small second watches and chronograph versions are available with satin-polished steel bracelet or ice blue calfskin strap – with  folding clasp –  and have a rotating steel bezel with anodized blue aluminum ring. The timekeeping functions are powered respectively by the self-winding movements Caliber BR-CAL 302 and Caliber BR-CAL 301, visible through the sapphire case back of the steel case, which is water-resistant to 100m.

The Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire is a whole hell of a long way for a new whose humble beginnings started with tool watches (recall B&R’s watches used to be manufactured by German tool watch master Sinn), but a journey that has gotten much more impressive since the Experimental line continues to find fascinating ways to visually and technologically push the envelope. Sapphire crystal is more or less scratch-proof, but its hardness is now particularly difficult to work with in anything other than very simple shapes. Technology and techniques have improved in recent years, nevertheless, with much more fully sapphire-cased watches, as well as costs for them beginning to come down such as using the Hublot Big Bang UNICO Sapphire (hands-on) – though they tend to stay more rare and costly even than precious metal case watches.One thing that is especially neat about the X1 series watches, even though, is that no matter how eccentric each layout gets, it still conveys Bell & Ross’ core layout language; that square 45mm case, screwed together at each of the four corners. Although this DNA does carry through to the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire, were it not for the instance signatures, this one could be mistaken for something other than a Bell & Ross watch, as the primary timekeeping cues (the hour and minute hands) have been shrunken into the upper 12:00 area of this dial. While this will give lots of opportunity to enjoy the flying tourbillon’s motion against all the clear, negative space from the sapphire, it does detract somewhat from overall utility and legibility in comparison with the brand’s pilot and tool watches — something which other Experimental offerings have maintained.

Vintage BR V2 Aéronavale

The blue sunray dials welcome the gilt applique numerals and indices typical of the Vintage BR Aéronavale collection.

If you think about Bell & Ross as a maker of primarily oversized, square-cased, aviation-oriented watches, then you’re not alone. However, Bell & Ross are also the manufacturers of a growing collection of heritage-inspired aviation pieces that they predict their Vintage Collection. Today, Bell & Ross have further enlarged the 38.5mm BR V range of the Vintage Collection with the new Bell & Ross V1-92, an aviation-inspired game watch with a domed sapphire crystal and B&R’s Cal.302 automatic mechanical movement.Clearly drawing design cues from aviation instruments and timepieces of the past, the V1-92’s dial is glossy black with faux classic colored Super-LumiNova coated baton hour markers, a minute scale and sub divisions printed in white, as well as white printed minute markers rather than hour markers at Gravity increments. The election to go with notable minute markers as opposed to hour mark demonstrates B&R’s dedication to the vintage flyer texture of this piece as well as a nod to historic pilot’s watches from IWC and Laco. The twelve o’clock indicator, a triangle and two dots, can be borrowed from classic pilot watches. A white on black date wheel is visible through a window neatly tucked to the 4:30 place — though it’s partially cutting off a few of the numbers.
You’ll have to be the final judge as to whether Bell & Ross made it right with the BR 03-92 Diver — and I recommend you try it on first — but my conclusion after wearing it almost everyday for a couple weeks is that they did. The Bell & Ross case is instantly recognizable as such, however the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver can also be only a serious-looking dive watch. It further handles to play the portion of a bold-wearing luxury sport watch with an aggressive presence — and at precisely the same time, it looks meaningful and down-to-earth, so the wearer does not seem like he is desperate for attention. Finally, despite that boldness and presence, its size and dimensions somehow keep it surprisingly wearable. At least, these have been my beliefs while sporting it.About those measurements: Appearing at the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver about the wrist, one may not guess that it measures just 42mm wide. It may be a bizarre or abstract thing to say, but I would describe the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver as wearing more like a 44mm-wide watch. Square instances are going to wear larger than their measurements would suggest — if you are familiar with watch dimensions and have a habit of guessing how a watch might suit you based on pictures and specs prior to seeing it in person. Perchance a corner-to-corner measurement is a fantastic way of assessing the size of a square watch because that may better represent how much wrist real estate it occupies. I really made an attempt to portray in a few of the photos how well it wears in my 6.5″ (17cm) wrist — although I probably couldn’t pull off even a millimeter bigger.

Vintage BR V2 Aéronavale

302 relies on the Sellita SW300, a 25-jewel, 38-hour power reserve, automatic mechanical, time-and-date caliber which hums along in a standard 28,800bph. While it isn’t a ground-breaking piece of haute horology, the Sellita based Cal. 302 should offer years of loyal and precise service and make for simple servicing once the time comes.A brand new dial for the current V1 series, the Bell & Ross V1-92 adds yet another popular pilot’s configuration into the expanding lineup and also is the sole 38.5mm version with faux vintage colored Super-LumiNova, if that is what you are into. The Bell & Ross V1-92 Military is likewise not prohibitively costly at $1,990 USD on a really much aviation-inspired classic looking brown leather strap.Though likely best known for its more affordable, instrument-inspired pilot and field watches, French watchmaker Bell & Ross continues to assert itself as a great deal more than a one-trick pony, using the latest addition to its BR-X “Experimental” assortment: the wild Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire.Standouts in this occasionally divisive collection have contained the stealthy forged carbon BR-X1 (hands-on) and also the more exotic Bell & Ross BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic watch (hands). Using its micro-rotor and ampersand-adorned flying tourbillon, the BR X2 was a step nearer to this newest invention not least because it was something of a sapphire sandwich. The new Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire resembles a practical hybrid of both — but with a twist, since it employs the BR-X1 case assembled from five, very carefully carved freshwater cubes.
The steely grey lines of this 3Hz manually-wound BR-CAL.288 movement architecture cast a nicely skeletonized, industrial contrast against all the translucent components on the eye – although the strap is translucent rubber, which should result in some interesting wrist shots. Part of the thought, aside from the novelty itself of an entirely transparent case, is that the movement and even the screws holding the case together are observable from about every angle. The only region of the watch that is not fully see-through is that the massive mainspring barrel itself, that supplies 100 hours of power reserve, and is tucked conveniently behind the luminous hour and minute hands at 12:00, preserving some degree of legibility to get timekeeping.In keeping with the more exclusive traditions of this Experimental collection, just eight pieces of this Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire are generated. Launched in 2017, the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver isn’t the brand’s first dive watch, but it’s the very first dive watch in their iconic square instance. It is, in my estimation, a fantastic success in balancing various design elements and topics in addition to boldness and wearability. “Balance” is a word which I kept returning to if considering different aspects of the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver. The result is a sound, refined dive watch having a look and personality quite unlike any other I know of, and it’s just plain fun to wear.