Three New Bell & Ross Vintage BR V2 Watches For 2020: For Officers, Gentlemen, And Rebels
by Martin Green
When you think of Bell & Ross, the brand’s iconic square instrument-style BR watches are usually the first thing that comes to mind. The BR collection undoubtedly is Bell & Ross’s signature flagship, but there is much more.
There’s the BR V2 from the Vintage collection for example, which thanks to its round case is more traditional. But it’s not lacking character and exudes an easygoing personality.
All the cases of the three new BR V2 models measure 41 mm in diameter, making them the perfect size for both comfort and style. Inspired by military watches, these designs are not loud, but they are distinct in addition to being highly legible.
All hands on deck: Bell & Ross BR V2-92 Military Green
The names of Bell & Ross watches sometimes look to me like designations for some type of bomb, but I’ll give them a pass on that because their watches are dynamite. A corny comment perhaps, but looking at the BR V2-92 Military Green, can see that Bell & Ross has done its homework.
It is not a diver, nor is it a thoroughbred military-style watch, but as an all-around sports watch, it ticks all the boxes. Legibility is superb thanks to both its styling and the generous amounts of lume applied to the hour markers and hands.
The khaki-colored dial in combination with the black diving bezel creates a subtle effect. It also has an actual function as the BR V2-92 Military Green is water-resistant to 100 meters and can therefore be used with peace of mind for diving.
I prefer minute marks on the bezel, especially on a diving watch, but because the BR V2-92 is likely to see most of its use on dry land, Bell & Ross went for a cleaner overall look. The bezel is made from anodized black aluminum, which is surprising as ceramic has now become de rigueur for many brands.
The BR V2-92 Military Green comes on a khaki and black canvas strap, but my advice is to get it on the bracelet, which looks great and is very comfortable on the wrist. The canvas strap can be an excellent addition afterward.
You’ve got to have a bronze: Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Aéronavale Bronze
Having a bronze watch in the collection is practically mandatory these days, it seems. At Bell & Ross, the new BR V2-94 Aéronavale Bronze is not the first, nor will it probably be the last, watch the brand offers in this metal.
In combination with the blue dial and bezel, the Aéronavale Bronze offers a striking combination, making the case material almost look like yellow gold. But one of the benefits of bronze is affordability compared with precious metals. Another advantage is the patina it acquires over time, which is what most people love so much about bronze.
I say most, as I am not among them. While I love the look of the BR V2-94 Aéronavale Bronze as it is now, I would rather not see it change too much. Perhaps a slightly darker bronze tone would be lovely, but definitely not the type of patina where the bronze oxidizes to green.
Bell & Ross must have thought the same thing because the case is a more stabilized bronze alloy that doesn’t contain the usual amounts of copper and tin, comprising instead 91 percent copper, 7 percent aluminum, and 2 percent silicon. This will still patina over time, but at a much slower rate.
For a chronograph, the watch is pleasantly easy to read. This is also because the blue dial and gold-tone hour markers and hands offer a beautiful contrast. It only has two registers, lacking an hour counter. Some might miss this, but three subdials would have overcrowded the dial.
It also has no scale other than one for the 60-second hand of the chronograph.
The design of the BR V2-94 Aéronavale Bronze was inspired by watches worn by French naval officers, which is also why it comes with a diving bezel. And with water resistance to 100 meters, it will be at home in the water.
Time to travel: Bell & Ross BR V2-93 GMT Blue
With the BR V2-93 GMT Blue, Bell & Ross launches a new model with a second time zone. Here the brand shows its stylish French roots by opting for a GMT bezel combining deep blue representing night with gray standing for the day hours.
With these nautical colors in play, the red hand for the second time zone stands out all the more. While it tends to overpower the rest of the watch, I think it also adds a sense of dynamic setting it apart from other watches in this market segment.
Standing out is also much needed as competition is intense in this price class and small details can make a big difference. The fact that these models boast vintage-looking box-style sapphire crystals with an anti-reflective coating helps. The shape of this crystal looks more appealing than a simple flat crystal, and the anti-reflective coating further increases legibility.
The BR V2-93 GMT Blue has a water resistance of 100 meters, making it a watch that you can take straight from the plane into the pool. This is commendable since all three watches also feature sapphire crystal case backs.
The ETA-based movements are also quite pleasing. One might complain – if one were particularly snobby – that they lack manufacture movements, but that’s not what these watches are about, and a manufacture movement would significantly inflate the price.
At the same time, it would be quite challenging to offer similar dependability, precision, and serviceability to these tried-and-tested ETA movements.
One detail that matters . . . to me, anyway
One detail that is often overlooked (or deliberately ignored) on many watches is the date wheel. As these commonly come standard from the manufacturer with either a white or black background, that’s what most brands use regardless of the color of the dial.
But not Bell & Ross. All three new models have a background for the date that is the same color as the dial.
It might be a small detail, but it’s a detail you don’t expect on a military-inspired watch at this price. It means that the brand’s designer had a vision and wanted it to be perfect. And it indicates that obtaining the ideal look was worth sacrificing a little profit.
While many are unlikely to notice, some might not care and others might even prefer a white background because it makes the date easier to read. But for me, a matching dial and date wheel is the icing on the cake.
All three models make perfect daily companions. In the world of watches, where brands often struggle to stand out and be exceptional, this is almost a daring proposition, but one that suits Bell & Ross perfectly. It’s the combination of little details that make extraordinary watches.
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Quick Facts Bell & Ross V2-92 Military Green
Case: 41 mm, stainless steel with anodized black aluminum ring with 60-minute scale
Movement: automatic Caliber BR-Cal.302 (based on Sellita SW300-1), 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 38-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Price: €2,990/$3,300 (bracelet), €2,700/$2,990 (khaki and black elastic canvas strap)
Quick Facts Bell & Ross V2-94 Aéronavale Bronze
Case: 41 mm, bronze, anodized blue aluminum ring with a 60-minute scale
Movement: automatic Caliber BR-Cal.301, (based on ETA 2894-2), 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 42-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, chronograph
Limitation: 999 pieces
Quick Facts Bell & Ross V2-93 GMT Blue
Case: 41 mm, stainless steel, anodized blue and grey aluminum ring with a 24-hour scale
Movement: automatic Caliber BR-Cal.303, (based on ETA 2893-2), 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 42-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, second time zone
Price: €3,200/$3,500 (bracelet), €2,900/$3,200 (grey and blue elastic canvas strap)