Bell & Ross has updated its Vintage line of “aviators” with this new Vintage Original BR 126 Chronograph that now comes in a round stainless steel case and features an elegant egg-shell-white dial. Fairly compact by today’s standards, this aviator may get some well-deserved attention from persons seeking for a nice vintage-styled pilot’s watch that doesn’t look like you just stole a hockey pluck.
Like Rolex and Omega are mostly associated with all sorts of divers, Bell & Ross specializes in military-style watches. At the beginning of the year, the brand has introduced its new Vintage BR 123 Carbon and BR 126 Carbon models, where “carbon” in B&R’s newspeak meant normal stainless steel with matte black PVD coating.
Although not as hi-tech as Panerai Luminor 1950 10 Days GMT Ceramica (PAM335) that was also presented at the same industry event in Basel, the watch sported undeniable presence and, what is even more important, was offered at a fraction of the price. Also, the collection’s standard ETA 2895 and ETA 2894 calibers are hugely popular among “independent” brands and therefore much easier to service (even if you live in Des Moines, Iowa) compared to Panerai’s in-house P.2003 powerplant.
The 2010 Vintage Original BR 126 Chronograph is equipped with the aforementioned standard-issue Swiss ETA 2894 movement. Although the caliber offers usual tri-compax chronograph functionality and is capable of counting seconds, minutes and up to twelve hours, the dial features a bi-compax layout with a 30-minute chronograph totalizer at 9 o’clock and a small seconds hand at 3 o’clock.
The 12-hour sub-dial, which is usually located at 12 o’clock, was for some reason removed. Perhaps, somebody at B&R decided that this kind of trick will make the chronograph look even more vintage than it already is, maybe even resembling the new ultra-luxury Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionnelle chronograph.
As usual, the dial also features a round small date window between 4 and 5 o’clock.
The major difference between the Vintage Original and the, err, original Vintage BR 126 is that it comes in a normal stainless steel case.
The 41 mm body comes with satin finish and may look somewhat dull to those more used to dressier timekeepers. However, a certain amount of dullness is something that you should expect from just about any military device. I mean, you certainly do not want to find yourself on the receiving end of a shot from a sniper rifle just because you were betrayed by a blink of light reflected from a piece of polished steel on your wrist.
Unfortunately, the convex sapphire crystal stays completely unprotected from occasional bumps and it is only a matter of time before its anti-glare coating will be covered with small but visible scratches.
Although the version with a black dial sports high-contrast and, hence, a more legible layout, I would surely prefer the beige one. Its off-white dial provides the BR 126 Chronograph with that lovely vintage look of the models from the 1940s. If you will manage to find a worn look brown leather strap (probably, something like Hirsch Leonardo Medici) similar to that pictured on the promo photos, it will look stunning.
Build Quality: 5/5
Overall Legibility: 4.5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 4/5
Value for Money: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Photos: Bell & Ross
Bell & Ross Vintage Original BR 126 Chronograph specification
Price range: $4200 (MSRP)
Movement: Caliber ETA 2894, automatic, Swiss Made
Cadence of balance: 28,800 vph
Functions & Complications: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph
Power reserve: 47 hours
Case: Stainless steel
Size: 41.00 mm
Case height: 12.00 mm
Lugs: 20.00 mm
Numerals: Arabic, black
Hands: Steel, luminous
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Brown leather on steel pin buckle
Crystal: Sapphire, anti-reflective coating
Back: Solid, screw-in