Being biased towards chronographs (at least, when it comes to so-called ‘aviators’,) I must admit that I am almost in love with this mirror-polished Bell & Ross Vintage Original BR 126 Officer Chronograph. Offered in a refined mid-sized body that is inspired by pilot’s watches of the pre-WWII era, this iteration of the BR 126 model brings you a convincing combination of a relatively clean, easy to read dial and a slightly modified version of a Swiss-made automatic movement that is known for its reliability and precision.
Bell & Ross has just updated its popular range of vintage-styled “aviators” with the new Officer series, which includes a BR 126 chronograph and a BR 123 three-hands model.
Just like the rest of the family, the BR 126 Officer Chronograph comes equipped with a standard-issue ETA 2894 chronograph movement. Based on the well-known ETA 2892 ebauche with an add-on chronograph module (a great caliber, but, from where I sit, not the best choice for a product priced north of $4500: it would be more honest to put a modified ETA 7750 in a watch of such pedigree,) the modified version of the caliber features a “historic” bi-compax dial layout.
While overwhelming majority of contemporary watches usually come with a tri-compax layout featuring three small totalizers for hours, minutes and small seconds while reserving the “big” central second hand to play the role of a chronograph second hand, most timekeepers from 1930’s-40’s were equipped with only two totalizers: one for seconds and one for minutes.
The BR 126 series uses particularly this approach to time representation: there is a 60-second sub-dial at 3 o’clock and a 30-minute totalizer at 9 o’clock. And that is good.
Thanks to this combination, the Black Officer Chronograph sports a well-balanced, clean look that greatly enhances its legibility and still doesn’t look too plain and simple.
My only major complaint here is the small date window, which is positioned between 4 and 5 o’clock indexes. With the round shape of the window it just begs to be moved 22 degrees clockwise to balance B&R’s encircled “&” logo. Perhaps, the designers were forced to leave the date window as it is to keep the cost as low as possible.
Although I would still prefer to buy the Bell & Ross Vintage Original BR 126 Chronograph with its dull satin-brushed case and ivory-white dial, the Officer edition is still a good choice for those craving for a military-style timepiece that can still be worn with a black or a very dark gray business attire.
Note: Besides the “black” model pictured on the photos above, there is also a version with a “silver” dial, but that one is not as visually impressive. However, it can appeal to persons who feel that the typeface used by B&R makes the Vintage series dangerously close to Panerai chronographs.
Build Quality: 5/5
Overall Legibility: 4.5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4/5
See also: Longines Expeditions Polaires Francaises — Missions Paul-Emile Victor (Ref. L2.732.4.76.X)
Photos: Bell & Ross
Bell & Ross Vintage Original BR 126 Black Officer Chronograph specification:
Price range: $4700 (MSRP)
Movement: Base ETA 2894 caliber, 37 jewels, automatic, 28,800 vph, 28 mm diameter, 6.1 mm height, Swiss Made
Movement finish: Branded oscillating weight with Geneva Stripes, polished screw heads
Functions & Complications: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph, small date
Power reserve: 47 hours
Case: Stainless steel
Bezel shape: Round
Size: 41.00 mm
Case height: 14.00 mm
Numerals: Arabic, luminous
Hands: Steel, luminous
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Black alligator with polished finish steel folding buckle
Crystal: Sapphire, AR-coated (antireflective,) domed