The Swiss watchmaker has issued another iteration of its cash-cow — the Bell & Ross BR 123 Vintage Original Carbon (ref. BRV123-BL-CA/SRB) automatic pilot’s watch. The model has undergone a number of face-lifts, and now its 41.00 mm round case is delivered in a black PVD-coated stainless steel.
Besides providing the military-styled watch with even more menacing appearance, the choice of coating also makes it more desirable, especially now, when so many people are so in love with ceramic timepieces featuring the same matte-black look at a much, much higher price.
I can’t really decide whether it is a problem or not (as always, it depends on your perspective,) but the case is still equipped with relatively long lugs. I don’t know why somebody at Bell & Ross opted for such design, but it doesn’t look like it was done for the sake of your convenience since the horns leave a great deal of space between the strap and the outer rim of the body even if you prefer really thick aftermarket leather straps.
On the other hand, the long lugs make the compact case appear a lot larger and effectively increase its overall length to around fifty millimeters. If you happen to have more or less wide wrist, this may not be a problem for you (the watch would probably even look better, more prominent,) but if your wrist is on the narrower side, this new BR 123 Vintage Original Carbon still doesn’t look like the best choice. In fact, any “pilot” with similar finish, similar diameter, but with shorter lugs would probably beat it when it comes to fit and wearing comfort.
The Swiss brand doesn’t say a word about the movement that powers the watch, but, judging by the look of it, I may assume that it features a version of the good old ETA 2892 automatic caliber (UPDATE: The mechanism is in fact based on ETA 2895-2, which is essentially the same ETA 2892-A2 equipped with a small seconds indicator, and re-branded for marketing purposes as Caliber BR-CAL.305.)
Well, actually I am almost positive that it is a 2892 since that’s what powers other members of the BR 123 family. If my assumptions are correct, you are about to get yourself a timekeeper that is animated by one of the most robust and reliable mass-produced movements currently in production. It is also quite reliable for a mechanical movement, although it clearly won’t beat an average quartz caliber even if coming in a COSC-certified chronometer version.
As you can see on the photos, the watch features a very legible and even elegant dial with the subsidiary seconds sub-dial located at 6 o’clock, right above the very small round date window.
As usual for this kind of watches, the timekeeper features a pair of generously sized hour and minute hands that are covered with loads of high-contrast white Superluminova, reminding us of analog instrument gauges form older planes.
According to the company, they plan to ship the watch on a brown calfskin strap with tongue buckle in black PVD-treated steel.
So far, the Swiss brand plans to sell the Bell & Ross BR 123 Vintage Original Carbon at a recommended maximum street price of $3200, which makes it twice as cheap as IWC Pilots Mark XVII (with the latter coming only in polished stainless steel body) but, at the same time, more than twice as expensive than Oris Big Crown ProPilot Day Date that earned a very good score in our another review, but, too, comes only in plain stainless steel.
Photos: Bell & Ross
Bell & Ross BR 123 Vintage Original Carbon (ref. BRV123-BL-CA/SRB) automatic watch specification
Price: $3300 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, Caliber BR-CAL.305 (base ETA 2895-2,) Swiss Made
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date
Power reserve: 42 hours
Case material: Black PVD stainless steel
Bezel material: Black PVD stainless steel
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 41.00 mm
Lug width: 22.00 mm
Case height: No data
Numerals: Arabic, luminous
Hands: Steel, luminous
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Brown calfskin with tongue buckle in black PVD-treated steel
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective
Case back: Sapphire