The Swiss watchmaking brand, which is known for its mid-priced tool watches, has recently presented the new Bell & Ross Vintage WW1-92 Heritage aviator’s watch that mimics the design of legendary WWII timepieces worn by German pilots. As one can always expect from a vintage-styled pilot’s watch when it comes to legibility in any lighting conditions, the design is almost flawless: crisp and sharp, it lets you read the watch in no time.
The only problem with the design of the new WW1-92 Heritage that I was able to spot at once is the length of the hour hand.
When it comes to pilot’s watches with normal layout of their dials (the laconic Archimede Pilot S 36mm automatic is one of the best examples of this sort of design,) there is usually nothing to worry about: hour numerals and minute track are usually painted very close to each other and you only need to make hour and minute hands to be more or less proportional to each other to achieve acceptable result. It is not the same with watches where the two displays are put far away from each other with the chapter ring usually painted as close to the dial’s geometric center as possible. On original “aviators” that sported this kind of layout (the gorgeous WWII Laco B-Uhr, for example,) the hour hand was just long enough to fit nicely into the inner chapter ring with the 12 Arabic numerals printed in it. In this particular example, the hand is definitely too long.
I don’t really know whether the timekeeper’s designer didn’t fully understand the logic behind the dial layout of the original or Bell & Ross simply didn’t want the new WW1-92 Heritage to look like a direct reproduction of some other vintage-styled model from a different brand (like, for example, the gorgeous and very inexpensive Stowa Flieger Baumuster B that comes in a less imposing 40 mm case, but can be ordered with a COSC-certified automatic movement.)
Anyway, it is clearly not a major annoyance, but still an annoyance.
Since the pilot’s watches of the 1930s-1940s were supposed to be worn over heavy gloves and were animated by huge pocket watch movements, they were quite large, so Bell & Ross, too, presented the timekeeper in an imposing stainless steel case whole 45 millimeters in diameter.
Carefully sand-blasted, both the case and the winding crown feature the signature military-style gun-metal surfaces.
Inside the case, there is the usual ETA 2892 self-winding movement. Being essentially a successor to the older ETA 2824 line, the mechanism offers an even better reliability and higher accuracy.
Like their other pilot’s watches, the new Bell & Ross Vintage WW1-92 Heritage has its matte black face decorated with either beige-colored or white Superluminova that generously covers both the diamond-shaped hands, as well as the inescapable triangle marker at 12 hours. Being a homage to a “true” pilot’s watch of the time when the choice of a watch often defined whether a pilot would return to base or not, the design of the timekeeper is absolutely legible and easy to grasp in an instant. If only not that too-long hour hand…
With a recommended price of $3700 USD, the watch still looks too expensive to my taste, but, like it’s with most luxury items, trying to find some mythical “value” here is not the brightest idea: basically, you either can afford one or can’t.
Photos: Bell & Ross
Bell & Ross Vintage WW1-92 Heritage specification
Price: $3700 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, caliber ETA 2892, Swiss Made
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Movement decoration: Branded oscillating weight
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Power reserve: 42 hours
Case material: Stainless steel
Case size: 45.00 mm
Hour markers: White or Beige
Hands: White or Beige
Water resistance: 50 meters
Strap: Brown leather strap
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective
Case back: Solid, engraved