With its military and aviation inspiration, Bell & Ross has long been focusing on legibility. But reading a watch or a dashboard instrument during the day is mostly a work of contrast and reflection – by optimizing the first and reducing the second. At night, things are different and comes the necessity for luminescent materials, or an external source of light. In watchmaking, the answer to this took several names; first by using radioactive materials like radium and tritium, second by using materials that need to be charged, like LumiNova and Super-Luminova. This gave the brand the idea for a cool collection, strongly linked with the aviation world, named LUM. And here’s the latest member, the new Bell & Ross BR V2-94 FULL LUM.
Soon after its discovery in 1898, radium found its way on the dial of a watch. In 1903, a certain George F. Kunz painted the hands of his watch with this newly-discovered material, using the radioluminescence properties to read the time in the dark – he even patented this. From the earliest days of the wristwatch to the 1960s, most watches with luminous hands and markers will be executed with radium paint, which will be banned in 1963 due to the dangerousness of this material – look at “Radium Girls” to have an idea. It will be replaced by tritium, another radioactive material with a much shorter half-life (12 years for tritium, 1,600 years for radium), lower emissions but also less durable in terms of luminescence.
By the mid-1990s, these materials will be banned from watchmaking and the replacement came in 1994 with the patented LumiNova – a stable, non-toxic paint that is now used mostly under the name Super-LumiNova, an upgrade of the original material. On the contrary to radioactive materials, SLN doesn’t naturally shine but needs to be “charged” to emit light in dark conditions. However, it is virtually inexhaustible. The pigments can also be mixed with endless colours, at the price of lower light emissions.
The B&R LUM collection
As we showed you in this in-depth article, Bell & Ross has been playing on the concept of luminescence since 2017, when the brand launched its BR 03-92 HOROLUM. The intention with this collection is crystal clear: maximum legibility in all conditions, whether to bring contrast and avoid reflections during the day or provide maximum luminescence at night, with massive amounts of Super-LumiNova.
The LUM collection finds its inspiration, once again, in dashboard flight instruments, such as altimeters, radars, gyroscopes and compasses found in all types of planes, where legibility and clear indications are essential for navigation in daylight or nighttime conditions. Following the HOROLUM (available in BR 03-92 with a 3-hand display, or like here, in BR 03-94 with chronograph) in 2017, Bell & Ross presented in 2018 the NIGHTLUM, then the FULL LUM in 2019 and, early 2020, the GREY LUM. Finally, there was the BR 03-92 Diver FULL LUM in mid-2020. And this year, a new member is coming, this time in the Vintage line.
The Bell & Ross BR V2-94 FULL LUM
First, let’s look at this watch in classic, daylight conditions – because, indeed, that’s how you’ll see it most of the time (obviously). The new BR V2-94 FULL LUM is largely based on already existing models in the collection, such as the Vintage BR-V2 Steel Heritage collection. As such, the classic traits of the Vintage family are present and, in normal situations, it feels like a bright dial edition of this often black-coloured model.
As all other chronographs with the BR V2-94 nomenclature, this fully luminous edition is housed in a 41mm case, with rounded shapes and an overall classic, sporty-chic design. Following the facelift of this collection in 2017, the design was made slightly more elegant, with downsized proportions, softer edges and an overall more retro style. The case shows satin-brushed and polished surfaces, and is here equipped with a fixed black anodized aluminium bezel, with a 60-minute scale – which brings a pleasant contrast with the bright dial.
Over the dial and protecting the watch is an ultra-domed sapphire, adding some charm and warmth to this watch. This B&R is equipped with a screw-down crown, a screwed caseback and screw-down pushers (not something we really like here at MONOCHROME). Still, the watch offers a comfortable 100m water-resistance. We’ve measured the case at 14.2mm in height and 47.6mm lug-to-lug. Not small but compact enough for a watch of this diameter. On the wrist, it feels comfortable and well-executed, a feeling reinforced by a surprisingly solid case.
In daylight conditions, the dial is quite surprising, as it shows colours that are not familiar at first sight. The surface is matte and has different hues to display, all in the pale yellow and pale green range. The base of the dial has a pale green colour – a very subtle tone, which appears almost off-white in most conditions. The date, at 4:30, has a matching colour and “blends” into the dial.
For the rest, all the indications are made from Super-LumiNova and are left without additional pigments, to have the best possible efficiency. As such, the colours are all in the pale green or pale yellow range. In order to increase contrast and to optimal legibility in daytime conditions, all the elements – applique numerals, hands, tracks and sub-counters – are outlined in black.
Under the hood of the BR V2-94 FULL LUM is a well-known movement, the Calibre BR-CAL.301, which is based on the ETA 2894-2. No surprises here, as we find back the robust and easily serviceable automatic movement with a modular architecture, used for its balanced bi-compax display. It beats at 4Hz and stores up to 42 hours of power reserve. The movement is visible under a sapphire crystal, with the logo of the brand and the unique number of the watch transferred on its surface.
While the brand has been pushing the concept very far with some of the LUM watches, including a luminous rubber strap, this watch being part of the vintage collection, it comes on a more conventional strap, to keep it more elegant once on the wrist. It is thus attached to a black, tropic-inspired black rubber strap, with steel pin buckle. Supple and comfortable, it is a nice match with the watch.
And at night…
But let’s now look at the watch in low-light conditions, as it’s when this BR V2-94 FULL LUM truly reveals itself. While the dial feels quite discreet and classic in daytime conditions, at night it’s a whole other story, as all the elements of the dial, entirely covered in Super-LumiNova, just pop in a different way. The base of the dial is covered in C5 SLN, with green emission. The numerals, indices, hands, and counters are, on their side, covered with C3 SLN, resulting in a slightly different colour than the base of the dial. And while the black outlines were already of great help in daylight, at night these become even more practical and all indications are quickly visible.
Finally, in order to differentiate the classic indications that are the hours, minutes and small seconds, from the chronograph indications – 30-minute counter and central second – these have been treated with blue emissions C3 Super-LumiNova, making them easy to spot in low-light. So all in all, the concept is a bit gimmicky, but also well-executed and quite cool, admittedly.
Availability & price
The Bell & Ross BR V2-94 FULL LUM is a limited edition of 250 pieces, which can now be pre-ordered at the brand’s online boutique. Deliveries and availability at retailers are expected at the end of April 2021. It will be priced at EUR 4,700.
For more details, please visit bellross.com.