For several years, Bell & Ross was mainly known for its square, pilot-inspired watches. But not everybody wanted to wear such a large and bold 46mm watch (the BR-01) and what became a true icon of modern watchmaking could have become a trap for the brand. Bell & Ross had to evolve. This was the mission of the “Vintage Collection”. Entirely redesigned in 2017, this year the brand adds a few vintage elements to make this collection even cooler, with the Steel Heritage. Today, we take a closer look at the BR V2-92 Steel Heritage.
A watch brand simply cannot rely on one single watch/collection, at least when it has the ambition to sell more than just a few thousand pieces a year. If having a true identity shared by all models is a necessity, a single concept/design is dangerous – think Panerai, for instance. Diversity coupled with consistency is key. Knowing that the BR-01 and BR-03 watches – what B&R calls the “instrument collection” – were both success factors and possible threats, the Parisian-based brand had to evolve, to bring something fresh, different, yet consistent with the DNA created over the years. Easy to say, harder to achieve. This was the mission of the Vintage collection. Yet, moving from such a strong design – the “circle-within-a-square” watch – to something more traditional, without losing the very idea behind the brand, required a few steps. The 2017 Vintage collection is the latest – and possibly the best too.
The previous Bell & Ross Vintage models were fine… but lacked a certain elegance, a certain easiness on the wrist. At 43mm in diameter, linked to rather long lugs, it wasn’t the casual daily beater some were looking for. After all, a collection named Vintage has to have a vintage feel. The previous collection was certainly too modern, too sharp, too large to fulfil this position. A fault confessed is half redressed… The 2017 Vintage collection was indeed a welcome correction. Slimmer, smaller, more rounded – in short, more vintage-oriented, easier on the eye, easier on the wrist. Three watches were presented: a simple 3-hand with 39mm case (BR-V1), a 3-hand with 41mm case and rotating bezel (BR V2-92) and a 41mm chronograph (BR V2-94). The only complaint was that these watches were (maybe) a bit too cold, too technical.
This is where the new Bell & Ross Vintage Steel Heritage enters the field. Overall, we talk minimal updates compared to the 2017 versions – basically, different colours for the indexes and the inscriptions. Yet, these subtle differences are giving this collection the cool factor it was missing. For this article, we chose to go for the 3-hander model with a rotating bezel, the Vintage BR V2-92 Steel Heritage. Why this one and not the chronograph? For a simple reason: it is the most balanced and most pleasant of them all.
The BR V2-92 Steel Heritage is a pleasant all-purpose watch. Not too radical, casual enough, resistant to most conditions.
What exactly is the Bell & Ross Vintage BR V2-92 Steel Heritage? To me, it is a great example of an all-purpose watch. In short, a daily beater. It isn’t a proper dive watch. It isn’t a true pilot’s watch either. It is a sports watch with reasonable dimensions and specifications – by that I mean a watch that isn’t too radical. It is a watch that can be worn in most situations. It can withstand a decent amount of water pressure, it is protected enough for sports activities, it has the look and feel of a sporty piece without being a radical instrument. It has a certain “explorer feel” and at the same time, it won’t look odd with casual-chic attire. As said, a good example of a daily beater or a weekend watch – the second watch you have next to your business dress watch.
The case, which is the same as the Baselworld 2017 version of the BR V2, has a pleasant shape and nice proportions. At 41mm in diameter, it is certainly not sized like a 1960s watch but it remains relatively compact on the wrist, thanks to more rounded and more curved lugs. Overall, while the previous B&R Vintage was sharp and pointy, the new one is all about curves – which is definitely more in line with the concept of this watch. Several surface finishings have been applied: circular brushing on the lugs and polished flanks. The crown is well protected and screwed, with a decent 100m water-resistance – more than enough for a plunge in salty waters or even snorkelling. The rotating bezel – bi-directional – is not strictly speaking a diving bezel, even though the 60-minute scale can do the job – again, this is an all-purpose watch.
The main novelty on this Bell & Ross Vintage BR V2-92 Steel Heritage comes from the slightly different dial. While the inaugural edition featured a black dial with pure white indexes and hands, this new Steel Heritage adds a bit of vintage feel with faux-patina luminous paint (markers and hands), as well as a red depth indication. This evolution is relatively subtle but sufficient to give this piece the cool factor it was maybe lacking. It adds a warmer feel to the watch, which combined with the highly domed sapphire crystal, creates a pleasant overall design.
As a side note, this Vintage collection might be round and less tool-ish than the BR range, but it doesn’t skip all the signature design elements dear to B&R. Indeed, the pilot hands as well as the 3-6-9-12 indexes, with their recognisable font, are still present and forge a link with the rest of the watches offered by the brand.
We are not going to talk extensively about mechanics here. This has never been the point with Bell & Ross. Powering the BR V2-92 Steel Heritage is a Sellita-based movement, a Swiss automatic calibre with a time and date display. This reliable movement will do the job in this sports watch context and it allows to keep this watch in a reasonable price range. The movement is visible through the sapphire case back.
Two options are available for this Bell & Ross Vintage BR V2-92 Steel Heritage: a steel bracelet with a 3-link profile and satin-finished surfaces or, as seen here, a supple and comfortable black rubber strap – the latter definitely is the most pleasant option, both in terms of look and of comfort.
To conclude, the Vintage BR V2-92 Steel Heritage is a nice, pleasant, not-too-hardcore sports watch. All-purpose is the best way to describe it. The addition of creamy SuperLumiNova makes it even more desirable. It is priced at EUR 2,600 in the featured configuration (rubber) and EUR 2,900 with a steel bracelet. Already available in stores and in the brand’s webshop. More details on bellross.com.