Earlier this year, at Baselworld 2017, Bell & Ross renewed their “classical” collection – the Vintage (which, compared to the bold and large BR-01 watches is more conventionally styled, with a distinctly sporty theme). Smaller, slimmer and more elegant, with just a tiny bit of vintage feel, this collection has been highly praised and widely recognized as a success. Inspired by military and special forces, with the Vintage V2-92 & V2-94 Garde-Cotes, Bell & Ross pay tribute to France’s coastguards, using a specific color code of grey, orange and white.
The new “Vintage” collection introduced earlier this year is rather special for the brand. It is the only ‘traditional’ timepiece, with a normal round case and normal overall style. No square, dashboard-instrument inspiration here, yet the Vintage is still deeply influenced by military codes, a theme dear to Bell & Ross. As usual legibility, functionality and precision remain key elements, but it is here mixed with something different than the usual bold and toolish style of the brand. In this context, we have a traditional round case, more curves and more subtle dials. While the overall identity remains (military numerals, sword-shaped hands…), every aspect is more elegantly designed, more refined and more restrained, to set this collection apart from the tools that are the BR01 and BR03. The case becomes more sophisticated too; the diameter has been decreased, the watches are slimmer and finally, the rounded lugs perfectly integrate the strap or the bracelet.
As we’ve seen previously, this collection was first launched with the standard models, with black dial and white indexes and hands. Three versions were available: 3-hand with a 38.5mm sleek case, 3-hand with a rotating bezel, and a 41mm case featuring Chronograph with 41mm case and tachymeter scale on a black bezel. The two latter variants are now undergoing a slight update, mainly with new color codes, to pay tribute to coastguards – in the long tradition of the brand to consider and honor those who serve in military forces or the professional services. Here, the clear inspiration comes from sea rescuers, their helicopters and their diving suits… And as you can see, it means a mix of grey, bright security orange and white.
The Bell & Ross Vintage Garde-Cotes collection comprises two watches: one diving-inspired watch with 60-minute rotating bezel and one doctor’s chronograph with pulsation scale – in keeping with the original vocation of this watch. The first one in this collection is based on the nautical-inspired watch (not a proper dive watch, as with a water resistant to 100m, maybe a bit too low for some collectors – yet enough for most recreational diving sessions), the Vintage V2-92.
For this Garde-Cotes version, the Vintage V2-92 receives a new color scheme. The dial is now mid-grey – actually a surprising color, as plain (no sun-ray pattern) and matte, really military-looking – paired with a minute track in bright orange. The hands and indexes remain classically painted in white, to optimize legibility. Note that this watch is available with 2 possible options: rubber strap or steel bracelet. Overall, if the color choice won’t be to everyone’s liking, it keeps track with the military roots of the brand and offer a nice additional option to the classical black-dial version.
Elsewhere, we find the same traits for which the model won praise when launched: a smaller diameter of 41mm, a slimmer case, and more curves on the casebands and lugs, which feel like a more compact case once on the wrist. The Vintage V2-92 has clearly gained in comfort and elegance, compared to the older model. The bezel can rotate, and thanks to the 60-minute track, and it enables timing dive sessions (or all kinds of elapsed times). Inside is a robust automatic movement, the calibre BR-CAL.302 (based on a Sellita SW300-1). On top of the dial is an ultra-domed sapphire crystal that gives the Bell & Ross Vintage V2-92 Garde-Cotes nice reflections and a slight old-school touch. Prices go from 2,600 Euro on rubber to 2,900 Euro on steel bracelet. More details here.
The second watch in the Vintage Garde-Cotes collection is based on the chronograph introduced at Baselworld 2017. Again, the recipe is the same: smaller (41mm vs 43mm previously), as well as slimmer and more rounded. To keep the overall design clean and a bit old-fashioned, the Parisian brand has decided to equip the Bell & Ross Vintage V2-94 Garde-Cotes with a twin-subdial movement, meaning that the dial remains quite sleek. Considering the new colors added to the watch, this is a good option to prevent a loud and busy dial. Sub-dials are oversized and legibility is on par with the vocation of the watch.
As with the 3-hand version, we find back in this Vintage V2-94 Garde-Cotes the same design clues: white hands and indexes for the readability, orange minute track and chronograph hands (also on the 30-minute counter) and that special grey for the dial. In order to guarantee a sufficient water resistance (meaning 100m), pushers are screwed just like the crown. Another distinctive feature compared to the black version is the bezel insert, which now shows a pulsation scale (helpful to measure heart beats per minute), which makes sense with the rescue / coastguard theme of this watch.
As with the 3-hand version, we have a watch with greater comfort on the wrist and a nice classical feel – emphasized by the rounded shapes and the domed sapphire. Inside the case is an automatic chronograph, calibre BR-CAL.301 (based on an ETA 2894-2). It is available on rubber or steel bracelet and prices go from 3,900 Euro to 4,200 Euro. More details here. Orders can be made directly on the Bell & Ross Website.