In 2017, Bell & Ross debuted its revamped “Vintage” collection and it instantly became my favourite range from the brand. Since then, the company has been steadily knocking them out of the park with tasteful, vintage-inspired models, ranging from the simple Vintage BR V1-92 Military to the sportier BR V2-94 Vintage Chronograph. The latest offerings to the collection come in the form of the Bell & Ross Vintage BRV1-92 & BRV2-94 Racing Bird, the latter of which we are getting hands-on with today.
If you read our earlier article on the Bell & Ross Vintage BRV1-92 & BRV2-94 Racing Bird, you already know the genesis of these models. (If you missed it, you can read it here.) Essentially, the company’s co-founder and creative director, Bruno Belamich, loves to design things other than watches, like supercars and vintage high-speed hot rods. His latest effort is the futuristic-looking BR-Bird, an ultra-modern monoposto (one-seater) aeroplane, powered by a V12 Rolls Royce Falcon engine and crafted with high-tech materials (graphite, fibreglass, titanium and aluminium).
One of the watches to accompany this aeroplane racer is the BRV2-94 Racing Bird, a pilot’s watch with chronograph functionality and a distinctly retro colour theme. It uses the same base as last year’s model, meaning a 41mm steel case with screwed pushers and crown, and is offered on either a blue and orange leather strap or a three-link satin-finished steel bracelet. Personally, I prefer the steel bracelet version, as there’s already a lot of colour going on with this watch and the addition of a blue strap is a bit overpowering.
Speaking of colour, the distinctive dial is definitely the main drawcard of this watch. As Brice mentioned in his earlier article, Bell & Ross rarely moves beyond black, blue or dark brown colour schemes, especially for its Vintage collection and so this model definitely stands out. Whether that’s a good thing or not is a matter of personal taste but I have a feeling this watch is going to be somewhat polarising, a classic case of you either love it or hate it. In the flesh, it is slightly more muted than the press images would suggest but it’s definitely got a 1970s racing chronograph vibe going on.
One thing that cannot be disputed, however, is that the BRV2-94 Racing Bird is highly legible, a critical feature for pilot’s watches. The white background provides the perfect contrast for the different coloured accents, making everything really stand out. The hour and minute hands have been treated with Super-LumiNova and point to blue Arabic numerals, which can be spotted at a glance, whilst the minute track is clearly delineated into 5-minute segments by alternating the use of blue and grey. The chronograph seconds hand is orange, whilst the 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock is once again segmented by colour to enhance legibility. All of this is framed by a fixed bezel, with a tachymeter scale printed on a blue aluminium insert.
One of the more subtle changes on this colourful dial, which Bell & Ross fans will no doubt appreciate, is the new date display. If you recall on the original BRV2-94 chronograph from last year, the date was placed in a tiny window between 4 and 5 o’clock. It kept the main dial clear but made the date display seem like something of an afterthought and a lot of people didn’t really like it. This time, the date is displayed via an arched window at 3 o’clock, inside the small seconds sub-dial. Again, this is sure to be a polarising decision as some people (myself included) don’t prefer this style of display where three separate sets of digits are visible at any one time. That being said, on the wrist, it is definitely easier to read the date and it actually looks like it has purposefully been integrated into the design.
Powering the BRV2-94 Racing Bird is the automatic calibre BR-CAL.301, visible through the sapphire case back (ETA 2894-2 base). Operating at 4Hz, it offers hours, minutes, small seconds plus chronograph and display. The stainless steel case is brushed and polished and is rated water-resistant to 100m. A limited edition of 999 pieces, the watch is priced at EUR 3,990 or USD 4,400 on a leather strap and EUR 4,300 or USD 4,700 on a steel bracelet. More details on bellross.com.