We have come to like the Bell & Ross brand more and more with added exposure to the watches. At first blush, they seem to be a second tier brand, but with closer examination, the watches are certainly quite nice. Like the BR X1 RS17 we reviewed and wore for a week. The more we wore it, the more we liked it. These are watches to be worn to be appreciated. The third generation of the Bell & Ross Vintage collection is no different from the BR X1. The Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Black Steel Chronograph charmed its way into our hearts during the two weeks it was on loan to us. We review it here.
The Vintage family made its début during Bell & Ross’ early years. The watches of this collection are characterised by the classical round case with a collection in a range of complications, ranging from chronograph, flyback chronograph, dual timezone to the simple date and small second hands. The collection draws its inspiration mainly from the military, and as the name suggests, with a vintage kind of feel.
The collection features two watches, a time only watch with three hands, and a chronograph. The bell and ross BR V2-94 replica is the chronograph.
Both come in a 41 mm case, which is flatter than the previous generation. And available in a new polished and satin finished steel bracelet.
The case is in 316L stainless steel, with a polished and brushed case finishing. The case shape is round curving gradually around the sides to a graceful and elegant lug. The bezel is black with a graduated tachymeter scale.
Allow us first to address the elephant in the room. Many casual observers would accuse the overall look of the BR V2-94 dial to be reminiscent of the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch. While at a quick glance this may have a hint of truth, but on close examination, they are like chalk and cheese.
As they say, the devil is in the details, and here we observe that the markers for 12 and 6 are Arabic on the Bell & Ross, while the Speedy features bar markers all round. The hands are also dis-similar, with the B&R’s hour hand larger and thicker. The two watches also glow differently in the dark. The Omega’s bezel incorporates a lume, but the B&R does not. However, we feel the B&R lume is possibly applied thicker on the hands, and the result is a good, clean, very legible lume on the dial side, as this photograph illustrates.
On the case sides, the chronograph pushers, for example feature screw down crowns, and perhaps remind us more of the old Rolex Daytona like the Ref. 6263.
The BR V2-94 is available in two versions. One is a leather strap, and the other is a steel bracelet. We had the bracelet version for our review, and found it to be very handsome, well made and comfortable. We switched it around with some vintage-inspired straps and found that it looked as good on a leather or fabric strap. We have some pictures of this on our Instagram @Deployant.
Testing with a Scanning Acoustic Microscope
Of interest, and a nod to the vintage inspiration is the use of an ultra-curved sapphire crystal, almost a box at the very edges. Curiosity got the better of us, and as uber geeks, we could not help but to make an image scan of the crystal through a Scanning Acoustic Microscope. The image we got from the scan is shown below, taken by our Chief Technical Elf, Sharon Tan. The image is a composite scan as the probe traverses from the top of the crystal to the bottom. For a fuller explanation of the SAM and the images, we have prepared a corollary article here. Must read for the geeks!
The movement is the BR-CAL.301, which is a chronograph module under the dial powered by an ETA 2892 base movement. This is the same movement as the one used in the BR X1 RS17 we reviewed earlier. The movement features a column wheel system as the heart of the chronograph. Column wheel chronographs are more highly regarded by connoisseurs. The activation of pushers to start, stop and reset are usually more precise and have a more crisp feel. And this is the case with the BR V2-94. The activation of the chronograph, though requiring a firm push, is smooth, crisp, and the force needed to start, stop and reset are quite similar. There is a small jump of the seconds hand as the chronograph starts, but this is not unusual, especially in chronographs equipped with a horizontal clutch.
Movement finishing is adequate to allow the watch to function properly without any issues. The base ETA is robust and has sufficient torque to be easily up the task of driving the chronograph module.
A chronograph at this price point is perhaps more suited as a style statement rather than a technological tour de force or an appreciation on the haute horologie aspects of the chronograph. The movement powering the VR2-94 is a capable workhorse. It is not designed to win beauty contests, or excite horology geeks, but to work quietly and reliably. The styling of the watch is what makes it attractive and perhaps what makes it charming. We took the watch out on a photoshoot, incorporating the vintage concept. Please enjoy the following photo essay.
As we reflect over the two weeks or so we spent collectively with the Bell & Ross Vintage BR V2-94 Chronograph, we feel a bit like Professor Higgins in the 1913 stage play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. As he reflects over the warts in his relationship with Eliza, he suddenly realises that he is has indeed grown accustomed to her face, and in love with her. So it is with us. The watch made its rounds among our writers. Most were not immediately gushing to try on the watch at first blush. Most had the initial feel of the apparent similarity to the Moonwatch, but we dispelled that. But after a day or so with the Bell & Ross Vintage, all our staff who tried the watch came away loving the BR V2-94. Mostly for the way it looks. Quiet, discrete, handsome. The vintage aura is pervading. So as we conclude our time with the BR V2-94, we shed a little tear and will miss this watch.