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Review: Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Black Steel Chronograph

Bell & Ross evokes the feel for La Belle Époque.
by Peter Chong on August 30, 2017
Positives

Beautiful styling evoking a vintage feel.
Works well, robust.
Comfortable on the wrist.

Negatives

Not inexpensive.

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 Bell & Ross V2-94 Automatic Chronograph.

 

Bell & Ross V2-94 Automatic Chronograph

The current watch is part of the collection known as the third generation of the Vintage series for Bell & Ross.

 

The three generations of the Bell & Ross Vintage series.

 

The collection features two watches, a time only watch with three hands, and a chronograph. The BR V2-94 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, dial and hands

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.

Read also:   Throwback Sundays: Six Chronographs with a Racing Pedigree, from Our Archives

 

The VR2-94 has the polished facet of the case in juxtaposition to the polished sheen of the case sides. This makes for a rather luxurious feel. The bracelet also feature brushed links with polished middle links.

 

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.

 

Dial detail, showing the clearly marked hour markers, the 12 and 6 in large Arabic numerals. The chronograph seconds hand feature an aeroplane motif as the counterweight. Note also the sapphire glass is a box shape, rising from the side and arching over the dial.

 

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.

 

The lume shot of the Bell & Ross BR V2-94. The bezel is not marked with lume, but the hour markers and hands are very clear and legible.

 

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 pushers on the case sides with screw down crowns. One can note the alignment of the pushers are set higher than the main crown. This is because the Bell & Ross BR-CAL.301 is a module chronograph. The chronograph works are under the dial, and the base movement is from the ETA 2892.

 

Read also:   Inside Patek Philippe's Home in Plan-Les-Ouates Part 2.

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!

 

A gif scrolling through the layers of the imaging from the Scanning Acoustic Microscope.

 

 

 

The movement

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.

Read also:   Throwback Sundays: Six Chronographs to Time Your Train Delays, from Our Archives

 

The BR-CAL.301 is a module chronograph.

 

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.

 

The style

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.

 

The Bell & Ross Vintage BR V2-94 on the bonnet of a vintage Alfa Romeo GT1300 Junior circa 1973 which is prepared for racing. The car features roll bars in the cabin which is stripped of most creature comforts.

 

On the dashboard of the Alfa Romeo GT1300 Junior. The vintage feel of the BR V2-94 blending in with the early 1970s feel of the car.

 

On the window sill, a touch of old world charm. The Alfa exudes some of the qualities we feel appropriate for the BR V2-94. Not ostentatious, but high performance at all the right places.

 

Even in the engine compartment, the BR V2-94 looks at home. The engineered feel of the chronograph is fitting.

 

With a vintage Ray Ban, the style of the BR V2-94 shines through.

 

Perched on a tube power amplifier, perhaps an era earlier than that of the Alfa Romeo, bathed in the warm glow of the vacuum tubes.

 

Concluding thoughts

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.

 

The 41mm diameter wears well on the wrist. Here on the author’s 7 inch rather typical male wrist.

 

The BR V2-94 also wears beautifully on the smaller and feminine 5.5″ wrist of our lady writer. Here, we experiment the watch on vintage-inspired straps.

 

For more information on the Bell & Ross Vintage Collection, click here.

Bell & Ross Vintage BR V2-94 Chronograph Technical specifications

Movement: calibre BR-CAL.301. Automatic mechanical. Crystal: ultra-curved sapphire with anti-reflective coating.
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds at 3 o’clock. Date. Chronograph:
30-min timer at 9 o’clock, central chronograph seconds.
Water-resistance: 100 metres.
Case: 41 mm in diameter. Satin-polished steel. Steel bezel with anodised black
aluminium ring and tachymeter scale. Screw-down crown and push-buttons.
Sapphire case-back.
Strap: satin-polished steel or black calfskin.
Dial: matt black. Numerals and indices coated in white Superluminova®.
Metal skeletonised Superluminova®-filled hour and minute hands.
Buckle: folding. Satin-polished steel.

RRP: S$ 6,800 with GST (or US$ 4,600 in the US) S$6,300 for black calfskin strap (not reviewed)

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