Bell & Ross’s watches are inspired by the history of aviation. Legibility, reliability and precision lead the list of specs. We checked all these attributes in our test of the BR V1-92 Black Steel.
Ever since Bell & Ross was founded in 1992, pilots’ watches have not only been part of the brand’s collection; they have also comprised its core. The angular BR 01, which is a replica of an airplane cockpit clock, caused quite a stir when it was launched in 2005. The Vintage collection, which is identified by the letter “V” in the models’ names, is just the opposite: it combines a classic round stainless-steel case with an opaque back, a no-frills dial and a simple leather strap with a pin buckle. The BR V1-92 Black Steel, our test watch, was introduced in 2017.
The tripartite stainless-steel case measures 38.55 mm in diameter and satisfies all the requirements of a functional watch for everyday use. It’s not overly large, so it fits well on most wrists. It feels comfortable on the forearm because the case’s lugs curve downward and the handmade leather strap is soft and supple. The crown is large enough to be easily wound by hand and, with a little help from the fingertips, it can be readily pulled outward to operate the rapid-reset mechanism for the date display and to reset the positions of the hands. The case resists pressure to 100 meters and is sealed shut by a massive back.
A typical detail of the BR V1-92 is an extreme bulge along the circumference of the sapphire crystal. This not only accentuates the watch’s vintage character but also ensures that the case can be kept slim. This slimness, in addition, further enhances the wearing comfort. The narrow and steeply sloping bezel surrounds the sapphire crystal, which is anti-reflective on both sides. Together, these two components provide ample room for a spacious and handsome dial. The contrast of black and white gives the face an uncluttered look as well as optimum legibility. The Arabic numerals and the index lines in three different lengths are neatly applied to the face. The long hour indexes glow brightly in the dark, as do the four Arabic numerals and the white Super-LumiNova on the hands. The lance-shaped hour hand and the baton-shaped minutes hand recall the hands on aircraft instruments.
A tiny stylized airplane acts as a counterweight on the short end of the seconds hand. Bell & Ross says that this new detail is slated to adorn many of its watches and will underscore the brand’s affiliation with aviation. But the seconds hand occasionally causes problems because it can be confused with the minutes hand when viewed quickly. The second hand’s rhythmic movements soon clear up the confusion, but misreading happens relatively often, leaving the wearer out of sync for a few minutes. However, the seconds hand cannot be seen at all in the dark, while all the other indicators have a rich green glow.
Our test watch gained between 4 and 6 seconds per day. BR-CAL.302 is based on an ETA movement and runs a few seconds too fast, but it keeps time accurately on the wrist. The caliber remains unseen behind the case’s opaque back, which really isn’t a problem because the caliber is unembellished. All in all, the BR V1-92 Black Steel fulfills its duties in daily life: it fits perfectly on the wrist, it runs well, it’s highly legible, and its vintage styling is simple and handsome, but it may be a tad expensive.
Manufacturer: Bell & Ross, 8 Rue Copernic, 75116 Paris, France
Reference number: BR V1-92-BL-ST/SCA
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date
Movement: Caliber BR-CAL. 302 based on ETA 2824-2, automatic, 28,800 vph, 25 jewels, Kif Trior shock absorption, gold-plated nickel balance, Nivarox hairspring, bipartite index (Etachron), 49-hour power reserve, diameter = 25.6 mm, height = 4.6 mm
Case: Stainless steel, sapphire crystal with extreme bulge along its periphery, anti-reflective on both sides (above dial), water resistant to 100 m
Strap and clasp: Calfskin strap with stainless-steel pin buckle
Rate results (Deviation in seconds per 24 hours):
When fully wound +6.1
After 24 hours +4.5
On the wrist +4.0
Dimensions: Diameter = 38.55 mm, height = 11.14 mm, weight = 64 g
Variations: BR V1-92 Military ($1,990); BR V1-92 Bellytanker, limited to 500 pieces ($2,300)