This is the Bell & Ross 126 Sport and it is one of the most important watches currently sold by the sometimes polarizing French brand. Bell & Ross is a recognizable luxury brand thanks to their line of instrument-style watches like the BR 01 and its many iterations. These square-cased watches offer owners a chance of effectively wearing an aeronautical gauge on their wrist as their design has been derived from the legible military styling of an airplane instrument cluster. Both airplane gauges and watches find value in a similar sort of styling, mainly one based in contrast and simplicity with the primary goal being accuracy and legibility of the displayed values.
While Bell & Ross may be best known for their instrument lines, the brand has recently been on something of a tear, expanding the scope of their aesthetic with a range of vintage-inspired watches which are meant to echo the military and war-time roots of pilot's watches. While we have shown you both the BR 123, BR 126 Original, and a highlight of the 126 Sport, we felt the need to try a 126 Sport on for a couple of weeks to offer a more complete view of this small but important variation of the BR 126 lineup (tough job, but you can thank me later).
The Bell & Ross 126 Sport is a 41mm sport chronograph featuring a bi-compax (two sub dial) layout. The main difference between the BR 126 and the BR 126 Sport is the addition of a thin fixed bezel which does give the 126 Sport a more... sporty look. While technically part of Bell & Ross' "Vintage" line, the 126 Sport doesn't exhibit any of the usual vintageshorthand we have seen in other watches like faux aged luminous paint, special markings or logos, or the use of retro-style hands/markers. The 126 Sport is a more simplified and modern example of a watch meant to suggest a certain respect for its lineage, if such a thing exists. With styling that is essentially a more military and pilot inspired take on the Omega Speedmaster, I think the BR 126 looks outstanding.
The bezel is 43mm wide so this 41mm watch wears a bit bigger than its listed size would suggest. Factoring for the size of the bezel and proportionally large dial, the BR 126 Sport wears like a perfectly modern sport watch and has a lot of wrist presence for a completely monochromatic watch.
The BR 126 Sport is powered by an ETA 2894 automatic chronograph movement, which can be seen via the sapphire display back. The ETA 2894 is essentially an ETA 2892A2 (top tier ETA three hand and date) which has been modified to offer a two dial chronograph. The chronograph displays its reading via the left sub dial (30 minute measure) and the full-size seconds hand. Running seconds for standard time are shown on the right sub dial.
The dial design is simple, balanced and very legible with crisp markers and long thin hands. The BR 123/126 signature over sized 6 and 12 markers are still here and add a bit of casual military appeal to the 126 Sport dial design.
The chronograph controls are quite conventional with the start/pause assigned to the top pump-style pusher and reset assigned to the lower pusher. The action for the pushers is heavy and leaves no doubt that the pusher has been actuated (see video for example). The crown offers control of time and date setting. The BR 126 Sport is water resistant to 100m as the crown does not screw down. The sapphire crystal is treated with an anti-reflective coating and does a good job of managing reflections given its domed nature. The sapphire crystal sits on top of the bezel with the edge of the crystal exposed rather than being flush-mounted with the edge of case. This crystal application gives the 126 Sport a vintage feel, but may cause the crystal, especially its edge, to be more susceptible to damage from daily wear (see video for a better view of this).
On the wrist, the polished steel case is bright and nicely compliments the flat black dial and polished hands and markers. The 126 Sport wears large enough but is actually only 51mm lug to lug and 13mm tall, including the domed sapphire crystal. Weight comes in at a completely reasonable 104g on the pictured black leather strap and deployment clasp.
As we previously reported, the Bell & Ross 126 Sport carries a retail price of $4500 USD which is pricey but not surprising given both average Bell & Ross prices and the varied competition in this range. So what makes the Bell & Ross 126 Sport so important? It expands their brand into a more traditional space. While there is nothing wrong with the BR 01, the iconic Bell & Ross instrument watches are a love or hate affair, much like the Omega Proplof. I think the 123/126/126 Sport lineup offers a more accessible and versatile response to a buyer who appreciates Bell & Ross but isn't all that enamored by their instrument style watches. The 126 Sport is certainly not Bell & Ross re-inventing the wheel but it is a very attractive point in their evolution of expanding their main lineup to include models with more mass-market appeal. I have to agree with Ariel's assessment that the BR 126 Sport is an excellent option for someone looking for a well rounded, nicely made, and versatile daily wearer.
Written by James Stacey