If I could go back and add an additional watch to my Top 5 watches at Baselworld 2010, it would be this new collection from Bell & Ross. Last year, one of their hottest models was the BR01-92 Instrument Heritage (that I wrote about here). It had a new (old) type of vintage aircraft cockpit dial design and a tan leather strap that looked like it was made out of baseball glove leather. People loves the pieces, and it finalized Bell & Ross's trifecta of aircraft instrument themed watches (though there will be more I am sure). While not the subject of this article entirely, I have placed an image here of the new Bell & Ross BR03-92 Heritage watch that is in the smaller 42mm wide BR03 case, as opposed to the 46mm wide BR01 case. While the BR03 Heritage was technically announced last year, this is the first time I have seen it. One change for the BR03 Heritage is that the leather strap is free from the "branding" that the BR01 Heritage watch had.
The greater stuff is the Bell & Ross Vintage BR Heritage watches - especially the Carbon version. This is a round port of the BR03 Heritage watch in a 41mm wide round, carbon colored black case. There is also the non Carbon version, which has a 41mm wide polished steel case, and slightly different dial and hands. Each of the styles comes in 123 and 126 versions. The 123 models have three-hand automatic Swiss ETA 2892 movements, while the 126 models have modified ETA automatic chronograph 2894 movements. I wrote about the Bell & Ross Vintage BR 123 & 126 Heritages watches on AskMen.com here.
Each has deliciously simple dials that ooze style and restrained masculine good taste. My top pick if the Vintage BR Heritage 123 Carbon. Amazingly comfy and bold dial that to me feels like a fresh alternative to many Panerai watches. Just a simple thing like putting the watch in a round case did so much. Note the vintage style curved edge sapphire crystal. The combo of the matte black light, tan colored leather is excellent.
In addition to taking from the BR Heritage collection, these watches have a lot of influence from the pre-BR01 Bell & Ross collection of watches. Consider what you see here as a combo of Bell & Ross old and new (even the names are like mashups). Design and case styles came from the older Bell & Ross Vintage (123 and 126), as well as the Geneva (123 and 126 models). While not exactly like Rolex (and certainly not as well), Bell & Ross is adopting a design theory that encourages retaining a core brand look and making very minor design changes over time, as opposed to coming out with wild new mainstream models. Bell & Ross certainly has their avant grade innovative stuff, but they are keeping their main selling watches closely connected in demeanor.
This new collection feels very wearable, likable, and tasteful. Few people will not like these watches, a lot of that has to do with the fact that Bell & Ross ensures each timepiece is highly readable. These are (like the names imply) instruments, meant for telling us information. Though I am a bit irritated that the names are a bit confusing and redundant sounding. Do you really need "vintage" and "heritage" in the same name? Never the less, these pieces are clear winners for Bell & Ross. Nothing too crazy, just good looking watches, that aren't too expensive, immediately wearable, and really just more of what people already like. I certainly want one. UPDATE: Price for the Bell & Ross Vintage BR 123 is $2,900 and price for the Vintage BR 126 Heritage is $4,200.