This is the chronograph version of the venerable Bell & Ross Geneva 123, which I discussed here. The pre-BR-01 Bell & Ross is a testament to the design finesse of the French watch firm. Although the Geneva 126 is merely a bi-compax chronograph version of the watch, the look is very different.
The beautiful number fonts remain, but with the 126 you have more of them. The Geneva 123 have the 12, 3, and 9, while the Genevea 126 clearly has more numbers displayed. The 126 trades off some of the attractive symmetry of the 123 for a more masculine military look. This watch really is a combination of classic military watch design and old world formality. Size is a conservative 39mm but they wear large given the thin bezel.
Inside is an ETA 2894-2 automatic movement with the a chronograph module. This is of the highest grade chronograph enabled movements available, and is visible through the case back. The chronograph pushers are very easy to use, especially without looking on this model, and are a pleasure to engage given the high quality of the movement. Being a bi-compax chronograph, tere are only two subsidiary windows meaning that this a 30 minute counter, rather than a 12 hour counter that is common with the a tri-compax or Valjoux 7750 type of movement. I do really love the use of the two large symmetrical counters; legibility is top-notch.
Much of the quality from the Bell & Ross Geneva 126 is difficult to determine from pictures alone. You really need to handle these to understand the sheer level of detail. One of the most pleasing aspect of this watch is the bracelet; a component often under engineered by many other watch companies. Not here, as Bell & Ross does not skimp given the cost of these watch. A good bracelet has no gaps in it, and here the Geneva excels. Using a complex system of links, you achieve a very flexible and smooth flowing bracelet that has no gaps in it, without looking too complex. Most of the detail is located on the wrist-facing side of the bracelet. Also, looking at the bracelet from the side shows how the links fit together like curved puzzle pieces, alternating for the closest (among the links) and most flexible fit.
It is sad that Bell & Ross Geneva watches are so rare. These are highly limited in production, but in a sense that is good. quality and mass production don’t often coincide, and it is nice to know that there are those still out there able to make a wonderful watch without succumbing to the potential woes associated with mass production. Again, it goes without saying that the components of this watch are top notch, with retail prices in the $3,500 range you are paying for it. The occassional pre-owned model is a great value. You really have to see these watches in person to appreciate them, and the rare example that shows up for sale should be snatched with haste.
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