February 20, 2012
by Ariel Adams
While it is true that before Bell & Ross became famous for being the “square watch brand” they were making really nice round watches, it still feels novel for them to be making nice round watches… again. A few years ago they realized that while the BR 01 and BR 03 are spectacularly popular, they wanted to also focus on more traditional looking pieces that share the same functional looking DNA.
One of those pieces is this Bell & Ross Vintage Original BR 126. There are a range of these new vintage looking watches from the brand and you’d be forgiven to get them confused given the soup of names. As you can hear in the review video, I like to muse on the fact that not only is “Vintage Original” a bit redundant, but that other watches from Bell & Ross have almost identical names. So when shopping for them, go by look rather than name to make it easy.
Pieces like this have Bell & Ross heritage going back about 15 years I believe. You’ll find some actual older models with a similar layout and concept. These modern ones however are a bit more refined and hearken more to the popular tactical yet calm look of the Bell & Ross BR 01 dial. That includes the hour markers and hands, as well as the all black-cased look. This piece is totally PVD black coated – but there are also polished steel versions available. In my opinion however this dial does go quite wonderfully with a black case for that seamless look.
The case is a medium 41mm wide in size that looks larger than it is given the thin bezel. It is water resistant to 100 meters. Over the dial is a sapphire crystal designed to look like a domed acrylic crystal. The dial is a matte black color with high contrast indicators. For the subdials Bell & Ross uses a slightly different texture. Legibility and lume are very good, with this watch being both easy and enjoyable to read. In addition to the 126 Chronograph models, there are 123 there-hand models with centrally-aligned subsidiary seconds dials.
Over on the back of the case is a slick set of details made to have the watch look more like a real military instrument. The watch details and reference number are printed in a way that replicates the look of military equipment – being engraved into the case back using a no nonsense font. Typical for Bell & Ross, the design of the watch is subdued and relaxed. There aren’t tons of in-you-face details, but rather a refined and simple execution resulting in a watch that feels comfortably composed.
By the way, when you see Bell & Ross use the term “carbon,” they refer to the black color, and that usually means a PVD coated case. The collection of 41m wide round-cased watches from the brand is impressive. Be it “Vintage, Original, or Heritage,” there are some great models out there. There are also the Officer versions of these watches which push the pieces into a more dressy realm, offering polished cases and slightly more formal dials.
Attached to the Bell & Ross Vintage Original BR 126 watch is a dark brown calf leather strap. To some people this color looks wrong with the case, and to others it is perfect. It does offer a stately old-school look that works in a lot of contexts. At the same time I would be highly inclined to experiment with different strap options. In my opinion this watch would look great with a black strap (perhaps with white contrast stitching), a lighter brown strap (as in the Heritage models), or you could go wild with a white, dark green, or purple leather or alligator strap.
Bell & Ross currently offers this and the rest of its timepieces available online via the Bell & Ross e-Boutique. Price for the Vintage Original BR 126 is $4,600.