If you think of Bell & Ross as a maker of primarily oversized, square-cased, aviation-oriented watches, you’re not alone. However, Bell & Ross are also the producers of a growing collection of heritage-inspired aviation pieces which they call their Vintage Collection. Now, Bell & Ross have further expanded the 38.5mm BR V range of the Vintage Collection with the new Bell & Ross V1-92, an aviation-inspired sport watch with a domed sapphire crystal and B&R’s Cal.302 automatic mechanical movement.
Having a 42-hour power book and beating at 4Hz, this is competent, reliable modern movement found in much more watches than I will list out here. I discussed this movement in the Tissot Heritage 1948 Hands-On article here, but it is a modular motion based on the ETA 2892-2. Bell & Ross has slightly altered it to eliminate the third sub-dial but mechanically it offers the same 42-hour power book and stays equally as reliable. The sapphire crystal of this screen caseback is printed using a silhouette of the Bellytanker theory car. They’re sized and made conservatively enough to be everyday wearers also. The Bell & Ross Vintage V1-92 Bellytanker ships on an aged brown leather strap for $2,300 and the Bell & Ross Vintage V2-94 Bellytanker is available for $4,400 to a brown calfskin strap or for $4,700 using a stainless steel bracelet.
Clearly drawing design cues from aviation instruments and timepieces of the past, the V1-92’s dial is glossy black with faux vintage colored Super-LumiNova coated baton hour markers, a minute scale and sub divisions printed in white, as well as white printed minute markers instead of hour markers at five-minute increments. The election to go with prominent minute markers as opposed to hour markers demonstrates B&R’s dedication to the vintage flyer feel of the piece as well as a nod to historical pilot’s watches from IWC and Laco. The twelve o’clock indicator, a triangle and two dots, is also borrowed from classic pilot’s watches. A white on black date wheel is visible through a window neatly tucked into the 4:30 position – though it’s partly cutting off some of the numbers.
Sword-style hands, also coated in the vintage-looking Super-LumiNova, are again reminiscent of WWII era pilot’s watches from makers much older than Bell & Ross. At six o’clock we find a red circle with “M T” (to stand for “Military Type”) printed within to mimic the red colored 3H (which referred to tritium or Hydrogen-3 as a lume source) markings found on older German military watches like those made by Heuer and issued to the German Air Force. A thick, domed, anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal protects the dial and adds some vertical heft to the otherwise diminutive case.
Like the rest of the V1 watches in the Vintage Collection, the Bell & Ross V1-92 features a very straightforward, brushed stainless steel case in a traditional round shape like those seen on many vintage military watches. A 38.5mm case width keeps things feeling vintage and the modest size should allow for comfortable wear on wrists of many sizes. Ironically, many of the watches the Bell & Ross V1-92 seems to draw inspiration from were giant (as large as 55mm) having been designed to be worn over a pilot’s thick jacket. Bell & Ross clearly understand that the modern market has a place for those who appreciate vintage styling with a more wearable presence. The new Bell & Ross V1-92 Military also shares its movement with the rest of the V1 series.
Bell & Ross’ Cal. 302 is based on the Sellita SW300, a 25-jewel, 38-hour power reserve, automatic mechanical, time-and-date caliber which hums along at a standard 28,800bph. Sellita’s SW300, while not as similar as the SW200 and ETA 2824, exists as an alternative to the ETA 2892. While it isn’t a ground-breaking piece of haute horology, the Sellita based Cal. 302 should provide years of faithful and accurate service and make for easy servicing when the time comes.
A new dial for the existing V1 series, the Bell & Ross V1-92 adds yet another popular pilot’s configuration to the expanding lineup and is the only 38.5mm model with faux vintage colored Super-LumiNova, if that’s what you’re into. The Bell & Ross V1-92 Military is also not outrageously priced at $1,990 USD on a very much aviation-inspired vintage looking brown leather strap. bellross.com