The French maison has always been passionate about the military values and its history. Therefore, the military-inspired pilot watches have been a part of the Bell & Ross portfolio for many years. As we got used to, these special timepieces usually play on the black and white look, but the newest military-themed watch from the luxury French watchmaking brand brings a completely new style based on the formal, dress uniforms of Aéronavale officers.
Today, I will actually review two new models – Bell & Ross Vintage BR 126 Aéronavale and BR 123 Aéronavale – both characterized by the blue and gold color combination. Watch connoisseurs may find similarities with the vintage French naval aviators’ chronographs, but these newcomers manage to bring a new style, together with some retro elements, thus distinguishing themselves from the crowd.
The dial is a bright metallic blue with a sunburst pattern, and matches the colors of the dress uniforms of Aéronavale officers. The blue dial also evokes the blue of the sea. Hands and hour markers are rose gold-plated and symbolize nobility and victory.
The flagship model for this naval-inspired collection is the BR 126 Aéronavale Chronograph inspired by the pilot-themed watches from the 1960s. Underneath its highly domed sapphire crystal glass lies a stunning blue soleillé dial with gold appliqués and hands coated with Superluminova, which comprises two snailed guilloche-finished sub-dials. A 60-minute graduated bezel (not a tachymeter scale) in blue anodized aluminum nicely rounds the dial surface.
The straight case is crafted from stainless steel and measures 43mm in diameter. The case features the crown and chronograph pushers without protection, and it is constructed to provide water resistance up to 100 meters (about 330 feet). From the rear, the sapphire crystal glass reveals the ETA-based caliber BR-CAL.301 mechanical automatic movement which offers functions for hours, minutes, small seconds, as well as a date and chronograph function. The movement offers a power reserve of 38 hours.
Bell & Ross offers two versions of this chronograph attached on either blue calfskin strap with ecru stitching (ref. BRV126-BLU-ST/SCA), or a midnight blue alligator strap (ref. BRV126-BLU-ST/SCR).
For those of you who prefer a simpler timepiece, the French watchmaker offers a three-hander model equipped with the caliber BR-CAL.305 mechanical automatic movement that provides the same power reserve as the chronograph BR Aéronavale model. The BR 123 Aeronavale timepiece features several same characteristics as the BR 126 Aéronavale, such as the size of 43mm in diameter, water resistance of 100 meters, blue dial with gold appliqués, domed sapphire crystals and see-through case back that reveals its inner beauty.
The watch also comes with either a distressed blue calfskin strap with cinnamon stitching (ref. BRV123-BLU-ST/SCA), or a blue alligator strap with a pin buckle clasp (ref. BRV123-BLU-ST/SCR).
The elegant three-hander comes with the retail price of 2,700 Euros ($3,000) for the model attached to the calfskin strap, and 2,900 Euros ($3,200) for the one that comes with the alligator strap. The chronographs are priced at 3,800 Euros ($4,200) for the calfskin strap one and 3,990 Euros ($4,400) for the watch teamed up with the alligator strap. They will be available from August 2016 at the Bell & Ross boutique and authorized retailers.