The story in a second:
Beige by name (and by face) but certainly not beige by nature. This Bell Ross Vintage BR 123 replica watch doesn’t overwhelm at first with its vintage inspiration, but the result is a nigh-on perfect everyday watch.On the whole this is a nicely executed and comfortable case and crystal that lives up to the vintage inspired promise of the BR 123.
The Big Question
Can Bell & Ross sell non-square watches? Tom Hanks (who owns one) says yes.
I want to start with an admission that also functions as a spoiler. I wasn’t expecting to like this watch anywhere near as much as I did. Sorry Bell & Ross. A day in this difficult life of mine involves trying on a large number of very well made watches, ranging from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cue violins. And one of the toughest categories to impress in is the precise category that the BR 123 finds itself in: a mainstream, best fake Bell Ross Vintage BR 123 automatic watch priced under $5k. It’s hard to impress because it’s such a crowded market.
Most of the standout watches in this category do so because they have a point of difference and a positioning all their own. For example the Tudor Heritage Ranger has a really strong vintage vibe going on, and something like the Frederique Constant Slimline is all about the minimalist look.
But the Bell & Ross does something that I think is even more impressive. It stands out while having nothing in particular that is standout about it. In other words, it’s a great example of a watch that is greater than the sum of its parts, and it’s one of the nicest daily watches I’ve had the pleasure of wearing in the last 12 months.
The case of the BR123 is just the right size at 41mm across, round, with a thin bezel and long, wide shouldered lugs that add just a little masculine swagger to the Swiss Fake Bell Ross Vintage BR 123 watch. In profile the lugs are surprisingly slender and taper quite strongly – they really do look and feel like lugs from the ‘50s or ‘60s. The case is a mix of satin and polished finishes, which keeps it somewhere in between smart and ‘tool’ watch. The crown is solid and well machined, but not too chunky or over-tooled.
Special mention should go to the crystal on the 123. Rather than opt for the industry standard flat sapphire Bell & Ross have opted for a lovely, high-domed sapphire, which now seems to be called “glassbox” which gives the watch a lovely warm vibe and really helps it live up to the vintage moniker. It would have been easy for them to go with a cheaper sapphire option, but they’ve made the right call in opting for the more expensive crystal, as it elevates the watch.
Beige. Not the sexiest of colours. But I was surprised to find the colour quite exciting. The dial is a tribute to the warm, creamy patina of a well-aged watch, but avoids being a slavish re-edition or faux-tina wannabe. Again, smart call. The dial layout is very simple and clean, and it is in these elements that the Bell & Ross brand DNA is most evident. Big bold printed Arabics at 12, 3 and 9, and strong indices and hash marks around the rest echo the military layout of the iconic B&R tool watches. The sword style handset is the sort we associate with WWII Pilot’s watches, and is the appropriate vintage option here.
A personal bug-bear of mine is badly integrated date windows. So often it seems that a dial is designed and then, as an afterthought, a little ugly square is cut out of it to accommodate a practical but aesthetically jarring date wheel. Not so on the 123. It’s one of the most considered and visually pleasing date windows I’ve seen in a long time. The design of the dial is strongly focused on the vertical axis, with the Bell & Ross ampersand, the seconds and the date forming a pleasingly repetitive circle motif. The dial is clean, legible, and attractive. Despite being beige.
Not a whole lot to say here. As you would expect the movement is not in-house, it’s the ever-reliable ETA 2892 (one of ETA’s more high end offerings) that is perfectly fine for a watch at this price (heck, many brands think stock ETA is perfectly fine for a watch at more than double this price point). I would have expected an entry level automatic from a mainstream brand to have the obligatory sapphire case back, but to their credit Bell & Ross have again honoured the heritage spirit of the collection by opting for a solid caseback.
This watch comes on a nice, padded brown calfskin strap with a fairly standard deployant, which again I think is the right choice. Other Vintage BR models sport much more strongly heritage looking straps, but the brown calfskin is a flexible choice, meaning this watch could pull suit duty just as easily as a more casual look. The strap is perfectly in keeping with the ‘do-anything’ personality of the BR 123 Beige.
The Vintage BR 123 Beige is perhaps the only thing with beige in the title that has ever surprised, and dare I say, excited me. I was expecting a ‘by-the-numbers’ heritage piece. What I found, after a week of wear was a watch that was not so much a ‘vintage’ piece, but rather an excellent option for a practical, comfortable and very good looking everyday watch, albeit with an old school twist.
Bell & Ross rose to fame with aviation inspired tool watches. The Vintage BR collection marks an important step for the brand away from their square icon,
For the Watchforums
Bell & Ross often cops flack for being a young company that is seen to trade on borrowed, or worse still, fictional heritage to inspire their watches. Does this perceived lack of authenticity matter? And are they any more or less authentic than any of the other ‘aviation’ brands with similar movements?
Who’s it for?
If you’re after a daily beater with a bit of vintage personality that won’t break the bank, this is your watch.
What would we change?
Please Bell & Ross marketing/product naming department – take ‘Beige’ out of the model name. Who ever thought that was a good idea?
Bell & Ross Vintage BR 123 Original Beige Australian pricing and availability
The BR 123 Original Beige has a retail price of $3300 AUD.
|Brand:||Bell & Ross|
|Model:||BR 123 Original Beige|
|Case Material:||Satin steel|
|Dial:||Beige dial, numerals, index and hands covered with luminous material|