New Bell & Ross WW2 Bomber Regulateur ¶
Bell & Ross has been releasing many new and distinctive watches lately, departing from their tried-and-true Instrument series to offer some more unique timepieces. Last year we saw the release of the WW1 series, inspired by early wristwatches adapted from pocket watches often used during the First World War. This year they continue the vintage military theme with the introduction of the WW2 Bomber Regulateur, a rather strange (ok, really strange) watch designed to emulate a particular style of timing instrument used during the Second World War.
Vintage bomb timers were usually seen in two main variations. One was a rectangular instrument mounted clock that had a prominent seconds hand. The second, and the inspiration for the Regulateur, was a massive wrist-worn stopwatch that had a central minute hand and sub-seconds. As such it could be used as a navigational aid, where minutes and seconds are the most important measures (hence why most pilot designs feature prominent minute scales instead of hour markers). The most distinctive feature of this stopwatch was the large knife-edge bezel that rotated a triangular marker to count minutes. The unique shape of the bezel was for ease of manipulation by a crewman wearing heavy gloves, which also necessitated the use of an oversized crown and pusher.
The WW2 applies the timer/navigation watch style in impressive fashion. The sharp edged bezel dominates the design, while adopting a regulator layout – running seconds are at 12 o’clock, hours are at 6, and the minutes are in the centre - maintains the prominence of the minute hand. Did I mention the watch is also enormous? 49mm across, to be precise. This is a conversation starter if there ever was one. I would say it’s a design that is so ugly that it is cool, and that is the general consensus around the office. This is not a watch that balances delicate proportions and classical style in a harmonious package – it’s an ugly brute that looks purposeful. And dangerous. You wouldn’t want to get smacked upside the head with that bezel.
Despite all appearances, the WW2 wears very well considering how large and awkward it seems. The bezel is tall enough that you won’t have it digging into your wrist, and the huge onion-shaped crown is moved to the 9 o’clock position to keep it from poking you (ala U-Boat and Graham). You might be tempted to think this is a left-handed watch, but honestly if you wore it on your right wrist that crown would start leaving a scar in a hurry (also ala U-Boat and Graham). The keys to comfort are the movable lugs. Mounted on swivels that are separate from the case, these make the watch shrink on your wrist and keep it from jutting out past narrow wrists such as mine. They keep it snug and comfortable while making it appear less… enormous. But make no mistake, this is a monstrous watch that rivals the biggest and baddest watch/doorknockers out there. It’s just much more easy to wear, even on a smaller wrist, thanks to those nifty articulated lugs.
The distinctive dark finish to the case is shared with the WW1 Heritage – despite a titanium-like appearance, it’s actually stainless steel with a grey PVD finish. It suits the industrial look to a tee. I would expect that after a few years of wear and tear it would start to get an interesting patina, owing to the matte finish and PVD coating. Combined with that distressed calfskin strap, this is the sort of watch that will look good after a bit of abuse. Check out the BR01 Airborne II for a good example of a “worn” PVD finish to get an idea of what I’m envisioning.
The dial is nice as well, with a speckled matte finish that looks aged. I suppose you could call it a “tropical” finish, with a hint of dark brown and some mottling like a vintage watch that has been exposed to the elements. The signature “Heritage” colour scheme is present, with beige coloured markers. My one criticism would be the colour of the markers and hands. It’s too bright for my taste, I would prefer a more subdued tone. The idea is for the dial to look like aged tritium lume, which usually turns sandy-beige over time, but they took the idea a little too far and made it look like mustard yellow. But that’s just my personal nitpicking, most people like the colour scheme. IWC has been copying the look lately in their latest Pilot models.
The WW2 Bomber Regulateur is a seriously ugly watch – so ugly it’s cool. When we first saw the pre-production photos we thought it was a joke. Surely Bell & Ross wouldn’t make something so wilfully weird? But they did. And despite our early misgivings, now that we have the watch in our hands we can’t help but applaud them for having the guts to make something so odd. The end result is far nicer than we imagined and it makes for a distinctive timepiece that will surely grab attention. I usually lean towards more traditional designs, but the WW2 has my seal of approval. Don’t judge it until you try it on your wrist.