New Bell & Ross WW1 Military and Heritage ¶
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Bell & Ross watches have long been a Montreal favourite. We were the first dealer in Canada for the brand, and had them before they released their iconic Instrument series. Nowadays the Instrument is BR’s flagship, but they also produce a series of interesting round designs in the Vintage series. The latest additions to the Vintage line are the WW1 wristwatches, a series inspired by very early military watches that were adapted from pocketwatches.
During the First World War, wrist-watch conversions became popular as a way for aviators and soldiers to easily tell the time at a glance without fumbling through pockets. Pocket watches had wire lugs soldered to the case to allow them to be worn on a leather belt. These early conversions were big (usually between 40 and 50mm) and had a top-heavy look due to their narrow straps. Bell & Ross recreates this look with a 45mm stainless steel case mounted on an 18mm strap, with traditional wire loop lugs. It makes the watch look even bigger than it is, and substantially bigger than the 41mm Vintage series.
The two examples we have here are the military-style models of the WW1 range, the Heritage and Military. Both feature matte finishes on the case as well as high-visibility dial and hands. On the Heritage the dial is matte finish, while the Military has a subtle sunburst metallic grain. The dial is clearly inspired by the Beobachtungsuhr (or B-Uhr) observation dials issued to German pilots during the Second World War – the B-Uhr is distinguished by its prominent minute markers, with hours relegated to a small inner disc. When navigating an aircraft, minutes and seconds are more important that hours, hence the emphasis. Hands are sword type with luminescent coatings. Legibility is excellent, well up to Instrument standards. And it’s very satisfying to see a nice long seconds hand sweeping across the expansive dial.
The case is 45mm with a thin bezel, making the watch look huge on the wrist. The crystal is a sapphire item with a slight dome. It definitely has the look of a pocket watch, with a rounded case design and a knurled crown. The lugs are hefty looking (compared to say, a Panerai Radiomir which uses a similar wire lug idea) and feature hidden springbar mounts - the original conversions had solid wires that required a split strap to be folded over them and riveted into place (or a one-piece strap looped through under the case). The Military has a matte finish steel case, while the Heritage has a grey PVD finish. It’s hard to photograph the colour of the Heritage case, it’s a sort of ghost-grey colour that is very distinctive.
Movements are tried-and-true ETA Swiss automatic calibres, 2892s in the case of these two models. You can expect reliable service from these proven movements, which are shared with the BR01-92 and BR03-92 models.
The WW1 is an interesting addition to the Bell & Ross line, a large classic design that feels right at home in the military-aviation themed lineup. The Military and Heritage in particular are great designs, with their high visibility pilot dials, something that transforms the look of the watch when you compare it to the much dressier big date and power reserve models. If you want a big aviator’s watch, but want something other than the Instrument, the WW1 is a great choice. For more info on Bell & Ross feel free to call us at 514 845 8878 or visit our contact page.